I had gone to bed at a reasonable hour for once and was asleep in no time at all, my weary bones and tired mind happily conceding to the warmth of the bed and the darkness of the night. I fell fast into a deep and comfortable slumber.
So you can imagine my consternation and the enusing ire when, not long after the clock swept past 2am, I was rudely awakened by a short series of loud beeps. Startled awake, my eyes opened to the dark and in my chest the loudest of crashing thumps began as my heart beat the panic drum.
My mind raced to the source; was it the (unset) burglar alarm or one of the smoke detectors? Regardless, after the fourth beep faded and left just the pounding of my heart echoing from my bed, I knew sleep would elude me until I had it figured it out.
Having never heard these beeping noises before I eyed the closed door of the bedroom suspiciously. Was my burglar alarm signalling an attempted entry? Was the bedroom door about to be flung open by a shadowy thug wielding some form of weapon?
WAS MY WORST NIGHTMARE ABOUT TO BE REALISED?
Seconds passed as I lay there, white knuckles gripping the duvet, listening for a sound, any sound, that would signal my doom.
I quietly exhaled. Rising from the warmth of my bed, I warily made my way out into the hall. Glancing left and right as I jerked the bedroom door open – all the better to catch an unsuspecting intruder and use surprise to my advantage, oh yes I was ready to pounce into action – but no movement caught my eye, nothing was obviously untoward, the coat stand remained unmoved, the rug that slips easily underfoot was resolutely where I last positioned it.
I walked into the hall, turned towards the front door and, on seeing the locks firmly closed over, removed that as a potential entry point. I flipped open the cover on the alarm system and the display glared at me in the dark, forcing my sleepy eyes in to a squint, yet it had nothing to report. I stood in the dull glow to consider if this lack of information was a good or bad thing? My brain struggled to find reason for either.
I turned and walked back down the hall to the living room, pausing momentarily at the hall cupboard before I grasped the handle firmly and yanked the door open, again hoping that swift action would unsettle any devious fiend hiding in wait. But OHHH how my heart leapt as, in the act of opening the door, I must’ve dislodged the mop placed within, bringing it tipping towards me and only stopping short as the handle caught on the nearest edge of the bucket in which it stood.
It is to my eternal embarrassment that I fear my attempts to stifle my cry of fear only resulted in a somewhat high pitched squeaking. Look at me now, what a fool I am, stumbling in the dark, half-asleep, half-naked and still defenceless! I made a mental note to leave some form of defensive implement next to the bed for future and then I lifted the mop from the bucket, lest I enter the living room completely at the mercy of whatever spectre lay beyond, and quietly closed the cupboard door.
I could feel the adrenalin surging as I approached the living room, for if my would-be assailant didn’t enter by the front door then surely a window was the mode of entry! I paused again, listening, before I entered with wilful abandon, the door flung wide, the mop raised in front of me ready for battle.
I admit that by now I was starting to feel more than a little foolish, and so when the kitchen proved to be unsullied by an unwanted guest I retreated and, chastened, returned the mop to the hall cupboard.
As you know, there is no place to hide in the bathroom but I still checked behind the door, knowing full well that any stone left unturned would simply play on my mind later. Closing the bathroom door behind me I look up to the ceiling. In the corner is a sensor for the burglar alarm, and nearby one of three smoke detectors that guard over me while I sleep.
Pushing the thoughts of burglary to the back of my mind I stood, quiet as a mouse, and waited for the next set of beeps. I stood still with one ear to the detector in the hallway, the other in the direction of the living room and adjacent kitchen, lest my beeping foe be situated there.
Whilst waiting for the next tell-tale beeps I tried to gauge how long it had been since I was so briskly roused from my fitful sleep; has it been two minutes? More? Less? My heavy eyes pulled my head forward but I jolted myself upright, what folly it would be to fall asleep again only to be bested by one of those confounded smoke detectors! I will not stand for that.
Yet there I stood. Minutes pass and as I grow cold I wondered if I dreamt these monsterous noises, did I conjure them from my subconscious? I tried to recall what I had been dreaming of but the harder I tried to grasp it the quicker it seemed to evaporate from my memory, smoky wisps in the air.
There are no beeps.
Above me, tiny green LEDs glow in the night to confirm that all is well, rest now human, there is no need for worry.
I eventually gave up. I’m not sure how long I stood there but I was glad to go back to bed, back to the cooling embers of the duvet. I closed my eyes and laid still and quiet, my heart beat slowed and my limbs settled beneath me. Eventually sleep returned and called for me once more.
In the cold light of this autumn morning I can admit that I was, perhaps, swept away by the darkness, caught up in the panic that beset me. I know it is not the first time nor will it be the last.
I have added new batteries for the smoke detectors to my shopping list.
Also published on Medium.