I don’t remember anything before it happened, but I do know I was asleep when it did. Just like you would be. And it happened so quickly. Two thudding knocks — or was it three? — at my bedroom door.
I squinted my eyes open and tried to think. Is this a dream? Or is someone, somehow actually standing just outside my bedroom door, knocking on it and asking to be let in — or warning me that very soon, they will open my door and just come in. My eyes darted to the clock on my wall. It was 4:13am.
Inside me, fear swam to the surface and I sat up quick, thoughts racing: I live alone in a small one-bedroom home. I live in a nice neighborhood. Why would anyone be here? Should I scream? Stay still? I had no answers, but I did know one thing. I was frozen in place, terrified, and thinking exactly what you would be thinking: This should not be happening to me.
Then it happened again. A rapping. Slightly louder.
Why are they knocking? If they meant harm, if they meant to kill, they would just burst in, and do it. Wouldn’t they? It’s what I would do.
My skin rippled, got cold. I was suddenly hyper-aware, mind scrambling for traction, for a grip on anything I believed in, anything that I could control in my world. I wanted to be safe again, to be normal, to be what I was before that knock at my door.
I spoke. Before I even knew I was going to, I called out. “I have a gun”.
Saliva had left my throat and those four words cracked harsh in the air, echoing through the silence of my small room. Seconds ticked. I waited, body aching, every muscle rigid in fear. I don’t have a gun. And what would I do if I had one? Stumble for its cold steel, somehow shake it up to eye-level and fire blindly into my door? Maybe. I don’t know. God help me. What if I killed someone by accident? What if I only wounded them, made them even angrier. I realized my fingers were digging into my bare thigh and it took effort to release them.
The doorknob began to move.
The spindle spun, the latch left the strike plate and my door opened. Light beyond my door revealed a towering shadow — shadows. Shadows that were moving inside. Moving at me.
Air tore out of me and my scream ripped the quiet. I burst from my bed towards them, towards my only exit. GOD, let me live. My arms were outstretched; maybe if I hit them, if I kept moving fast, I could escape. Lord, I was terrified.
I felt their grip. It was like hitting a wall. Bodies. Cold fingers and nails bit into my arm and shoulders. I was fighting, but it seemed useless. A forearm pressed against my neck. Hair went in my mouth. Oh God. I felt blood escape my torn lip. I took a gasping breath to scream, but a gloved hand slapped over it, shutting my cries, ending any call for help. I swear I was trying. I kicked at them, my muffled wails begging for release, but I could not move. Constricted in place, I cried. Tears. Salty. Let me go. Please. Let me live. Hopelessness. I remember thinking, this is how it happens. This is what death must feel like.
I had to write this down. To warn you. To tell you what it is like when they come, when death comes.
But now it is night and I am alone and I never want to feel that again. But for some reason, I know I will.
Because they are back. It’s starting again.
They are knocking at my door.
Clivemore Penitentiary broke the horizon like a gravestone, a solitary monument detached and forgotten, but necessary. The slim light of sunrise had only just begun to graze its foundation. Inside, Warden Farrell Bateman asked a question: “How did he get the pencil?”
Manny Piloto was still panting, the armpits of his uniform stained with sweat. Although still in good shape, nineteen years on the job were getting to him. “The yard, maybe” he answered.
The Warden looked up, fingers still pinching the unrolled bunting of dry toilet paper. Faint words were dotted across each segment. He read the last line once more: They are knocking at my door. Over his glasses the Warden looked at Piloto and sighed, “Christ, this is what he thinks. Every day we medicate? It’s been eight months”.
As a Watch Commander, Piloto just listened. It wasn’t his place to speculate on inmates, especially those in Psych. Instead, he adjusted the fit of his guard belt and added, “He puts up a fight”.
Gingerly, Bateman folded the toilet paper, careful not to tear the delicate sections. “We’re going to have to restrain him then — indefinitely. And give his meds intravenously”.
Manny turned to leave, but the Warden continued. “You know, Commander. He’s a life-term. Insane. Seven counts of murder, with aggravating factors”.
“Sir?” Manny replied. Warden Bateman sunk back into the creases of his leather chair and pushed a shock of gray hair from his aging temple before answering. “In his mind, he’s the victim. Every time you and your men knock on that door, he thinks you’re there to kill him. And to him, you do”. Outside, the sun broke through, splintering light past bare and distant trees of pine. “It’s his Hell”.
Piloto paused before asking, “Shall I tell Medical to start the IV?”
The Warden stared outside. “Wait another month”.