After the Lion King movie I retreat to my room, leaving the door slightly ajar. Like this, I am able to hear the reassuring tones of mother and the cousins talking around the kitchen island. I burrow under my blankets with my stuffie and stare at the walls. The light from my window played on the wall, the tree on the front lawn lending moving shapes to it.
I watch as the light slowly dims and dims some more. The shadows grow thicker and still the voices talk on. It’s a dangerous time now, the evening. That’s when it had happened, the evening.
I must have fallen asleep. When I wake, there are no more voices and everything is dark and still. My heart is pounding in my chest and I think that something is wrong. It didn’t even occur to me that it could not be happening again.
I hide in my bed, shaking. I hear no sounds. Was mother dead? I screw up my courage, and take my unicorn stuffie with me just to be sure.
I pad through the house. It is dark, but I know the way. I make my way across the kitchen, to the living room that is dimly lit by a single light. There, mother is sprawled on a couch, dead.
I freeze. No! Mother! But again, as with the man, I cannot move. It is only when mom snores that I realize that she is merely asleep. Oh.
Feeling a rush of relief, I look around. Nothing of our new setup is disturbed. The TV is still there. There has been no break-in this night.
I let out a sigh, dropping my stuffie to the end of my arm. Before mom, on the coffee table is a bottle of wine and one glass. But there is also the board game, spread around as if she’d been searching through it for something. I pad forward, wondering what she was searching for. The rule book? The reason behind the numbers on the cards?
I find myself beside the board game, just out of reach of my mother. She is somewhat alright. No wound on her that is fresh or bleeding. But even so, with the shadows her bruises look garish and her face distorted. I turn to focus on the board game, not wanting to think of mother’s bruises and how she got them.
The cards are spread across the board, fanned out carefully in three rows. There is the language cards, the people, and the items. At the top of it all sits the d20.
A thought strikes me. There was nothing left here of value except for this board game. Whoever came tonight, during the night, they would be coming for it. Maybe this game, maybe this was the real reason for the break-in. Maybe it was all about this game. After all, why was it hidden in a wall?
I scoop up the cards, piling them neatly back into their stacks. I place them back into the box with the dice. Then I fold up the board and place it all together in there snugly.
Determined, I take the board game back to my room with me and my stuffie. Burglars left children alone. They had left me alone, locked in my room. If they came back, they wouldn’t hurt me, that I knew. So I had to keep the board game with me, safe.
I tuck myself back into bed. I was hungry for supper, but it was too late and mother wasn’t about to wake up. I knew I could go into the fridge for a snack, but the sound of the door opening and its light might wake her. Besides, now that I was back in bed, the rest of the house was too large and vulnerable. I couldn’t leave the somewhat safety of my bed, not again. The burglars would be here soon.
I press the board game’s box against my chest, half tucked under my pillow. It would be safe with me.
For some time, I watch the shapes on the wall, the shadows of the tree from outside. I watch, and listen. Every breath shallow and too loud. I listen, and wait.
Then, a click of a door being unlocked.
I freeze. Did I hear what I thought I’d heard? Really? Were they back?
Another click, the door being softly shut. They were back.
My heart has stopped. Ice covers me. They’re here for the game, they’re here for it.
In a cold rush, I realized I’d made a mistake. They were never going to stop until they got what they wanted. They wanted the game, it was too precious to leave behind. They knew it was here.
I hear a muffled shriek. Mother. She’s whimpering.
“I don’t know where it is!” she cries out.
I had to think.
Whump. Thud. Mom is crying.
I sit up. Heart is pounding again, too loud. I had to give them the game. I had to save mother.
The box is in my lap. It’s the last thing from father.
Thud! The sound of mother hitting the floor.
The world turns black.
A muffled shriek bring me back to my senses. There are footsteps all over the house. Thuds all over of things being knocked over. The basement- they were in it. They would see the hole in the wall.
I step out of the bed, covered in ice. Determined, clutching the board game to me, I walk across my room. The floor is so cold against my feet. I push the door and it stops against something, someone.
“Stay in there, kid,” a man’s voice growls out.
I push on the door again. The door jerks open and a huge man is facing me. All in black, face covered in a ski mask. He laughs.
“The kids’ got it!” He reaches out. I clutch the game to my chest, taking a step back. “Give it here,” he says, chuckling. Another big man appears behind him.
Mother starts screaming.
I hand out the game. Just take it and go.
He takes it, his hands gloved in black too. He hands it to the other man, who nods. “Good kid,” the second man said while taking the game. Then they close the door to my room.
I come to with a light being flashed in my eyes. A blanket is on my shoulders. Police are everywhere. The lights are on, chasing away the dark. In the living room, I hear mother talking through sobs, her voice high-pitched. There are so many other voices, but I hear hers above them all.
The EMT is talking to me, patting my shoulders. I stare at him.
Then, blackness. They are shaking me gently when I come back to.
“We’re going to go to the hospital, okay?” the EMT is saying kindly. “We’re going to go.”
I turn to my bed. My unicorn. I couldn’t leave the house without it.
The Emt walks with me as I go to my bed and pick up my stuffie – and a card falls out from its grasp. It was probably lying on it, but in my head right then, it seems as if my unicorn had been holding the card, keeping it safe.
The card flutters down to my feet, but I recognize it. The only card with a black backing dotted with a diamond. The ridiculously overpowered card.
In the back of my head I think that the game is probably ruined without that card in it. I hope it is. No rule book, no trump card – I hoped it was now unplayable.
Leaving the card on the floor, I was turned away and taken to the hospital.