In the middle of the night, early last Sunday morning, my wife shook me awake. Before I managed to open my eyes, I heard knocking on our front door. The banging was incredibly loud, and did not stop. I rolled out of bed, heart pounding, and attempted to get dressed. I asked my wife Deana what was going on, and she said only “someones at the door”. I heard voices outside, sounds of yelling, as I groggily reached for my glasses.
Before I continue too far with this tale, there is something you should know about me. I am a “scaredy cat”. My overactive imagination gives me nightmares, and I often wake up paralyzed by terror. I’m scared of many things, including snakes, the dark, fire, deep water, whales, and giant squid. A lifetime reading about UFOs and the paranormal has only increased my tendency towards fear, as has my love for sci-fi, fantasy, and horror in various media, including movies, radio, TV, books, and comics. For these reasons, my mind tends to go to some very strange places when I am thrust into tense, unusual situations.
Like, for example, someone banging loudly on the front door at 4:30 in the morning.
I stood in the dark for a moment, breathing hard, my heart pounding in my chest, trying to muster up the gumption to act, to do something. Groggy, I pulled on a T-shirt, as the sounds from outside moved around to the back of the house. Suddenly, our nighttime visitors banged on the bedroom windows, just a few feet away, shining bright lights in. Thankfully, the blinds were down, so the outsiders couldn’t see in. Still, white beams of light penetrated around the edges, casting eerie shadows over the room.
Several scenarios ran through my mind as I walked to the front door.
Scenario A: My family and I were being abducted by aliens. This was perhaps the least likely scenario, but the thought of it made my blood run cold. We would be like Betty and Barney Hill, or the guy from Fire in the Sky. There were a few strikes against this explanation. Typically, abductions happen on deserted country roads at night, and there didn’t seem to be any of the other typical phenomena associated with aliens. Our electricity was working fine, and I didn’t smell ozone or anything strange. (Other than the stink of raw terror emanating from every pore of my skin, that is.)
Scenario B: Overnight, America had changed from a democratic republic to a Hunger Games-style totalitarian government. Jackbooted thugs were coming to take us off to some desolate District where I would be forced to raise crops. My wife was strong, and would thrive, but I would likely die of pollen allergies or asthma before my next birthday. The outside voices seemed to be human, which was more evidence for the truth of this explanation.
Scenario C: The FBI or some other government agency had finally determined that I didn’t delete all those Napster MP3s, and they were coming to take me away to jail for my egregious crimes. I tried to think what songs I might have missed when I went through a few years back and weeded out everything I didn’t really own. Was it “That’s the Way I Like It”, which I burned to a CD for a 70s reward party for my fifth graders a more than decade ago? Maybe. I supposed the judge would let me know before I was thrown into prison. Of all three, this scenario seemed the most likely explanation for our strange mid-night visitors.
My wife and son stood, scared stiff, in the living room. Deana whispered. “They were banging the sliding doors so hard the curtains were waving!” I nodded, my throat dry. Steeling myself, I walked to the door, prepared to discuss the terms of my arrest. An odd sound reached my ears, in between loud bangs on the front door. It was a piercing, dissonant, continuous tone, perhaps a siren or warning or horn of some kind. This new information drew me back to Scenario B as the most likely. Sirens and fear seemed just like what the Capitol would use in order to subjugate the population.
I opened the door for the Peacekeepers I presumed lie beyond.
But I was not greeted with white-armored soldiers. Instead, two police officers flashed their flashlights at my face. Behind them, a neighbor of ours stood. The officer in front informed me that the horn in our car was going off. Slowly, through the adrenaline rush, my brain put two and two together: the car horn was what I had heard in the living room. I walked over to the car, popped the hood, and the horn blared even louder. My neighbor said something about trying to stop it himself, but I couldn’t really make it all out in the din. I looked down into the mess of oily blocks and wires and parts under the hood of my car.
Again, I feel compelled to pause to tell you something else about me. I am not exactly a car guy. We own three vehicles, none of which are less than twenty years old. One is usually in the shop for repairs at any given time. I am not totally helpless in regards to auto maintenance: I can change a tire when needed, and know how to check the oil, and even how to top it off when it’s low. I know where to add brake fluid and windshield wiper fluid. In a pinch, I could probably fill the radiator. Fluids, I can do, for the most part. When I’m particularly feeling adventurous, I can recharge the freon in the AC, but I’m scared the whole time that the freon will leak and my arm will break off like the T-1000 at the end of Terminator 2.
I said all that to say this: as I looked under the hood in the early, early morning hours of last Sunday, I had no idea how to turn off the car horn. (Horns don’t take fluid, do they?)
One of the cops must have figured out why I was just standing there, and offered helpful advice: “You’ll have to pull the fuse, or disconnect the battery.” Now, I know what fuses are, and recall changing one out in this particular car several years before. Oddly, I couldn’t exactly bring to mind the exact location of the fuses as I stood in my PJ bottoms and T-Shirt in the middle of the night with the horn blaring and two police officers watching my every move.
I could practically feel the eye roll on the back of my head as the cop continued. “Fuses are usually under the steering column or somewhere close.” He pointed his flashlight at a spot right by where the drivers side door opens. “There it is, see where it says FUSES?” I got on my knees and tried to read the tiny labels in the blue-white brightness of the flashlight. I didn’t see one labelled HORN or NOISE or HERE YOU IDIOT so I just started pulling them from the bottom row.
It’s hard to pull fuses with your fingers, did you know that? I was in a weird state, half asleep, half shaking with nervousness, and anything requiring manual dexterity was a challenge. The other cop had mercy on me and produced a small set of pliers from his vehicle. Somewhere in the middle of the third row of fuses, the horn stopped sounding. I threw the fuse on the floorboard, my knees tender and numb from crouching on the concrete in my thin pajamas.
In the silence, my neighbor explained that he couldn’t sleep earlier, so he watched some TV, turning it off at around 3:45. He then noticed the horn, and was worried that there was a wreck or something, so he checked it out. He tried to get our attention by knocking and ringing the doorbell to no avail. After he couldn’t rouse us, he called the police. Apparently even they had been knocking for quite some time. All told, the horn had been going full blast for 45 minutes or more. The cop seemed incredulous that we didn’t hear it earlier. He probably suspected we were sleeping off a bender or something, but the truth was that we were just dog tired. The neighbor left, followed by the police, and I went back inside. I explained to Deana and Connor what had happened, and we went back to bed. It is very difficult to fall back asleep when your heart rate is roughly eight times normal.
I keep having more nightmares. These new terrors don’t include aliens or Peacekeepers. Instead, it’s the same two cops, beating down the door because the horn doesn’t work and that’s technically illegal. I suppose I’ll just fill that horn fluid up, pop back in the fuse, and then these new nightmares should go away, right?