My day began, at some unholy hour during a deep sleep, with the sound of my mother’s screaming. Screaming in horror.
She had woken up to investigate the sound of a cat but it would not be a cat she would find. Gail walked into a group of three armed home invaders, men who had broken into our house with the intent of ransacking it at gunpoint, and screamed. Her scream had me standing up before I was even awake and at this point I saw Byron leaping out of bed and running into the passageway shouting “No! No! No!”, attacking the invaders. They fended him off and injured his lip and head badly with the butt of their firearm. At this point I began looking for some kind of weapon to use in our bedroom, without exposing myself, but I was having a hard time focusing on something that would be effective; also at this point I had no idea they had a gun. After realising that fighting was hopeless I began searching for a way to escape the room and leave the madness behind, but again came up with nothing; it was hopeless.
Byron called my name and asked me to come out, I had no choice. I slowly left the room and saw three men, one holding a silver firearm, standing in the passageway. They forced us all into Gail’s room, where we sat on the bed and were told not to look at them. The one with the gun told us that fighting would lead to death and we should not attempt to fight, at this point I wondered if the weapon, which real enough, was even loaded and thoughts of jumping him entered my mind… until they tightly tied our hands behind our backs with shoelaces, while we sat on the floor covered with blankets.
They asked us, making a show of keeping quiet, how many cellphones there were in the house, how many laptops, any money, jewellery, etc. We answered truthfully, although I knew that my phone, sitting on the window-sill beside my bed, was not easily visible and that my laptop was cryptically hidden and not housed in the usual laptop bag. We heard the sounds of them ransacking the cupboards, going through our things, putting our things into our own bags and searching for the earlier enumerated items. I had to help them find my phone, since they had found the iPhone box they knew the phone must be around. I complied for the sake of seeming compliant, in the hope that they would get what they had come for and leave. Would they leave? Well of course they would leave, they wouldn’t move in here and live here. But would they leave us? Alive? It dawned on me that leaving us alive did not make any sense, why leave witnesses and people to call the police? Even with their desperate desire to keep noise to a minimum they could stab us, easily, their bound victims on the floor.
It was probably overly pessimistic, I didn’t have a lot of time to weigh the pros and cons of being optimistic, but I began making my peace with death. I wondered what it would be like: Would it hurt? Would it fade to black or instantly become black? Would I see black? Would I see? Who would have to listen to the sound of their family being murdered one by one and who would be lucky enough to die first? Thoughts about decisions in my life crept into my mind; thoughts about why I had procrastinated about certain things so much, were they really that hard to decide on? They seemed trivially easy to answer in the current situation, even confronting, what I had previously believed, difficult emotional problems seemed like the easiest thing in the world now. Imaginary barriers fell down around my mind, my mind escaping from something (a prison? A sandbox?) it had built for itself.
It was silent. I could hear my breathing, I wasn’t dead yet. Glorious silence. There was no ransacking, no hushed whispers in a language I couldn’t understand, no questions, no breaths of movement. Nothing. They had left.
I turned around and blindly reached for a pair of scissors I had noticed on the ground, something that must have happened during the ransacking, and began to cut at my restraints, whose tightness were now turning my fingers cold. Freedom.
My first instinct was to check for my laptop, an Internet device, with which I knew I could track my iPhone with the “Find my iPhone” service. Stunned, I stared at my laptop, still where I had left it. How? I grabbed it and headed to my desk where I noticed my iPad sleeve, still with an iPad in it. I installed the app while Gail called a private security company to report the incident.
“Updating iPhone location…” it read for the eternity it took my eye to blink. They were nearby, 200 metres away, moving. Slowly. On foot! When the security unit arrived, with the police, a few minutes later I showed them my iPad, explaining that they had stolen my phone and I could track him with my iPad. After glancing at the map the security operative’s eyes lit up, “Can we take this?” he motioned at my iPad. I thrust it into his hands as he spun on his heel towards the door.
Byron and Gail had gone to the clinic to attend to Byron’s wounds, seconds followed by tens of minutes of police questions, reliving the experience through my own words over and over again. Flinching as the jamais vu mixed with déjà vu mixed with my horror, repeatedly.
The door burst open, the security operative exclaiming “We caught them! Well… two of them.”
“What happens tonight when we’re all sleeping again?” I wondered.