“Keep this closed,” I whispered.
Amy fought off muffled cries, sobbing into Jessie’s shoulder.
“Don’t come after me,” I finished, kissing her on the forehead and quietly shutting the door.
My plan began to form; don’t be a hero. Grab a cell phone from downstairs, get my gun from the top of a kitchen cupboard, and make my way back to my family. They needed protecting, and I was no use searching the house for an intruder.
I feel it is only fair to say, I am not a big guy. At a mere 160 pounds, I would be little to no use fighting some burly home invader. I kept a gun in the kitchen and in the bedroom just in case I needed to defend my family, and it finally paid off. Once I reached the foot of the stairs, I needed to take three steps forward in order to round a corner into my kitchen. I calculated my necessary actions in my head further: light switch at chest height, left-hand wall just inside the frame. Cabinet with the gun was five steps across the empty floor, third from the right. The gun would be an easy grab once I opened the door. My wife’s cell would be where it was every night, lying on the microwave, charging. I carefully composed myself and prepared to sprint the rest of the way down. One deep breath more.
I leapt the length of the staircase in about three strides, taking huge steps toward the door and gripping the frame to steady myself as I rotated around the corner and hit the switch. It wasn’t until a bright luminescent bulbs whirled to life that I noticed the intense smell of rot and stagnant water. The odor burned my nostrils with a fierce pungency, threatening to make me lose the digested bits of dinner still left in my abdomen. I turned to the kitchen cabinets, ready to sprint for the gun when the sight of a rotting carcass on my white tiled floor sent me reeling back into the dining room table. From the sight of it, the body was a dog and, from the size, likely a retriever, or perhaps and lab of some kind. Its skin had been flayed off, leaving muscles and bones exposed to the elements. Its eyes were wide, terror-filled spheres dangling from broken sockets. I resisted the urge to puke, gathering myself. I had to remember why I was down here, abandoning my family in an unsecured closet to fend for themselves. In four long, jumping strides, I managed to clear the body and rip open the cabinet door. I grabbed my loaded revolver from the shelf, just as the back door on the other side of the kitchen burst inward.