Home Turf

by Jinryu

A few nights ago:

I asleep with my bedroom door closed, but at about 2am, I heard a crash in the house. The sound woke me up, and I couldn’t really figure where the sound came from. Even though I was groggy, I waited for the customary swearing that usually followed it (it was usually my mom or dad who had knocked something over in the kitchen). But there was none of that.

My sister, down the hall, had woken up as well, and I heard her ask: “Was that you?”

Nope. And my parents were still sleeping in their bedroom.

Still in the dark, I leaned over the stairwell and peered down at the first floor– no sound, no light.

When I used to play 1 on 1 deathmatches in DukeNukem 3d, my cousin [Adan] and I could hunt eachother based on environment sounds alone– every light switch, every door creak on stage 1-1 of Duke3d made a different sound, and we knew exactly where every one of those sounds came from. My real-world home is the same. I know every floor board. The thing about my house is that I’ve been living here most of my life– I know ever sound, every creak.

As a young adult, when I used to sneak out of the house after dark, I knew exactly which parts of each step of each flight of stairs to put my weight on so that they wouldn’t creak as much. Similarly, I know invisible paths around the kitchen and dining room that make no noise.
So, the question was– what was that huge noise? Had someone broken in?

Call me paranoid– but when I was a kid, someone did try to break in. I was probably 10 at the time, and my sister just 6. It was dark outside, and someone had rang the doorbell. Because my sister and I were watching television and had been too slow to come down and check the window, perhaps the burglar figured the place was empty. A few minutes after I’d gone back upstairs to continue watching television with my sister (my dad was in the shower), there was thunderous booming coming from downstairs. We later found out that the would-be burglar had kicked in one of the sets of security bars on our basement windows. My dad had come out of the shower shouting: “What’s going on?!” and I think my sister screamed something about the house falling down. My mom was at work that night.

I remember my dad telling me to call 911– he pulled on some sweatpants, went under his bed where he pulled out 10-inch bayonette, and scrambled down the stairs– the guy was still kicking in our basement window. I guess he hadn’t noticed all the commotion upstairs.

“Someone’s breaking into my house!” I cried to the operator. I remember at first that I couldn’t remember my address, and that I felt sick because my heard was pounding so fast. I don’t think I’d ever been so scared in my life up until then.

The rest of the events were a blur. My dad found the guy, halfway through the basement window. The burglar went back out though, before my dad could take his leg off. I didn’t see this part, but I remember my sister close behind me as I went to the bathroom, and unscrewed the shaft of a broomstick to hold on to as a weapon.

My dad practically ripped the front door down going through it, but the burglar was nowhere to be seen– he probably jumped the fences in the backyard, and escaped onto the main street. He told my sister and I to come outside, and to get out of the house.

I remember him calming down, and laughing finally. It was winter. We were quite a sight. My topless dad, with his bayonette, and my sister and I, with my broomstick clenched tightly, wearing our slippers in the snow. Can you imagine? A broomstick. It was probably taller than I am.

A few nights ago are different, but the idea is the same. I grabbed my Lego Man dynamoflashlight (which is actually pretty bright), held that in an icepick grip in my left hand. And, from my bedside, grabbed my nunchucks. Yes, to answer your question, I do own nunchucks. Not the foam covered ones or the aluminum ones– mine are made out of oak, weigh about a pound on each end, and have a chain strong enough to hang a man with.

They’re not ideal for fighting someone in closed quarters with, but the trick is that you have to use forward swings. Try to do lateral ones and you’re likely to waste all your energy hacking a chunk of the wall out, or a microwave. But used correctly, forward swings will work. It’s not ideal, but I don’t have any bayonette in my room. In a worst case scenario, I can use them as a throwing distraction (Bas Rutten style) which makes openings for other options.

It wasn’t that I was looking for a confrontation.. this was more about assessing the situation first, and I didn’t want to wake my folks if it turned out to be nothing. So, I slowly went down the staircase, checking all my angles… listening all the way, sweeping the dark first floor with my flashlight. I cleared my throat a bit. If there was someone there, I didn’t want to surprise them.

The thing is, if you think someone’s broken into your house to steal things, then you should probably give them opportunity to leave. You don’t want to fight. That’s rule number one of fighting in the real world. You don’t want to fight unless you’re in a corner. Burglars might not be killers, but burglars carry tools like screwdrivers and crowbars that can kill you. That means, on the flipside of basic street smarts, you don’t back anyone to a corner– if anything, sweep the place in such a way that they have exits. If you corner them, you’re in for trouble.

If they were here to cause us harm, that’s a different story– because that probably means they have the advantage of being prepared to harm you, with tools specific to that purpose, more useful than a set of nunchucks. When I made it down to the first floor, I started turning on some lights, making sure to keep my back to the stairs to bolt back up if necessary, keeping my flashlight hand up to protect my face, and my right hand cocked to swing the chucks. I gathered my courage to be ready to scream like a madman if I encountered anything, both to warn my family and to hopefully shock the intruder. Bathroom clear. Entrance– still closed and locked– no signs of forced entry… no broken windows. More easily, I could feel that there were no drafts, which would be the case if something was still open. So at least if someone had broken in, they were courteous enough to close up behind themselves?

I made my way cautiously to the kitchen, where I counted the knives on the magnetbar. It had been almost a minute since I first heard the crash, so if they had detected movement upstairs, they might have decided to improvise, grabbing something local to defend themselves with if they didnt’ already have something– wouldn’t it be ironic to be assaulted with one’s own kitchenware? All still there. At that point, I swapped my nunchucks for the 8″ chef knife. More suited for the environment. Though most of the first floor was lit at this point, I took my time sweeping the place with my flashlight from a distance before going closer into a room to turn on the lights, to give any intruders a chance to move.

After checking the basement too, turns out that there was nobody. No footprints in the fresh snow out front or out back or around the sides of the house. I couldn’t figure out what had fallen so loudly that it had woken my sister and I up. The next morning though my dad found a bunch of stuff in the closet in the landing had fallen down, which I’d overlooked that.

The thing is, all through this, I don’t remember being scared… I remember thinking almost that it was a game. Isn’t that kinda scary in itself? Maybe videogames have made me desensitized. Martial arts training probably gives me the means of porting those experiences to the real world. But I remember considering things in the usual progression of a game– assess the situation, find some weapons, and then find a problem that needs fixing. Upgrade along the way. Check your angles. Pay attention to your peripherals. Keep your guard up. Have an exit plan. Stay in cover….

It was uneventful, thankfully. My sister was on standby upstairs, also listening for any sounds that she didn’t recognize as my own. Like me, she’s got the home turf advantage.

So, if you were woken up in the middle of the night, what would you do?