It was early this morning, the light a soft, golden glow behind the curtains. Millie woke me with a paw to the face. I rolled over and looked at the clock on the nightstand: almost six o'clock. I groaned.
We were at the back of the house, beginning to walk the long hall that splits Freeman House in half, when a voice stopped me still. "Brin, I'm in the bathroom." It was my brother, Rich. He's been staying here, on and off, for almost a year.
"I'm just taking Millie out," I said, looking at the puppy at my feet. Her tail was wagging.
"Um... hang on. I can take her out in a second." He sounded strange. Was he feeling well?
"I'm already up," I said.
"Wait, Brin, please wait a sec...". I ignored him and headed up the hall. He's not the one who has to clean up the dog's messes when I don't get her out in time.
We got to the door leading into the kitchen - at the exact place in the photo above - and I made a sharp right into the still-dark room. The kitchen's on the west side of the house - towards the center - and is one of the last places in the morning to wake up. I stumbled to the door. Instead of following me, Millie sat down in the hall, staring in at me.
"Come, Millie," I said, unlocking the sliding chain lock, the door knob, and easing the door open. "Let's go outside."
She didn't budge.
I was trying to decide whether to make coffee or ... could I go back to sleep?... when Rich appeared behind Millie in the door. "Come here," he hissed. I did.
"There is someone in the house. There was just someone in the house," he whispered.
"Just now. I heard them walking through the front of the house. They just went out the kitchen door, right before you and Millie came up the hall. Look, I have chill bumps," he said, stretching his left arm out in front of me.
He did. I laughed. "There's no one here," I said loudly, punching at his arm. "The chain was locked. No one went out that door."
Rich grabbed my shoulders and looked at me, hard. I looked down at the floor. "No, Brin," he repeated. "I. Heard. Someone. Here. They went out that door."
Slowly, I looked up. We locked eyes. He look scared. My brother, freaked out. Huh. "What exactly did you hear?"
"Heavy footsteps? Where did they go?"
"No. Light. House shoes. Socks, maybe. I don't know. They shuffled. They walked slowly through the dining room and library and then down the hall, through the kitchen and out that door. I heard it open and then I heard it close."
"Well, at least it left," I joked. Silence. My brother. Ever the tell-it-as-it-is, 'you can't pull one over on me' country man. He looked up the hall and back at me, eyes as big as tea cup saucers.
A cold shiver, and my spine was tingling. It's always the library. People always hear footsteps in the library in this house. I have, once. Only once. Christmas night. Last year. I consider myself rather fearless and bold, but that night I got so afraid I called my neighbor, JoAnne, and was shaking so hard I could scarcely open the door when she flew up the porch. We sat in front of the tree and drank hot chocolate and I held her a Christmas hostage for three hours. It was the only time I've ever been frightened to stay at Freeman House.
I was remembering that, Rich still looking at me... looking over my shoulder... when Millie began to growl. I've heard her growl twice before: once at another dog and once at someone in Colorado. She is the quietest dog I've ever been around. But suddenly Millie stood to all fours, took a step into the kitchen and growled the longest, lowest, most frightening growl I'd ever heard.
Nope. I wasn't going back to sleep. Might as well make coffee.
Can't be sure what Rich heard or what Millie saw, but it's been silent as a tomb all morning. I had to convince my brother- promise him twice - that the door was definitely locked from the inside when I reached it. I've never seen my brother so shaken. And Millie wouldn't go through the kitchen to go outside this morning, preferring to sit and wait by the front door instead.
Strange. Strange, but not terrifying. Because we know what the Bible says, anyway: we're not up against flesh and blood. The rulers, authorities, cosmic powers and forces (all named in Ephesians 6:12) don't play by our rules. They're not limited to our spaces or times. We - you and I - are players in two realms... actors on two stages - a physical and a spiritual, but unfortunately for our human eyes, we can only see in the one.
Fortunately for our human hearts, though, we can still fight in the other.
In the meantime, maybe my Mom is right. Maybe I should get carpet. (wink)