Twas the night before Christmas when all thro’ the house not a creature was stirring… except, what the hell was that? Colin sat up on his bed and glanced at the Darth Vader alarm clock at his bedside: 11:43pm. It sounded as though someone was downstairs, doing what most people do when they are trying to be as quiet as possible – making too much effort and thus making quite a noise indeed. He took a few moments to gather his thoughts. When he was younger, he may have thought it was Santa Claus. Not anymore; Colin was 31 – too old for that Vader alarm clock if truth be told. So think, think, think… what else could it be, but burglars? He took a swig from the glass of water beside the bed. It definitely tasted different when he got it from the bathroom tap, rather than from the kitchen. And there it was again. It sounded like someone was in his living room, whispering to someone else. Only the ‘esses’ were audible. It was reminiscent of someone letting air out of a balloon, slowly and sporadically.
Colin slowly pulled back the duvet, knocking his book, the television remote and half a bag of Lebkuchen onto the floor with a sharp crash. If there was a criminal downstairs, robbing a single man on Christmas Eve like a prick, then they would definitely have heard that. Frozen, Colin listened again. He scrunched his eyes closed – he’d read something once about the other senses becoming heightened when one sense is removed. He was now 90% sure that was rubbish because all he could hear now was the rushing of his pulse in his ears; whoosh whoosh whoosh. He stood up – the mattress groaning with relief at the shedding of its burden – and took baby steps toward the door. There it was again, Hsss Hsss Shhh Ssss Shhh, and was that a stifled chuckle?! Clearly whoever had chosen to rob him had brought a mate along.
As he reached the bedroom door, Colin reminded himself of the creak it made whenever it was moved too slowly. He had two choices, as he saw it: swing the door open quickly, avoiding the creak but risking whoever was downstairs hearing, or opening it slowly, creakily, just enough to be able to see into the hallway below. And again, that hiss! Maybe I’m still asleep, dreaming this, thought Colin. But no. He was pretty sure that wasn’t the case. Sod it, he swung the door open wide and the only sound he made was a krrshhh as the bottom of the door swept the carpet beneath. He tiptoed across the narrow landing and crouched soundlessly beside the stairs. From where he was hunched he could see into the hallway; the front door, the rug, the light from his Christmas tree in the lounge and half of the door to the downstairs toilet. He listened in the darkness: nothing. For a good while, nothing.
Then: something! A shadow, cast on the hallway rug from inside the living room! A large shadow! And there, again! There was definitely someone downstairs, maybe two people. What should he do? Colin was never a brave man. He was the sort of person who, when a fight broke out in the pub, sat with his back to the action drinking his drink and staying out of it. So confronting the intruder head-on was off the cards. Maybe he should do what he should’ve done immediately and call the police! But his phone was in there on the cabinet, beside his Vader clock. He’d have to make it back across the narrow landing, through the creaky door and back over the groaning, too-old mattress to reach it… Nope. He’d… Aaah! Another shadow! And what was that? A boot?! He could see a boot poking just an inch or so into the hall from the living room! A shiny, black boot and a flash of… red? Colin’s head spun. He steadied himself against the bannister, just out of the line-of-sight of anyone looking up the stairs from the hall below. Think. Think. Think.
And then his hairs stood on end and his vision swam. Someone had walked from the living room – quickly and quietly – and made their way into the downstairs loo. Colin heard the faint click of the lock as it was slid across to fit the catch he’d shoddily screwed to the toilet door frame. Someone was using his toilet? Someone was using his toilet! He felt a sudden and uncharacteristic surge of confidence. He’d march down there, he told himself, in his pants… What was he thinking? Of course he wouldn’t. He’d sit here, wait for the burglars to leave and then phone the police and report it. He’d tell them he heard the criminals leaving. He’d say they were clearly professionals… As the pathetic fantasy materialised in his mind’s eye, there was another sound from downstairs. Colin recognised the sound – it was familiar to him. But he couldn’t place what it actually was. Rrrrd Rrrrd. Ffft. What was that sound? And there, again! That same sound!
Rrrrd Rrrrd. Ffft. FLOOOOOSHHHH! It struck him like a plank to the face. It was the sound of someone pulling toilet roll from the holder, tearing it off, then flushing his toilet! Someone was… using Colin’s toilet at gone eleven on Christmas Eve! What the hell was going on? Who would be so… so ballsy as to go for a shit in the house they were robbing?
“Enough is enough!” said Colin, bravely (but still under his breath). He stood, swayed, steadied himself on the bannister again and took a step forward, then another onto the top stair. Then froze again, in his tracks. The door to the downstairs toilet opened as silently as Colin wished his bedroom door had. That same shiny, black boot emerged into the pale multicoloured glow of the Christmas Tree lights, followed by the flash-of-red trousers. Followed by a large, red-and-white-clad belly attached to a round, snowy-bearded face. The twinkling eyes of the rose-cheeked face found him from behind the half-moon spectacles. The bushy-white eyebrows arched, first with surprise and then with friendly greetings. A chubby, gloved hand moved to the saggy red hat perched on the head of the intruder, gripping it by the ermine-like trim, freeing the sweat-speckled balding head beneath. Colin stood, jaw gaping. His private parts had taken up new residence somewhere close to his lungs – or so it felt. He was unable to make a sound, or even move a muscle as the jolly interloper below waved his hat in the air, jingling the bell that topped it. The stranger chuckled and a tiny, green-clad something appeared from the living room, crossed the hallway and opened the front door, stepping out into the cold night. Santa Claus – who else could it possibly be? – winked.
“Ho, ho, ho! I’d give it ten minutes if I were you!”