original photo by Jordan Bauer

I was asleep when I heard the doorknob jiggle. Like someone was trying to get into the room. I opened my eyes and… nothing. The air was still with silence and the room steeped in darkness. Must have been dreaming, I thought. Then dozed back into my slumber.

Moments later, the bedroom door slammed open by force and the hulk of a shadowy figure was upon me. Hardly the fighter, I summoned all the strength I had. As any other father would, to protect his wife and children, if he felt they were in danger.

I jolted from my prone position and wailed upon the intruder. Vulnerable to volatile in mere moments. He was large and seemingly trained in combat. Adrenaline pumping, I unleashed whatever brute force I could muster to attack him. A chop to the neck, a kick to the groin and an elbow uppercut to the nose in quick succession and he dropped to the ground.

I stumbled to get my footing and stepped on what must have been one of the kids’ toys. How in the hell did it end up here. I got back to my feet and reached towards the bed to find my phone to call 911. Just then, I felt the stranger’s firm grasp on my ankle. It sent a shooting pain cutting me up my calf like a knife. My leg buckled under me and my head clocked the edge of the footboard on the way down. I was out cold.

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Head in a haze, I drifted in and out of consciousness several times. Each waking moment feeling the throbbing of my skull and overwhelming pain deep in my bones. Then diving right back into the waters of oblivion.

Amid flashes, I felt myself: lugged out of the bedroom, down stairs I couldn’t see the bottom of and fall into the back of a car. What fleeting thoughts I had went to my wife and kids, hoping we would catch a glimpse of one another. Were they okay? Had he taken them too?

Pulled out of the car, I recall muttering what I thought might be my final plea: “Please just be careful with them. Promise me.” Knowing deep in my heart there would be no promises kept. Dragged down a long hallway, I heard echoes of hollow noises far off. I smelled the stench of liquor, urine and smoky men.

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“Jesus Christ, babe! What the fuck happened?!”

The words were harsh and the voice tinny, but they warmed the aching edges of my soul. I was ever so happy to hear my wife. Alive and okay.

“Babe…”

“I left you in the car for 2 minutes! I came out and you were gone!”

“What?”

The officers said they found you asleep in some little girl’s bedroom. You scared the shit out of her mother. Can you imagine your daughter coming to you saying, “Mommy, there’s a stranger in my bedroom…”

“Wait… I was what?”

“Holy hell, you’re still out of it, aren’t you? Babe, I picked you up from your MRI and you must have walked off while I ran in to get your probiotics. I came back to the car to find the door wide open and you were nowhere in sight.

“Oh shit.” What I could remember of the day rewound in my head like an old VCR tape unspooling. You may experience some nausea, vomiting, shivering, sleepiness or, in rare cases, confusion and memory loss, the anesthesiologist said.

“The mom locked you in and called 911. I can’t even begin to imagine her panic. They thought you were drunk.”

“Oh no.” The throbbing in my head slowly returned. Rare cases, eh?

“You’re lucky they aren’t pressing charges for assaulting an officer.”

“Oh God, is he okay?”

My wife bit her tongue but could not contain her knowing smirk. “You pack quite a punch but she’ll be okay.”

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Writer-Artist ✍ Contact: ernio.com →in New Yorker: http://bit.ly/NYernio Find @ernio_art →on Instagram: http://bit.ly/eh-art License →via CartoonCollections.com

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