Philip wakes up with a start, his forehead awash with sweat. His breathing comes out in spurts and his heart palpitates at an alarming rate.
The room is dark, so it takes him a while to figure out where he is. He reaches around and finds it. The lamp by his bed side. That was the easy part. It takes a little longer before he can find the switch.
He flicks it and the room is bathed in light. He looks beside him and she is still there. All his panting, his gasping, she slept through it all. She is a heavy sleeper and for once, he is glad. He wouldn’t want her to see him like this.
Suddenly he realizes that he has a headache. It’s nothing serious, so he figures he will ignore it. He finds it upsetting that the nightmare that had seemed so real a short while ago is fading into the darkness from whence it came. It bothers him even more that he is still unsettled.
There is nothing more frustrating, more disturbing than the fear of the unknown.
He can’t go back to sleep. He doesn’t even try. Whatever it was that scared him, got him real good. He feels a need to make sure everyone in the house is safe. Protected from… even he doesn’t know. As the man of the house he feels it is his duty. No, his responsibility.
The door to the kids’ room is slightly ajar to let some light in. Little Sara is only two years old and the darkness gives her nightmares. Her brother Nicholas tries to put up a brave act for his father and pretends he fears nothing. Ordinarily Phil finds this endearing, but right now he thinks its pretty dumb. It’s okay to be afraid once in a while.
Both kids are okay. Sara is clutching at her teddybear and Nicholas has his back to him. Facing the wall. If you can’t see it, then it can’t harm you seems to be the reasoning at play.
Phil decides to go downstairs and check the doors. Everything seems to be in order. It’s no use going back upstairs, his sleep has left him for another, and he’ll probably catch up with it tomorrow. He walks over to the fridge door and opens it. His hand lingers above the last can of beer as he thinks to himself, ‘can it ever be too early for a drink?”.
Something tells him, he shouldn’t. He fights it for a while. Right there, in front of the refrigerator, he is engaged in a fight with his conscience. It wins and he pours himself a glass of juice instead.
He checks the doors once more and then, satisfied, goes to the living room and switches on the television.
Somehow, the channel surfing provides him with a modicum of relief. Sets his mind at ease. For a fleeting moment.
There’s the sound of a tiny explosion and he feels a great pain shoot through his chest. He drops his glass, wincing. The pain forces him to look down and he realizes, that the front of his vest has gone red. He reaches over to touch and it feels dump. There’s no doubt in his mind that it is blood.
But why…how…who? Nothing makes sense.
He musters what little energy he has left to turn and then he sees her, holding a gun, aiming it at his head.
His lips part, letting a whisper escape with his last breath, “Sophia…why”.
There’s another shot and then darkness.
Then he wakes up with a start.