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(Author’s note: There are no hyperlinks in this story. Should you come across one, it is the work of spammers.)

Projected green altered the hue of shimmery silver, alternating with blue, yellow, and red. The antique artificial served one purpose, as a mood-enhancing uplift into an annual rite of good tidings.

On a nearby sofa, head supported by two fluffy pillows and body hunkered under a trio of blankets, a child watched colour play with nighttime perspective. Not one comfortable with night, her mom left the rotating wheel on, its soft light aimed on the tree dominating space fronting a picture window.

Alejandra, mother to the one who refused ever to reclaim her upstairs bedroom, slept in a recliner, her contralto snore the reason Clarissa peeked from under blankets, ascertaining order and safety.

The orienting points of mom to the left, tree ahead, and soft glow of the colour wheel reassured. Until the week before Thanksgiving, parents dismissed her overnight worries with assurances. Only shadows, only the wind, only a storm. We sleep in the next room.

One night changed everything. Wind whistled through a window not quite shut. Clarissa burrowed deeper under the covers, pillow over her head.

Coverings didn’t muffle three loud pops, two in rapid succession, another two seconds later. Not thunder, and in house.

Clarissa screamed.

No one came.

Fear actualised produced courage as its antidote, mixing lack of alternatives and ‘whatever’. Clarissa left her bedroom to distant sirens and wild wailing, the latter too close and too much like the voice of her mother.

Stand your ground, advocates plead to legislators. Make it law and we can defend our families. Perhaps her father prevented further intrusion. Perhaps the intruder intended more than removal of a television smashed halfway out the door. Clarissa saw no intruder, only her dead father and distraught mother holding his lifeless body against hers, his Sig Sauer by his feet mid-floor.