I crouch in the darkness, my back against the door and listen. My heart pounds against my chest, it feels as if it’s bursting through my ribs. My breathing is shallow and ragged, whistling between my thinly pursed lips. There is pain in my head as I strain to catch the slightest noise from the other side of the door.
I know that they are there. I heard them enter the house; sharp splintering of the door frame as they forced it open. I heard them whispering in the kitchen, straining to catch even the merest hint of what they were talking about. I heard them climbing the stairs, trying so hard to make no sound as I slunk out of the bedroom and headed across the landing to the bathroom. Where I now cower on the floor, pressed against the door, willing them to leave.
What was that? A sound on the landing, a creak or someone brushing against the bathroom door. is that breathing? Is someone on the other side of the door trying to listen? Am I making any sound, any noise that they might hear? I am a hairsbreadth away from screaming but I know I must be totally silent. An ache in my chest alerts me to the fact that I’m holding my breath. I release it slowly and silently, feeling the pain subside.
My heart is still pounding, sending the blood pounding in my ears. Now all I can hear is the blood pumping through my head; I can no longer hear clearly. They could be right behind the door, just over my shoulder, and I wouldn’t know! I feel panic rising in me, making me feel nauseous. They are so close, so very close. What do they want? Who are they?
There is a cold numbness in my legs. I need to stretch them out before I lose all feeling. But if I move I might make a sound and alert them. But if I stay like this I won’t be able to run and fight if I need to. What should I do? More panic, more to churn through my mind, adding to the panic and fear. I strain with everything I have to listen to the darkness.
A phone rings. Not my ring tone! On the other side of the door a strange phone is ringing. Will they answer? The ringing starts to move away, getting quieter. Then it stops. Was it cut off? Or are they now on the phone, calling for reinforcements? A murmuring voice, moving away. I can’t make out the words or the tone, I can’t even make out if it’s a man or woman.
Silence. I press my ear closer to the door, trying to hear the murmuring again. But all I can hear is quiet. Nothing. No sound at all. Slowly, oh so slowly, I stretch my legs out in front of me. A rush of pain shoots up my legs as the blood returns. I gasp, unable to hold the sound in. Instantly I clasp my hand across my mouth, silently cursing myself for a moment of weakness. Hyper alert once again I try to listen to the house. My ears are full of buzzing, the sound of blood pounding through my head. I’m starting to imagine things, sounds that couldn’t possibly be there.
But I didn’t imagine that! A knocking sound downstairs, loud and insistent. What are they doing down there? More importantly, what should I do? I stand up cautiously, steadying my shaking self against the door frame. My hand is on the bathroom door handle, I’m sweating so much I can hardly get a grip of it, struggling to turn the handle. More knocking downstairs and a voice, a loud, confident male voice.
‘Hello? Anyone there? It’s the police.’