I woke up in a daze. I had been in a deep sleep while the storm poured down its fury on my little piece of Virginia, and I only vaguely remembered opening my eyes once when the thunder exploded right on top of the house.
I didn't see the book. I found it lying on the floor beside the chair, closed and face down.
The first thing I noticed was that my mouth was dry; the second, that I couldn't see. In the kitchen, the blue digital numbers on the face of the stove were gone. A thick darkness had swept through the house, penetrated only by the lightning. I used the quick flashes to navigate to the kitchen sink and took a long pull on a glass of water. I decided to go to bed despite whatever the time may have been.
My number one thought before going to sleep at night is security. I made a habit of locking the doors and first-floor windows every night, which is why the night of the ninth, before I went to bed, I instinctually thought to check the locks throughout the house before all the other bedtime rituals.
I read stories (usually in Reader's Digest) of burglaries that could have been prevented if a window were locked, or the deadbolt thrown on the front door. So I dragged myself back to the living room and stooped for the book on the floor--and my foot landed on wet carpet.
I nearly dropped the book. A tingling sensation crawled up my back, and for the first time I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
The wetness didn't scare me so much as the footprints leading from the patio door past the recliner. The lightning flashed, and I could see them--three footprints in front of me, one beneath me, and, craning my neck around between flashes, two more behind me. The tile flooring lay beyond that, leading to the front rooms and the stairwell to the second floor.
Oh, God, someone's here, right here in my house, right here with me.