Today's Reading

With me they are safe. I protect them from evil. That is part of the agreement. They love me. And of course I love them, every single one of them. They need me. Their loneliness is immense. I am there for them. I enable them to feel safe and secure. I will show love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

I am the one who watcheth in the darkness. I am the Guardian.

Thin veils of mist lingered in the glow of the street lamps, but soon they would disperse completely. The gusts of wind were getting stronger all the time, carrying the first drops of rain. Dampness clung to her face as she leaned forward, fighting her way across the parking lot. Nobody was out and about without good reason; even the dog owners in the area seemed to have abandoned the idea of a last walk. The neighborhood was dark and silent; most people had already gone to bed. Only Bosse Gunnarsson's kitchen window showed a warm, inviting light. He was sitting at the table with a sudoku puzzle as usual, his reading glasses slipping down his nose.

Her own house lay in darkness, but she would soon change that. Switch on the lamps, make a cup of tea, fix herself an egg and caviar sandwich. Light some candles on the coffee table. Wrap herself in a thick, soft blanket and watch the late news. Then off to bed, she promised herself.

She reached into the mailbox: nothing but bills and flyers. She continued toward the door, searching in her purse for the key. As she was about to insert it in the lock, she noticed a rapid movement in the darkness by the shed. Suddenly someone was right behind her. An iron grip around her chest pressed her close to her attacker's torso, forcing the breath out of her body. She was paralyzed by the man's strength and by the acrid stench emanating from him. Only when she realized what he was doing did she manage to offer some
resistance. The man was using his free hand to try to loop something around her neck but was having difficulty getting it over her head—not because he was so much shorter than her, but because she was struggling, twisting from side to side as she tried to free herself from his grip. He growled and hissed something unintelligible but managed to hang on to her. After a brief battle he had the noose where he wanted it. Instinctively she reached up and slid one hand under the twine. The attack itself had been so
sudden that she hadn't had time to scream. She tried to call for help, but the only sound that came out was a faint whimper; the noose had already been drawn too tight. She felt him loosen his hold on her body so he could put more force into the act of strangulation. Even if she could manage to keep her hand between her
throat and the twine, she was getting hardly any air. The darkness flickered before her eyes, and she realized that she would soon lose consciousness.

She managed to slip her other hand into her pocket and rummaged around feverishly. Paper tissues, a box of painkillers, her cigarette lighter...Wasn't it there? It must be there! She panicked even more, her movements growing clumsy. Was it in the wrong pocket? The pain in her throat was unbearable. She couldn't breathe.

All at once she felt the car key against her fingertips. She managed to find the little cylinder attached to the key ring and grasped it with trembling fingers. Her thumb slipped on her first attempt, but she could feel the button. Summoning up the last reserves of her strength, she pressed it again.

The screech of the attack alarm sliced through the silent neighborhood. She felt her attacker stiffen, and for a few vital seconds he lost concentration. She lifted one foot and kicked backward as hard as she could. The heel of her leather boot caught him just below the knee. He doubled over and groaned, loosening his
grip for a fraction of a second. At the same time, she heard Bosse Gunnarsson open his door and yell:

"What the hell is going on out there? I'm calling the cops!"

Then the presence behind her was gone. She heard the crack of the gate as he flung it open and disappeared in the direction of the parking lot.

"Hey, stop right there! What are you doing?"

Bosse's voice again. Thank God for Bosse. She sank to the ground, trying to call for help, but all that emerged was a pathetic croak.

She had survived. She was alive!

Panic had locked her hand around the slim cylinder in a vise-like grip. She couldn't bring herself to let go of the object that had saved her life.

The screech of the alarm stopped abruptly as the darkness closed around her.

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