I must understand this isn’t real because I can’t smell the detergent in my pillowcase. I switched to the fragrance free kind for my skin but it still has a scent. I can feel my cheek squished against it and my lips parted on one side from the arrangement of the flesh in my face but I smell nothing. This must be a dream if I can’t use one of my senses.
I can hear all of it.
First it’s the opening of my bedroom door. My roommate is sleeping down the hall but he doesn’t sleepwalk and has no reason to enter my room without knocking, especially not in the middle of the night. I’m not hoarding the salt shaker or the TV remote and even if I were, he wouldn’t have an urgent use for them at one in the morning. My face is squished away from view of the door and I keep it that way in a convincing attempt at concealment. Maintaining normalcy and going with things as they happen has become synonymous with hiding by this point in my life. I am an expert. I am expertly terrified and think that if I just pretend that I am still sleeping nothing will happen to my body. They can have whatever they want from my desk or my dresser or even my bathroom. They can clink together all of my miniature perfume bottles in the sack they undoubtedly have slung over one shoulder, since they are indeed just a burglar, and even if they are armed it doesn’t matter because I’m sleeping and they are getting away with it. They wouldn’t add an assault with a deadly weapon charge to the perfect crime I’m allowing them to commit with such effortless grace. They can find my antique postcards from the early 20th century and I will not protest when they shove them without even a shred of delicacy into the sack with the bottles. I can’t imagine what else they would want from this room.
Then it is the sound of footsteps. I can’t tell how big the burglar is from the creaks their steps make because an infant crawling would cause these floors to vibrate, that’s how poorly built this building is. I know because I’ve heard complaints from the downstairs neighbors. So I don’t know if this is a man or a woman and what their age might be and I can only assume that they’re male and big. That’s how I imagine burglars.
I can hear the footsteps getting closer to my bed. I don’t know why they’re coming closer to me. There’s nothing worth stealing over here. Maybe they are just checking to be sure I’m not one of those people who sleeps next to her valuables for safekeeping, or that I’m not one of those people who sleeps with a baseball bat or a knife or a handgun under or around her pillow. This is becoming a true test of my professional hiding abilities. I am starting to lose control of my breathing. It is no longer naturally paced with an appropriate depth. It is becoming obvious that I am not sleeping. The burglar must know.
I can hear them breathing. They must be so close to my upturned ear but I feel no pressure on the mattress. They are standing over me. They are breathing me in like how I was trying to breathe in the scent of my pillow case. I must smell like fear.
My left arm is resting against my torso, my palm is facing up, my fingertips are turned inward just slightly. As they smell my fear I feel a hand slide so gently over mine and under my creased knuckles. It is cold.
I am trying to scream because added to the list of human abilities I can no longer use is movement, so I cannot pull away and run. I cannot find my voice. I just had it a few hours ago. Where did it go?
Is that what they came here to steal?
I manage to squeeze out a guttural growl and finally a scream. By the time I found my voice again it was no longer needed. The room was empty, and I was awake. I hope I did not disturb anyone when I found my voice.
I am sorry if I did.