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The Intruder

It happened when I was in my ninth month of pregnancy. My neighbor in the next apartment, Joan, was in her eighth month and neither one of us could sleep that night.  We decided to stay up and play cards after our husbands went to bed.  I clearly remember sitting at her dining room table holding the cards in both hands, resting them on my huge bulbous abdomen, when suddenly the baby gave a strong kick and the cards flew up in the air. We laughed. A lot of things made us laugh that evening. We needed to laugh. Pregnancy seemed to last forever and we both needed a little diversion from it. It was well past two in the morning when I left.

          I slipped quietly into bed without waking my husband and was about to turn off the lamp when I heard a rapping sound in the closet. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but this was a newer New York apartment building and it was not the least bit soundproof. You could hear practically everything from the apartment above, below and around. There were few secrets in such a poorly constructed building, so it was logical to attribute such rapping to a neighbor.

          Suddenly, a dark figure in a black wide-brimmed hat and a black cape rose from the foot of the bed on my husband’s side. He must have been hiding in the dark corner by the closet, because I did not see him when I passed that spot on my way to bed. He was positioned between me and the door, so there was no way to escape. Standing just below my husband’s feet, he turned his ruddy face slowly and menacingly and focused two black beady eyes on me in a diabolical stare. There was no mistaking the evil intention in that look.

          The thought passed through my mind, I always knew that I would one day die, but I never thought it would be at the hands of a New York burglar dressed in what looked like a Halloween costume.

          With my eyes locked in his fixed glare, my heart pounded in terrified anticipation of his next move. In that moment of absolute fear, I wondered how my mother would take the news of my murder. I also wondered how this psychotic-looking person managed to get into a fifth floor apartment. But then, this was New York, the city of cat burglars that can climb up the side of a building.

          What really puzzled me, though, was the fact that we had nothing to steal. Married only two years, we had very little to our name: no silver, no jewelry, nothing of value, not even a car. Was this man a thrill killer who targeted only pregnant women? Whatever he was, I fully expected this to be my last night on earth.

          I lay there motionless, paralyzed by fear, my unblinking eyes locked in his maniacal stare while my husband snored in blissful slumber. I was so frightened, my abdomen began to contract and I worried that I might go into labor that very moment. With arms wrapped protectively around my unborn baby, I waited for the inevitable. And I waited. And I waited.

          Strangely enough, the intruder didn’t make a move. He just stood there with those black beady eyes fixed on me in silent hatred. Without taking my eyes off him, I took advantage of his delay and began pounding frantically on my husband’s back with my fist. It seemed an eternity before he awoke and as he did, the intruder slipped downward over the foot of the bed and disappeared from sight. This was my opportunity to climb over my husband’s body and run toward the door screaming, “Jack, Jack, there’s a burglar in the room!”

          Jack rose slowly. It always took him a long time to wake up. He sat sleepily at the edge of the bed, peering at me through half-closed eyes. He did not realize the danger we were in.

          “He must be in the closet!” I cried.

          To placate me, Jack said he’d look, but you could tell from his slow step and lack of enthusiasm that he did not take me seriously. He apparently thought that I may have had a bad dream. I stood at the end of the bedroom with one foot out the doorway so that I could go for help once the struggle began.

          He rummaged through the closet and then said, “There’s no one in here.” I was taken aback. How could that be?

          “He must have slid under the bed,” I cried.

          Jack looked under the bed and said, “There’s nothing there.”

          I was really baffled now. Where did he go? Could he have slipped past me and out the door during my panic as I was pounding my husband’s back? How could that be? I never took my eyes off him and I saw him descend.

          “He has to be here somewhere, Jack!” I was getting angry.

          I trailed closely behind my husband like a bewildered shadow, watching as he searched the whole apartment beginning with the bedroom windows. They were locked, so no one could have come in or out, not even an agile cat burglar. We checked the bathroom window, the tub, all closets in the long hallway, but there was no trace of the intruder. The living room windows were locked, so that was out.

          “Jack, he must have come up the fire escape and got in through the kitchen window.” We looked. The kitchen window was locked and intact.

          There was only one final possibility. I must have failed to put the chain on the door when I came in and the burglar was in cahoots with the super and used a passkey. But we found the chain securely fastened.

          Jack trudged wearily back to bed and instantly fell back into his sweet slumber. I, on the other hand, could not sleep in that room, not that night nor any other night. I slept on the couch till my baby was born and after that, we moved.

          Chalking it up to a nightmare or a pregnancy induced hallucination, my husband made light of the incident and never mentioned it again. I didn’t forget it so easily. I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, but whatever it was, I knew it was real. I am not given to hysterical imaginations. I know what I saw.         

For years I was haunted by the memory of that intruder’s evil stare that spewed such venom at me. It burned such a vivid, frightening picture in my mind that to this very day, if I were an artist, I could draw his face to the minutest detail.

 

II

 

Twelve years later, after the divorce, my youngest child, now six, was looking for me. She opened the basement door and called, “Mommy! Mommy! Where are you?”

A voice answered, “Your mother is dead.”

She hesitated, then called again and the voice answered again, “Your mother is dead.”

She went outside, sat on the stone wall between houses, and was crying. The neighbor came out and asked, “Why are you crying?” and she answered, “My mommy is dead.”

An inspection of the basement showed no trace of a break-in, so it was another eerie appearance to ponder.

 

 

III

 

I opened the Bible for the first time and learned about the existence of evil beings called demons, cohorts of the devil himself. The instant I read this, I thought back to that evil ruddy face, and I knew what that intruder was. How could I possibly understand then? You can’t recognize spirit beings if you don’t know they exist. Naturally I thought it was a person at the time, a burglar. And the agonizing question lingered in my mind for twelve years: Where did that intruder go? I know he was there.

          Once I learned the reality of demons, I analyzed every moment of that apparition and realized that the intruder did not rise from the floor as I thought. I would have seen him on my way to bed when I passed that spot. With only one lamp lit, it seemed like he came up from the floor, but he actually came out of my husband’s feet.

Then there was a question of why he did not kill me. Over the years, I pondered that dreadful scene over and over. His malevolent stare told me that certainly wanted to kill me, but he never took one step toward me. Other than his face turning towards me, he stood motionless in one spot—at my husband’s feet—hating my very existence. I believe that if he could have killed me, he would have.

In the Bible, Satan was allowed to do anything he wanted to Job, but he was not allowed to take his life. Perhaps it was my mother’s prayers that protected me, or that I was a believer deep in my heart, but that demon did not kill me because he did not have the power to kill me.   

I finally understood the threatening message in that evil stare. It was a declaration of ownership. Standing at my husband’s feet and staring at me with pure hated, he was saying, “You can’t have him, he’s mine.” The startling fact was that the demon lived inside my husband and exited from his feet when he was asleep, and went back in through his feet as he was awakening. The 45 minute search was fruitless, as the demon was with us as we searched, and this demon did not want to share my husband with me.

           

IV

 

          Once I learned about demons, I knew what that voice in the basement was. The demon in the Bible said, “We are legion,” which meant that there can be a great many of them in one person.

          When my husband left, he took his demons with him, but some stayed behind. He had spent so much time in the basement that the demons thought it was their abode and didn’t want to leave. They didn’t want us down there, so they began by frightening my daughter.

          I immediately had a group of believer join me in the basement for prayer. We commanded the demons to leave and anointed the whole basement with oil. After that, there was no more demonic activity in that basement, or anywhere else in the house, for that matter.