woke up and listened. He turned to his wife
, but she was still breathing heavily into her pillow
. He swung his feet out of bed
and walked over to the window. There, standing on the porch
below, illuminated by the backdoor light, was a man
. He was beckon
ing to him. Ted bent over and stared. The man seemed to know he was there, for he beckoned even more insistently
"Carol!" said Ted. She rolled over slowly and raised her head. "There's someone out there, someone standing on the porch."
Carol lifted herself up on her hands. "What does he want?" she groaned.
"I don't know, he seems to be waving at me."
Carol came over beside him. "Oh, my God!"
"What's the matter?"
"Look at him," Carol replied. Then Ted realized it. The man wore only a bathrobe over his pajamas and was in his bare feet. Eight inches of snow lay on the ground. Carol clutched his arm. "Don't let him in, just don't let him in."
Ted hesitated. It seemed incongruous. Where could he have come from? Their farmhouse was half a mile from the road and a mile from the next house. They spent only occasional weekends there during the winter so it didn't seem possible that a neighbour would come that way for help. Yet a half dressed man was standing on their porch, freezing to death, beckoning.
"I've got to let him in, Carol," he blurted.
"No, no, don't. He looks too strange, call the police. He looks strange!"
"I've got to let him in, he'd be dead by the time the police got here. Anyway, he's alone. I can handle one man."
"I won't let you! I won't let you! Call the police, Ted. I'm scared, just call the police, oh please!"
"You stay here," he ordered and started out of the room.
"No, don't leave me alone here! I'll come with you."
"Ok, suit yourself. Come on."
Ted turned on the hall lights and headed downstairs to the kitchen with Carol right behind. They could hear the man pounding on the door, a loud, almost panic-stricken sound. "Ok, ok! I'm coming!"
"Wait!" called Carol. She pulled open the utensil drawer and lifted out the carving knife. Ted turned. Her hands shook so that she nearly dropped it on the floor. "Just leave that on the table," he said. The pounding on the door was deafening.
Ted hesitated again. He could not understand the situation. They led such an ordered life, and he had never come across anything that so defied an explanation. Carol had retreated into the far corner of the kitchen, her eyes fixed on him, and between them, on the table, lay the knife, shiny and ominous. He know he could never use it. Shaking his head, he crossed to the door and pulled back the latch.
The door burst open and the man was on him, pinning his arms to his sides. They crashed into the floor and Ted struggled for his breath amidst the shock of the impact and Carol's piercing scream. He kicked out and the kicthen table went crashing over. Carol's screams faded into the background of his own rasping breath as he struggled to beat the man off. The knife was on the floor only a foot away. He lunged to grasp it and stabbed it into the man's back again and again.
Ted rolled from under the body. "It's all right," he gasped, staggering up, "It's all right." Carol kept screaming. Following her line of gaze, Ted turned around. The back door was crowded with a dozen or more of the same men, all in pajamas and bare feet, all babbling and shoving their way into the house.
Ted swung the knife at the figures that seemed only a blur to him. Carol was lifted up bodily and thrown down, her screams stifled. The press of the men forced Ted back into the corner. He could not advance against them. One large figure came out of the blur and Ted stabbed the knife deep into the man's chest. The figure toppled over him and he threw it back into the arms grasping at him. Directly behind him was the open cellar door. He darted through and slammed it, then quickly jammed several timbers against it so that it was immovable. The men tried to knock it down, but they could not, and they finally left it alone.
For several hours Ted crouched alone in his sanctuary, listening. He could hear Carol. She tried to scream quite often. Ted thought she couldn't scream because she couldn't get her breath. Mostly, she groaned. At the first she managed to scream every five minutes or so, but after about an hour, she moaned. There were other noises too, of furniture being pulled over and general destruction going on, but he barely registered those noises. It was Carol he was listening for, and when they threw her around he knew, because the sound of her body was softer than that of the furniture. He prayed that she would die. He began to curse her, screaming back at her to die. Several times he caught himself screaming at the top of his lungs. "Die, die, die, die, die!"
In the morning, when the search parties arrived, they found Carol's naked, frozen body by the front steps. The madmen were still roaming about the house. The police loaded them into several paddy wagons. They broke down the cedar door. Ted was sitting on the top step, babbling gently to himself and playing with the drawstrings of his pajamas.
"I don't know how this one got down here," said the officer, "but take him and throw him into the wagon with the others."