The Counter

It was just another lazy night.

I was on the couch, catching up on my DVRed episodes of The Biggest Loser, trying not to laugh at the irony of me sitting there practically inhaling Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream. “I’ll just spend an extra hour on the treadmill tomorrow, it’s worth it!”, I told myself.

It was getting pretty late, it was past eleven and if I was to get that extra hour in on the treadmill, I needed to hit the hay. I grabbed the remote and turned off the television. Oddly, as soon as I powered it down, it came right back on. It was on channel 60, then it went down to channel 59, then 58. I figured that a button must have gotten jammed on the remote, so I tapped it on my wrist and powered the TV off again. That seemed to do the trick, so I went upstairs to clean up and get ready for bed.

As I started to change, I couldn’t help but have mixed feelings about my current relationship status. I mean, on the one hand I was glad to be single with no one to impress; I could wear sweatpants and a t-shirt to sleep and nobody would care. On the other hand, it was a little chilly and I wouldn’t have minded having a nice warm man to snuggle up against. Oh well, them’s the breaks, right? “I’m a successful, independent woman and that’s just the cost of doing business.”, I muttered.

I killed the lights and slid under the sheets, fluffing up the pillows behind me so I could get in a little light reading. I have trouble falling asleep sometimes, and reading usually helps me zonk out. The History Of Love is what’s on my Kindle. It’s quite a complicated story, I’m not sure what’s going on half the time, which makes me wonder why I’m reading it before bed when I have even less focus.

I dove right in and started leafing through page after digital page, unable to retain a word of it and being more on autopilot than anything. It wasn’t long before I noticed the Kindle laying flat on the bridge of my nose and I decided that the time had come to call it a night. I glanced over at my alarm clock, curious of how much time had elapsed. I expected to see the time, but instead the clock said 00:47, then 00:46, then 00:45. I blinked rapidly and shook my head, another glance revealed it was 11:45. It must have just been the sleep in my eyes, or that weird state between awake and asleep. I smiled, let out a sigh of relief, and off to slumberland I went.

“33, 32, 31”

I lept out of bed in a mad panic, my forehead instantly glistening with sweat. Was that a dream? “Hello? Is anyone there?”, I asked, hoping to dear god that no one would answer back. I slowly made my way to the top of the steps, listening ever so diligently for the slightest sound. I had made my way down the steps when I saw that my front door was wide open! Fearing an intruder, I hauled my pretty ass outside, making sure to grab the cordless phone from the living room on my way out.

I waited outside until the police arrived, which thankfully didn’t take long. They did a thorough search of my home and did their best to not make me feel like a fool. “There’s a strong breeze tonight, more than likely you just didn’t fully close the door.”, said one of the boys in blue. Sounded reasonable enough. They said their farewells as I half-jokingly asked if one could spend the night. No such luck.

Back in my officer-approved home, I conducted my own last inspection. Everything looked fine, of course. Still, I felt a bit uneasy. I called up my friend Jeremy, he’s sure to be up, the man never sleeps. I told him about my scare and he ensured me that the cops were right, I just didn’t fully close the door. “I could swear I did! Anyway, it’s closed now! Closed, locked, and there’s even a chair in front of it, just in case!!”, I joked.

As if it hadn’t been cold before, now that I was thoroughly scurred and that door had been open forever, it was damn chilly. I asked Jeremy if he’d come spend the night, but he started rambling off excuse after excuse. “Ok, Ok, I get it!”, I said. He generously volunteered to stay on the phone with me until I fell asleep, that would have to do.

We spoke for a while as I asked him to tell me about his day, and then about his weekend plans, and then about whatever he was looking at. He just talked on and on about everything and nothing until his voice made the fear disappear and I slowly drifted off into blissful sleep.

“16, 15, 14”

I let out a scream and reactively threw my phone fiercely against the wall, shattering it into a billion little plastic pieces. At first I thought that Jeremy was just being a dick, but then I noticed that my bedroom light was on. “I turned it off, I fuckin’ turned it off!”, I nervously mumbled. I grabbed my cellphone and tried to call Jeremy, no answer. He probably fell asleep while on the phone himself.

I stepped out into the hall and saw that all my lights were on. Did I leave them on?? No, I was pretty sure, but maybe? I stood there, frozen, debating myself over and over. I tried to recall my every step, desperately seeking out that vital memory that would make it clear that I did leave the lights on and everything was ok. “But what about the counting on the phone??”, said a persistent little thought in my head that was determined to keep me scared.

Standing in the upstairs hall, entertaining a mental debate between fear and logic, time seemed to stall. Suddenly, the silence was broken and there was a clear winner in the debate. The toilet downstairs flushed, and there’s no way I was the one flushing it!! I’m pretty sure I turned six shades of white. I heard the bathroom door open, so I did what any logical person would do in this situation, I set my cellphone to vibrate and jumped into the hallway closet!!

I stood in the closet, it was dark except for the light sliding in through the bottom of the door. My heart was pounding so furious, I was sure it could be heard a mile away. I held onto my cellphone, trying fiercely to reach out to my police friends once again, but my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I could hear footsteps making their way up the stairs, I became frantic, I wanted to cry, but I had to keep it together! The footsteps stopped, and I could see a shadow stopped before the closet door. I placed my hand over my mouth, as if my body was telling me to shut the hell up. I just wanted to scream!! “Deep breaths, deep breaths..”, I reminded myself, trying to calm myself.

A buzzing in my hand almost threw me over the edge. My cellphone had just gotten a text message. I nervously looked at it, it was a message from myself, how could that be??

“3, 2, 1”