There are Worse Things. Short Story.

The car alarm blared, the annoying siren whine continuing mercilessly. The damn neighbours always seemed to let the noise go on for as long as possible without running out the cars battery. Tom turned over, wrapping the duvet tighter around himself, trying to ignore the harsh noise coming from outside. It was a good ten minutes before the noise stopped and blessed silence rushed to fill its place, but he was wide awake now, with no hope of returning to sleep. Angry thoughts had invaded his mind and while he dressed, he thought of all the things he should say to the neighbours. He wouldn’t say them of course, but he should. He wandered from his room, rubbing his eyes which were gritty and sore. In the kitchen he poured himself a bowl of cereal, not because he was particularly hungry, but because it was breakfast time and you were supposed to eat.

The doorbell rang, its discordant chiming filled the house. Tom looked at the door to the hall for a moment, then decided he wouldn’t answer. It was probably beggars again. There had been a few of them around lately, they’d ring the bell once or twice and leave. He wasn’t expecting anything in the post. He continued eating his cereal and, like he expected the visitor, whomever they were, left quickly. Probably to maximise the amount of houses they could visit. He looked at the dregs in his bowl for a moment before dumping them into the sink, the bowl quickly followed. He’d fill the dishwasher later.

Outside, it was a nice, though windy, day, the trees struggling to stay upright against the windy assault. He was pretty much ready to go, only needing to throw on a pair of shoes, as he left the house, he glanced around, trying to see if there were any beggars. Not seeing any, he wondered if perhaps it was something important after all. He discarded the thought, if it was important they’d come back tomorrow. There was no note left so chances were good it wasn’t a delivery.

He unlocked his car and sitting into it, thought smugly about how his alarm never went off for more than a few seconds. He was always quick to make sure it was ok. Tom’s car wasn’t the greatest, but it got him from point A to point B and that was all that mattered to him, it hadn’t failed him yet.

His day passed quickly, he only had a few errands to run and a few people to meet, pulling back into the driveway, he turned off the engine and sat in the car for a moment, enjoying the song on the radio. The house was just as he left it, bowl still in the sink. He tidied up the kitchen and sitting room which was messy from the night before. Once the rooms were clean enough, he dropped onto the couch, settling in and making himself comfortable, flicking on the TV, he found something to watch.

He moved slowly, his whole body felt heavy. It was late, he’d eaten dinner and sat around watching television, there was a good movie on, but now he was tired. He turned off the lights as he went, his only thought was getting to bed.

Tom woke suddenly. There was a noise. He looked around the room and, seeing nothing, he began to relax, it was just part of his dream. There was another thump, then the faint sound of tinkling glass. He got up from bed slowly and crept towards the window. Whatever was happening it was happening outside. Pulling back the curtain slightly, he peeked through the gap, the doors to his car were open and two men were going through everything. His anger was quickly replaced by relief, there was nothing in the car that was valuable and his insurance would cover the broken window. He opened the window slightly, not wanting to make a noise. He heard them muttering to one another, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. Closing the window again, he stepped away from the window and went to his phone. He started to dial the police when there was another noise, the one that had woken him. There was another dull thump. Somewhere downstairs, were they inside too?

He walked to the top of the stairs, straining to hear anything. The noise had come from the kitchen. The world seemed silent again, there was no more noise, nothing. He crept down the first two steps, then paused. Again, that noise. He quickly retreated and picked up the phone. As it rang, he went to the window again and glanced out, the two men were still there but seemed to be finishing up.

The phone was answered, but instead of being greeted as he expected, there was silence on the other end. “Hello?” nothing. “There’s a robbery going on outside and I think they’re inside my house too. Is anyone there? Can you hear me?” he thought he could hear something, but it was low and vague. “Hello?” someone started to giggle, low and throaty. He looked at the phone, confused. “Hello?” the giggling continued. He looked at the phone, then hung up. Quickly, he dialled again, obviously, he’d rang the wrong number. It rang only a few times before being answered, only this time, the giggling started straight away. He dialled the correct number, he knew he had. “Look, this isn’t funny, I need the police here.” the giggling stopped. “No one will ever come.” “Excuse me?” “You’re all alone. All alone in the dark.” There was another bang downstairs. “Well, maybe not completely alone.” he dropped the phone on the bed, obviously they’d hacked it or something. He looked around his room, his mobile was downstairs, so that was no use, the regular phone wasn’t working. There were the two robbers outside, but what if they were in on it. He couldn’t sound the alarm without alerting whoever was downstairs or the people outside. He’d heard that robbers were just cowards, they’d leave if they thought they’d get caught, but he didn’t think whoever was downstairs would run. They’d stay and fight and enjoy it.

He sat on his bed for a moment, trying to think. He needed to do something, but what could he do. He didn’t even have a weapon. The bat, of course, there was the bat. Where did he put it though. He had intended to put it up into the attic, but he’d never gotten around to it. Going back into the hall, he dug under the pile of clothes he needed to hang up. He smiled triumphantly as his hand struck cold metal. It was new enough, he’d been given it as a gift, its metal was still smooth and it gleamed dully in the low light. Carefully he made his way downstairs trying not to make a sound. He wanted the surprise to be on his side. The bastards probably expected him to cower while they ransacked his house. He gripped the bat tightly, then pushed the kitchen door open, screaming and waving it around as he ran in.

The two officers were tired. It had been a long day. There had been a rash of break-ins in the area and they had spent the entire morning dealing with irate people taking their anger out on them. Still, they were almost done and it looked as though whoever was breaking into the cars was new at it, they left marks, fingerprints too, they only needed a match to catch whoever did it. Though the items were probably long gone by now it might ease their anger, to see who ever did it punished. Though the way the system was going they’d probably be back out in a month with good behaviour. Assuming they were convicted in the first place. As they approached the house, they saw the car had a broken window, the owner probably wasn’t up yet. He sighed and knocked on the door, as he knocked, it swung open gently. They looked at each other. “Hello? Police” they looked at each other again, there was no response from inside. They pushed the door open further and stepped inside. They looked around the hall, but everything seemed normal. “You take upstairs, I’ll take downstairs.” they split up and quickly went through the house. Everything seemed to be normal, except it was empty. “Maybe who ever owns the place didn’t close the door properly when they went out.” “They would have noticed the broken window though.” “Yeah.” as they turned to leave, one of them noticed a baseball bat, lying on the ground. He bent over and looked at it. Though it looked new, it was dented and twisted, he squinted slightly, there were deep folds, and if he turned so the light was hitting it, it looked like there might be a little bit of blood.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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