Roman put down his pipe. He staggered to his feet and stared at the hazy room. He did not remember moving the couch against the window. Nor did he remember an incense holder perched precipitously on the window sill. "You have to cut back," Roman told himself. As he stared at his unfamiliar living room, it was clear he had been having too good of a time.
Just as he lit some incense, there was a knock at the door. Roman rubbed his eyes. He was not expecting anyone. "Who is there?" He asked suspiciously.
"Mail, Sir," came the reply.
Probably more summons, Roman decided. Nevertheless, he opened the door.
"Package for a mister, uh. . . Powhat--uh--Powhatan?"
Roman inspected the deliveryman. Those eyes, that hair. This one's probably got Covid. His jaw rolled left to right. He grunted, "That's not my name." He gestured at the package, "You got the right address, Xi?" He quickly interrupted the Chinaman's rebuttal. "Just because you wear a USPS shirt doesn't make you American."
The Chinaman glared, "This is your package. I believe we are done."
Roman's cheeks sank and he put up his hands, "I don't want your package. Nice try, Xi."
The worker tilted his head to the side and said, frankly, "This is your address. I am not going to argue."
Roman licked his lips and pointed at his feet. "I see what this is. Just like those seeds your dictator sent out last year."
"Whatever," the man said, dropping the package.
Roman glared menacingly, "This is America, buddy. You ever come here again, I will show you how we deal with spies."
The worker eyed him up and down.
Roman scoffed, "And I thought you people were supposed to be smart. Next time get the name and address right."
The delivery man looked at the package curiously. He blinked at Roman, adjusted his shirt, and hurried back to his van. Once in his vehicle, he immediately called someone. After fearfully glancing at him several times, the man sped away.
Roman could not help but chuckle. Now, about this trojan horse. . . He was sure it was a biological weapon of sorts. The seeds from last year, the virus from Wuhan. He was not as uniformed as his neighbors. He knew what was going on. Still, he could not just leave the item for some poor child to find. It was wrapped in unsuspecting brown paper and looked as normal as any other package.
"Called to serve my country again," Roman grumbled. He brought the strange package indoors. He set it down in the corner of the room, atop an equally strange loveseat. I must have bought that from the thrift store. God, I need to cut back on glass.
The thought of using suddenly made him hungry. He went to the kitchen and opened the pantry. The only edible items he found were a few cans of pasta sauce. The rest of the cupboard was stocked with odd vegetables and spices. "What the hell?" Roman growled. He pushed several items out of the way, trying to find the snacks he had bought just last night. "This is ridiculous," he rolled his eyes.
Defeated and awfully hungry, Roman closed the cupboard and walked toward the fridge. I did not have the energy to cook anything and hoped there was some snack he had overlooked. As he approached, he noted a vertical sliver of bright light poking past the patio door.
Roman put his hand on the fridge and then froze. His eyes darted back to the patio door. Where was the chain he used to reinforce the lock? Why was the door open at all? He always left it locked. Roman blinked.
It was not safe. . . The rearranged and strange furniture, the missing food—everything made sense. There was an intruder.
Roman crouched. Someone was inside. As the truth revealed itself, other things became evident, too. A dreamcatcher Roman had never seen was hanging above the dining table. A baseball bat was leaning against the stove. How could he have been so blind? I should have waited to get high. Fuck. He slapped his cheeks, trying in vain to sober up.
The package made even more sense, now. Whatever waited inside was meant to help the intruder. Mustard gas, maybe. Perhaps a snake or spider. He grabbed the baseball bat and quietly crept back into the living room. There, he analyzed his surroundings. The bathroom door was open, but the two bedroom doors were shut. He must be in one of those rooms, Roman knew.
"I wonder what is in my package?" He asked loudly and happily. He approached it and shook the contents. There was some movement, but certainly no slithering or skittering. Some chemical or germ, then.
Roman gulped. He had to choose the bedroom correctly. If he charged the wrong hiding place, the burglar would know Roman's intentions. He tiptoed toward the two rooms, wondering what kind of psychotic man could break into a home, redecorate, and then hide. It did not make sense. A few illegals had just moved in next door, but they weren't clever enough for these mind games.
The middle-aged man sucked in his gut and broadened his shoulders. He rolled his fingers against the bat. He sucked his lips into his mouth and rotated his jaw. He gingerly placed his hand on the knob, rotated it silently, and then barreled into the room. A tall figure stood before him.
A bat crashed down.
Another tall figure flanked Roman. The old veteran roared and turned the bat on the other assailant. The weapon collided with the intruder's shoulder. As it did, however, the shoulder did not bleed, bend, or bruise. Instead, it broke in a thousand different spots and fell to the ground.
The rest of the mirror soon followed. Roman watched his shattered image melt onto the floor.
He turned toward the other assailant. That burglar had been a coat hanger.
Roman bit his cheek. He eyed the rest of the room, making sure he was, indeed, alone. As he searched the closets and peered under the bed, he was relieved that nobody had seen him. His neighbors already thought he was crazy.
Now, Roman giggled, about the real intruder. He would not have the element of surprise. But perhaps from all his noise, he might have put some element of fear into the criminal's mind. Feeling triumphant, Roman placed his bat proudly against his shoulder and marched to the next bedroom. He felt like a Napoleonic soldier marching into battle with a bayonet. He whistled a quick tune and then said, "Golly. I hope I don't trip in here."
He readied himself for the assault. He tensed his muscles and cleared his mind. Sober up, Roman ordered himself. Obediently, the haze lifted slightly from his head. The old soldier nodded to himself. He lifted his boot and prepared to kick the door down.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Roman's foot remained where it had been. He had not kicked anything and blinked a dozen times as his mind raced.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Someone was knocking at his door. Roman wiped his nose and squinted at the sound. Then, he prowled away. He crept toward the front door and waited for another knock.
Thud. Thud. Thud. "Police. Open the door."
Relief swept over him. Who had called the cops and how they knew, he could not say. He happily opened the door and welcomed the officer inside. "I am so thankful you are here, sir," Roman saluted.
The policeman stared at the homeowner. He was a young, white man with blonde hair; he wore aviator sunglasses. After a quick inspection, he asked, "You live here?"
"Surprised?" Roman scratched his ears. He quickly realized why the officer had asked the question and skipped ahead in the conversation. "I know, I know. What's a white man doing in the hood?"
The officer frowned for half a second and then nodded. He said, slightly shy, "We had reports of an intruder at this residence."
"Y'all are good at your job," Roman relaxed with a sigh. "I have him cornered but your help is always appreciated."
The officer took off his glasses.
Roman was reassured when he saw his blue eyes. He said, feeling an immediate comradery with the man, "Ex-military, sir. The mission was not hard to accomplish."
The policeman grunted and then pointed behind Roman. "That yours?"
Roman glanced back. At seeing his glass pipe, he quickly turned around and said, "Not even once, sir." He added, after readjusting his collar, "Probably the intruder's. I think they might be illegals."
The officer did not move. His mouth hardly budged as he replied, "Any home intruder would be illegal."
Roman laughed sheepishly, "Well. I suppose that's right, but-"
"Sir," the policeman interrupted. "Do you recall receiving a strange package earlier this afternoon?"
Roman squinted, "As a matter of fact, I do. Some Chinese guy delivered it. I didn't like him."
"Would you mind telling me your name, sir?"
"Roman Douglas," he replied.
"Thank you, Mister Douglas. Now, do you think you could get me that package?"
"I don't know," Roman answered hesitantly. He rubbed the back of his head, "I think it might be a biological weapon."
The officer's mouth stretched to one side as he thought. After a moment, he nodded knowingly. "I see. More the reason to inspect it. Would you mind if I take it back as evidence?"
Roman contemplated. He's armed, looks in good physical shape, and seems of sound mind. "I suppose you are trained for this kind of stuff. Careful though. Could be another virus."
"Mhm," the officer hummed. He did not seem as worried.
That will be his mistake. But if he wants to help. . . Roman went into his home to retrieve the package. As he knelt down, the officer called, "What is the name on that package, by chance?"
"Some made-up name," Roman said. "Powhatan, I think."
The officer did not reply. Instead, another person climbed up the front steps. Roman assumed more police had arrived. "Officer," came the second, unfamiliar voice. He did not seem to know the policeman.
Roman turned, package in hand, to see who was at his residence. A man with dark skin and long, black hair was standing beside the law enforcer. Behind the two men, a woman and two children were staring at Roman fearfully.
The strange man yelled, "What are you doing in my house?"
Roman recoiled, scoffed, and then shivered. As his brief high finally dissipated, the last of his euphoria finally left him, and the cold reality set in, he felt lost and afraid. He looked timidly at the officer.
The young man with blue eyes pulled out his weapon and pointed it at Roman. "Put your hands behind your head."