Whatever’s making the sound outside our window is close. On the property, at least, and loud enough to wake me. It’s not quite a thud. More of a thump, I think. Yes, that’s it. A repeating thump.
I raise my head. I’ve only been asleep for an hour, and raising my head is the best I can do. Maybe the sound was just the residue of a dream, a subconscious echo that followed me back into the land of awake.
The wind, then. The wind blows often here at the foot of the mountains, and in the winter it nearly blows continuously. It loosens what’s been fastened down and shakes what would normally be stable.
I lay my head back to my pillow and listen. No wind.
So it has to be an animal. Here there are animals everywhere, many of which enjoy foraging around the neighborhood under the cloak of night. Everything from cats to bears to coyotes. They usually mind their own business and I mind mine. We get along peaceably.
But it’s winter. The bears are sleeping (much better than I am, I remind myself) and the coyotes are hunkered down in the mountains. And whatever is making the noise outside my window is not a cat.
Easy explanations out of the way, my mind begins to turn to the uneasy ones. Call it the It’s Dark Outside principle—anything that seems out of the norm becomes menacing. Phone calls at night are seldom harbingers of good news, so by extension noises are the same. It means something—someone, maybe—is out. Or in.
Cats and bears and the wind have now given way to either a serial killer trying to get into the house or a sleepwalking little girl or boy trying to get out. But that’s ridiculous.
When I was a child, there were all sorts of noises in and around my house during the night. Things went bump and plink and even boom. And since I was too young to know anything at all about houses settling or furnaces working, I was sure those noises were the grumbling stomachs of monsters in search of a small boy’s tasty flesh. It was torturous.
I grew out of that, of course. Sleep came easier when I turned from young child to teenage boy. And when the teenage boy gave way to adult man, sleep became second nature. I worked too hard to be awakened at night by thumps. I wasn’t afraid of anything.
But now I’m a father. The tiredness of work is still there, but the fear has returned. And though my rational and somewhat adult mind knows there are no such things as monsters and ghosts, that same mind knows there are things worse than those. Much worse.
It’s nothing, I’m sure. That’s the way it usually turns out. Fear is a magnifying glass that makes big things out of small things. Besides, I have faith. God is watching and the angels are standing guard. All will be well. And whatever it is, my family is sleeping through it. No reason I shouldn’t sleep through it, too.
But just in case, I get out of bed and look out the window. Nothing. And the doors are locked. I check them. Twice.
My kids are nestled. They’ve both managed to kick their blankets off, but I tucked them back in. I’m offered sighs for approval. Back in the bedroom, my wife is asleep and calm.
Mine is a peaceful house. That it happens to reside in a world that is far from serene doesn’t matter. It’s good to be vigilant, I think. Good to stand ready and fight back the badness that may lurk. But there must also come a time of letting go and letting God and his angels. I settle back into my pillow and tell myself this is one of those times. It’s ridiculous to be kept awake not by a noise, but what that noise might mean.
I reach over for the remote and flip on the television. The sound is low—no need to wake anyone else. Wings is on. This is good. I used to watch that show all the time, and it was always good for a laugh. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll sit here and laugh and forget about what may lurk in the world’s shadows.
Besides, maybe I’ll sleep tomorrow night.