. . . a woman is awakened from sleep by a brief exchange of gunfire on the street below her bedroom window. There is a banshee screech of rubber tires on summer pavement. There is the sound of hysterical, improbable laughter, the sound of a screen door flying open, and footsteps receding into the night.
The woman, she gets out of bed to check on the twin infant sons sleeping in the room next door. She walks downstairs to the kitchen, which costs her a great effort of will, because she is sure that the creeper, the one with the pale nightmare face she has known since her own childhood, is waiting for her in every darkened recess. If he is not already waiting, then every too-heavy footfall, every creaking footfall, has the potential of alerting him to her presence.
She turns on the bright kitchen light, and fills a glass with bright, clear water. She feels the blessed coolness of it washing some of the bitterness of fear out of her mouth. For a moment, she is reminded of her own prairie childhood, arcing into the icy cold water of bottomless lakes, the momentary ecstasy of weightlessness, followed by the panicked effort to escape from the entanglement of weeds and unseen things. On the other side of the swimming hole, there was an old farmhouse that everyone knew about, abandoned for many years by the time she herself had been born, in which a witch mother had murdered her three daughters by singing them to sleep with a fatal, enchanted lullaby.
Back upstairs, she re-enters their bedroom. She puts her face close to their dreaming heads, inhales the sweet/sour of their intertwined breath. She has X-ray eyes tonight, can see right through their bird-fragile chest bones, right through their delicate, mortal ribs. She can see four silken lungs inspired with air, suspended in bottomless darkness like beautiful, silent subterranean things. For her tonight, their heads are made of glass. She can see the dim blue-green flicker of electrical impulses pulsing and arcing through cerebral nodes.
Even though they are soundly sleeping, she sings an old lullaby to them, a lullaby filled with songs of the bittersweet potentials of life. The minor key notes of the song wander like soft velvet nocturnal things through the membranous labyrinths of their inner ears, finally taking refuge in the shadowy forests of their dreams. Nudging them over, she falls asleep with one protective arm thrown across them, her twin sons, oblivious and free.