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     Another impact this time from the windows to my right. Someone was on the deck that wrapped itself around the living room like a noose.

     My first instinct was to freeze, to play dead before the awful maw of the unknown. But as the pounding continued, I forced myself upright and wandered through the kitchen, down the hallway, into my parents’ darkened bedroom for a view of who was out there. Two figures, robe clad, clutching candles as white as snake fangs, skulked along the side of the house, an alien chant ringing in the supernatural stillness.

     A glacial weight settled in my guts, but it came with a corresponding clarity. I carefully backed out of my parents’ room and crossed the hall to my sister’s room. I shut the door before flicking the lights so as not to give away my position. My plan was to call the neighbors for help. The phone book was absent.

     Dousing the light, I moved through the hallway towards the kitchen as the pounding resumed. Suddenly seized with the terrible knowledge that the front doors might be unlocked, I crouched to avoid the sightline from the kitchen window and crabbed my way to momentary relief. Locked.

     I headed for the phone in the kitchen. As I put the receiver to my ear, our dog (finally) let loose a piercing series of barks. I turned my head only to see my sister and her friend pull “Oh my gosh!” faces and duck below my sightline. My legs felt frail and wobbly.

     In retrospect, the whole performance comes off a bit trifling. No robes but hooded sweatshirts. No candles but Diet Coke cans. No chanting but their own girlish giggles. More sobering is the thought that if I were that 13-year-old kid today, my sister and her friend might come calling in turbans, clutching guns, and chanting from the Qur’an. “Islam-o-panic,” this decade’s diabolic apparition.