Nancy started with a gasp, coming up onto her elbows as she awoke to see a tiny woman standing half way into the room with a peculiar smile and her finger on her lips.
Nancy turned to Catherine and saw that she was in a dead sleep. She looked back and the diminutive form had retreated impossibly quickly to the doorway’s threshold where she beckoned for Nancy to follow her.
The gesture was conspiratorial in a gentle, kind and irresistible way... before Nancy could take a hold of her senses she had risen and begun to follow, spellbound by the midget.
Standing upright, Nancy realized how minute the stranger truly was, estimating she stood only navel tall. There was something mesmeric about the woman, a potent magnetism that Nancy could not resist as she continued to traipse after her.
The dwarfed figure was descending the sweep of stairs, looking back with each step to ensure that Nancy was still following.
Nancy became confused; was this some member of Catherine’s family who had let herself in with a key? The woman seemed to pose little risk and was very engaging.
She couldn’t decide how to react; to be irritated by this un-speaking intruder, to follow, to challenge or to wake Catherine. Regardless, Nancy felt unable to halt. Her feet seemed to have a purpose of their own.
When the woman reached the front door Nancy suddenly felt a chill run up her spine. Something is wrong, she thought, and she tried to halt, but she realized she was drifting, not walking. She tried to talk but could only croak.
She was well through the doorway of the bedroom, about to go out of sight of the King sized bed, and she looked back for the first time; there, lying prone alongside Catherine, was her own body.
Horror struck her an icy blow and her surroundings exploded into a blur.
Thinking back on it, she would describe the sensation as, “the view an arrow must have as it flies into its target.”
She bounced back into her body with a mighty hypnagogic jerk and felt Catherine startle awake too. And then she drifted out of her body again and slammed back into it, bouncing out and back in again.
“Nancy! What’s wrong? Wake up! Wake up!” Catherine was shaking her, yelling.
“I am awake… I am awake,” Nancy was repeating in a groggy non compos mentis slur.
“What’s wrong? Did you have a bad dream?” There was terror etched across Catherine’s face.
“Yes... No! I... I don’t know Cath, I don’t feel well.”
“Do you want me to call the doctor?”
“No... no. I’m fine, physically I’m fine. I don’t know how to describe it?”
Catherine had taken the gun out and was holding it. It gave them both courage.
A few moments later the bedside phone rang and they jumped in unison.
“Hello?” Catherine answered.
There was a moment of silence before a voice inquired. “Who’s speaking?”
Catherine despised callers who apparently did not know who they had dialed; and at this hour of the morning, under these circumstances, that type of a call took on phobic proportions.
“Who would you like to speak to?” She parried, her voice brittle with venom in her tone.
“This is Home Alarm Services, ma’am, your unit has activated, could I have your secret code please?”
“Sorry I didn’t realize, just a sec,” she held the ear-piece away to listen for the siren or at least a trigger tone; nothing...
“Sorry... my code is three two five six. But my alarm isn’t activated? Could you hold a moment?”
She shrugged to Nancy as she moved across the room to check the alarm status panel. There were two circuits broken, three and seven. The legend read that three was the kitchen’s infrared detector; seven was the magnetic monitor on the front door. She relayed that information to the service caller.
“I’m sorry Ma’am, but you must be mistaken. Only one circuit can break at a time, once it’s broken the alarm activates and the unit can only be triggered when the alarm re-arms itself. There must be a fault on your line.”
“There must be,” Catherine agreed, “...because my siren definitely isn’t activated.”
“That’s very strange. The only way it could happen is due to a power failure. When the power fails, the signal is automatically dialed through to us as the unit goes to auxiliary battery power. That’s the only reason that the siren wouldn’t work. Unless the wires have been cut?”
The affair was becoming more chilling by the moment.
“...Have you possibly had a power failure?”
Catherine checked at her bedside electric radio alarm. Its display read 01:39. If the power had failed, then the time would be flashing 12:00... her wristwatch correlated precisely with the display.
“No, power’s good.”
The service caller came up with another possibility.
“Perhaps your unit’s power circuit has tripped. Or it’s accidentally been turned off at the power socket.”
“Hang on a moment, I’ll go and check.”
Catherine moved from the bed and, gun in hand, cautioned Nancy to stay in bed. She made her way cautiously down to the kitchen. Even after all her chilling encounters she refused to be cowed on her own turf. Nobody nor anything was going to subjugate that attitude.
It was an oath of self-confidence. On each occasion that she’d taken a blow, she’d found the strength to blossom back to self-confidence by reminding herself of the oath.
For the umpteenth time in the past few weeks she was taking her oath as she moved through the darkened house, teeth gritted, her ever sense on high alert.
She checked that the front door was still securely bolted and chained. Everything within the house was as it should be.
The electricity board’s trip switches were all in a neat row, indicating their on status, and she was about to return to the phone when she remembered to check the alarm unit’s power lead.
With some horror she found that the plug was removed from its socket, a plug low enough for a midget to unplug; the auxiliary power’s light was flashing.
“I’ve about had enough of this!” She growled, ramming the prongs of the plug back into their sockets. The auxiliary light immediately winked to charge.
Before returning upstairs, she took note that circuit three covered the area over the offending and now restored electrical plug.
“Ok, I’ve found the problem. The socket somehow spat the plug out,” Catherine spoke in a worn, weary and sarcastic voice.
She was back on the bed with Nancy and furious that another mind-twisting mystery had been heaped onto her already overburdened load of inexplicable occurrences.
“…Sorry, before you go, just one more thing,” she asked. “Did this just trip right before you called?”
“Yes Ma’am, about seven minutes ago. The time was one thirty six on our computer.”
“Thank you,” Catherine signed off.
“Well?” Nancy queried.
Catherine filled her in, concluding the summary with a simple question of her own. “Any guesses…? What the hell’s going on here?”
“Perhaps I was sleep walking and tripped the circuits and pulled out the plug,” Nancy offered, reluctant to recount her strange dream about the midget to Catherine, not wanting to inflame their already jagged emotions any more; but she could hardly avoid recounting it forever.
“You must be pretty quick in your sleep to have tripped two circuits simultaneously!”
“A circuit fault? One of those surges or spikes? They happen in the early hours when the demand diminishes on the electricity grid.”
“The technician sounded dubious and besides a surge couldn’t explain the plug kicked out of the wall and two circuits tripped. I’ll have the alarm company check it out tomorrow.”
“I must tell you, I did have the weirdest dream…”
Nancy recounted her waking experience to Catherine as if she thought it a dream… when she knew full well that it wasn’t one.
“Creepy!” Catherine observed, not wanting to verbalize more detailed suspicions; not in the dead of night with their nerves already jangling. It was a supreme understatement of her emotional state and she patted the gun, “I normally hate these things, but tonight… tonight it made me feel a thousand percent more confident.”
“Me too,” Nancy paused, “You know… it had to be a dream… if I’d been awake, I’d have thought of the gun with someone in the room... Surely?”
“I’d have woken up if you got off of the bed. I’m not the deepest sleeper these days,” Catherine added.
“Well... what do we do now?”
Neither of them wanted to continue speculating on the evening’s bizarre occurrences any further. They knew that it would only create a vicious circle, accelerating their individual fears into a feedback loop, siphoning ever more fear from one to another, and end with another sleepless night of neurosis.
“Coffee?” Catherine suggested.
“At this hour? I won’t sleep a wink!” Nancy remained on constant health alert.
“A little nip of whiskey in it? Irish coffee? Tomorrow’s Saturday...” Catherine was a real temptress.
“Ok,” Nancy succumbed. “Why not?”
Catherine was in desperate need of some Dutch courage. Their coffees would be very Irish.
After several doses, they sat watching music videos on the big screen down in the lounge.
It was after four in the morning when Nancy succumbed to the dosage and slipped into a cheek-clapping relaxed slumber.
The coffee was having the opposite effect on Catherine; she was experiencing odd palpitations of her heart and breathing.
She kissed Nancy softly on the cheek, “Thank you for being with me,” she whispered before slipping upstairs to take a shower, hoping it would do the trick of calming her nerves. When she was done, she would bring a duvet and two pillows down, they could both sleep the morning away in her lounge.
Since Nancy was accustomed to the TV’s sound, Catherine left everything as it was, the sound would serve to mask any possibility of the running water seeming loud in a deathly quiet house.