Inside [Short Story]

The window was ajar. That made things a little easier. I had been through the routine more than a dozen times before; pull the glass frame back, push through the fly screen and slither my way in.

The bigger windows are obviously a little easier to negotiate, but nobody ever leaves them open. It must be the universal law of private property. Murphy’s Law, I guess.

As hard as it is to believe, the art of breaking and entering also comes with a few laws. I imagine there’s an unspoken code amongst all burglars, but it’s hard to be certain. After all, I don’t know any other burglars. Or perhaps I do, but how would I know? It’s not something one boasts about.

Law 1: A burglar’s most important characteristic is that they remain anonymous.

My heart rate rested. I had entered the premises without creating a scene. Good start. For a moment or two I became a little overwhelmed, but it wasn’t a symptom of fear. I was merely finding my bearings.

Regardless of where you are, orientating yourself is a necessity. Being in a rush doesn’t change anything. In fact working under pressure requires greater patience. It’s only the agitated ones who get caught. But me? I always take my time. And I never get caught.

I found myself in a luxurious, albeit intimidating, bathroom. I couldn’t help but ponder that had the room lacked a shower, sink and toilet it may have well resembled a psychiatric ward. The thought gave my mind a fleeting quiver. I continued into the adjoining hall. Having shifted my primary focus from The Entrance to Exploration I moved towards the treasure chest. The bedroom.

There’s something about the bedroom that makes it such an appealing location to hide belongings. For children the bedroom represents the notions of security and secrecy. Valuables can be protected in a bedroom like undisclosed desires in a diary. The problem, however, is that hiding places – no matter how elaborate they may seem – are intuitively predictable. Everybody has had a bedroom at some stage in their life. Hence, everybody understands the dynamics of a bedroom. Well, at least I do.

My induction into the world of theft arose by accident. As a full-time volunteer, possessing money is a privilege. Especially when you have a landlord. So when I snuck past Bryce’s open door and grabbed the two fifty dollar bills he owed me, I didn’t feel that I had done anything wrong. My life as a felon only began the next week, when Bryce dropped by my flat to repay his $100 debt. The rest is history.

I must admit I do gain an immense thrill out of it all. There is a unique brand of voyeurism experienced when one dashes into another’s world, only to exit without a scratch. Nevertheless I maintain that my thieving comes out of necessity. I try my best to keep my agenda straightforward. Break in; break even; break out.

Law 2: A burglar should only steal what they cannot otherwise obtain.

My radar gun eyes examined the room, eager to pinpoint an ordinary object sitting out of place. Noticing a groove in the corner of the room I called upon my ever-reliable sixth sense. With careful precision I peeled up the first layer of carpet to reveal an envelope. I peered inside. A stash of at least ten fifty dollar bills stared back up at me. This is too easy, I smirked.

I danced around to the kitchen, where I noticed a swear jar sitting vulnerable on the bench. An amateur would have jumped on such an obvious opportunity, but I considered myself a class above that. I figured my time and effort would be better suited elsewhere. The DVD tower that sat beside the bookshelf offered a more lucrative temptation, but I maintained my resilience. While the collection on display comprised of more than a few of my personal favourites I was well aware of the possible implications.

Not only can a missing DVD give victims a ballpark demographic of the suspect, but with the security measures of Cash Converters these days burglars are more susceptible than ever. Besides I enjoy challenging myself. So much more satisfaction can be drawn from the discovery of a hidden prize.

In answer to your question, yes, I do feel guilty sometimes. In fact I often wonder whether somebody superior is out there judging me for my actions. It’s when I’m at the soup kitchens that this hits hardest. I’ll encounter old drunkards whose lives have been ruined by the selfishness of others. Their depression is contagious and I can’t help but look away when they attempt to make eye contact. Their melancholy life stories are a lament of bastards screwing them over. I often wonder whether it’s people like me that initiated their downward spiral. Which is why I try not to interfere with personal lives. I’ll happily take money and jewellery, but ask any of my subjects and they’ll tell you, ‘at least he didn’t hurt anyone,’ or ‘at least he kept the house in good condition’. Just don’t tell them it was me.

Law 3: A burglar’s role is not to terrorise, but to steal.

Wandering through what I suspect was a ‘pool room’ I couldn’t help but notice I was being intrusive. I stared at the mantle piece, gaping at a collection of family photos. The common theme of these portraits was a shared feeling of happiness, and for a moment the emotions resonated in me. Working as a volunteer doesn’t offer much happiness. People often say that it elicits pride and intrinsic worth but that’s all rubbish. It takes a hell of a lot out of you for no reward. But I’m in love with the sensational irony of my life. My friends all think I’m a generous philanthropist. They admire the sacrifices I make. They aspire to be more like me. They think I’m good. I grabbed the edges of the picture frame and almost stuffed it into my pocket, before scolding myself for trying to compromise one of my last remaining morals.

I reached down to pick up a rogue twenty cent piece. The pettiness of this theft caused me to laugh. It was then that I heard a noise. At first I dismissed the possibility that They had made a premature return home. I reasoned that my internal laugh must had manifested itself into an audible specimen. But then I heard it again; the garage door was creaking open.

A fierce wave of ecstasy overcame me as the horror movie soundtrack interrupted my tranquillity. My straightforward task had reached an unexpected hurdle. Past experience no longer counted for anything. My brain was unable to muster even the most elementary solution. With a deep breath I tried re-assessing the situation. But the rising volume of voices from the garage forced restrictions on my time and my mind. Out of pure instinct I jumped from one room to the next. I was desperate to locate some sort of cue capable of triggering my brain cells into action. A shaking of keys sounded from the other side of the wall. Conceding that sober judgment was an act of foolishness I raced towards the kitchen. Eyeing a steel door I gave myself a five step run-up before barging my body into its fragile frame. In the moment of impact I could not tell whether my momentum had carried me or if I had crashed. Two seconds later a hasty test of comprehension confirmed I was no longer trapped inside the house, but was free. I did not care to look back. I just ran.

Parking myself three blocks away on a playground swing I couldn’t help but smile at my successful getaway. I even broke into laughter upon realising my stupidity; why didn’t I just leave via the window of the psychiatric ward? A more pressing problem became apparent when I reached into my pockets. Gone was the envelope holding my prize. In its place was a twenty cent coin.

Having invested twenty minutes for the return of twenty cents, I wasn’t sure whether to grin or curse. I sat still for a few moments, contemplating my unsuccessful heist. In effect I had broken two of the fundamental laws of burglary. Now I was left to ponder whether it would be suitable to break one more. Reveal myself.

Inside, I knew I wouldn’t confess. Inside, I knew I wouldn’t be caught.

Inside, I wish somebody will catch me. Inside, I know that’s the only thing that can stop me.

* * *

I’m not much of a fiction author (in fact I started writing a novel last year and hopelessly failed upon realising how difficult it was) but I’ve decided to have a crack. Inside was my 3rd and final piece of assessment for Creative Writing, and is still in the process of being marked. There are quite a few themes in this piece, so if you’re a little confused just give me a buzz and I’ll explain. Otherwise if you have any criticism, advice or encouragement, feel free to leave a comment.