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This is a strange one. It happened in a remote farmhouse some years ago, located in a sleepy and peaceful village where everybody knew one another and neighbors still greeted each other.

An elderly woman went to bed just a few minutes before ten. She usually watched television an hour longer, but today she wasn't feeling well. Suffering from a terrible headache, she called it a day. She fell asleep, but woke up half an hour later and, at first, thought she was still dreaming. She heard footsteps coming from her backyard. She tried to listen closely, but it was raining outside and the sound of footsteps seemed to move further from the house. The rain was banging against the window so it was hard to hear anything properly. A moment passed and it was quiet again. She chuckled at herself for being silly: there was no way anyone could actually be in her backyard at this hour. No neighbors for twelve miles and her two daughters lived far away abroad. Still feeling the headache, she went to sleep again. Ten minutes passed.

The footsteps. Again. She woke up, this time they were loud and clear. The worst part was that they came from inside the house. She froze up; there really was someone sneaking around. And she lived all by herself; that made her feel helpless. The woman remembered something odd about the dream she just had: there had been a strange person dressed in black picking a lock on the front door of the house; a large, intimidating man, wearing a big black hoodie with the hood covering his face. He didn't even bother to pick the lock quietly. He made an awful noise rummaging around on the front porch as if he didn't care if somebody heard. The woman thought to herself, "It wasn't a dream. I did hear someone come in. He's inside the house." 

Slowly, and as discreetly as possible, she got up from the bed and put her slippers on to muffle her own footsteps. It was an old house, and especially the bedroom floorboards were creaky. All rational thoughts seemed to vanish from her mind, but some kind of survival instinct made her remember one important thing: she still had her late husband's pistol in the bedroom drawer a few footsteps away. When he was alive, Herbert used to teach her how to use the gun in case of an emergency. She always considered it unnecessary because the thought of someone breaking in seemed far-fetched, and nobody needed a weapon in such a quiet village.

For a second, she looked up and thanked her sweet old Herbert for still looking out for her. There was a loud thud nearby and her husband's image disappeared quickly. She heard footsteps approaching from the kitchen. The man in black was getting closer. She came to realize that he would reach the bedroom door in just a few seconds. It was the only room where the lights were on. Being easily scared, she never slept in the dark. She bit her tongue as her imagination started running wild:

"Why would a burglar make so much noise? Why would he walk straight to the bedroom? He's not here to rob me. Oh dear Lord, save me." 

Trying to grip tight to the pistol seemed impossible. Her hand was shaking violently and the gun was too heavy for her to hold. A few seconds passed. The woman managed to lift the pistol up and tried to aim it at the door. She saw the handle creak slowly. The fear was driving her insane. But while absolutely terrified, she was ready to protect herself. It was the only choice she had. 

"Please, God. I don't wanna die."

The door finally slid open and the hinges let out a loud squeak. She closed her eyes and her shaky finger managed to pull the trigger. The last thought she could register was that a pistol makes a much louder noise than they do on television. Then, everything went black.

Three days later the woman's older daughter called her little sister to ask if she had heard from their mother. She hadn't, and they both started to worry. This was not like her. They were all close, despite not living near each other, and that's why they kept in touch almost daily with phones and social media. The two sisters lived in Europe, although in different countries. The older daughter decided to make a long-distance call to the local police of her mother's hometown. She still had the number in an old address book.

She told them nobody had answered the phone in the house for several days and she was worried something bad had happened. The cops promised to go check out her house soon, but it was the lazy local police, so their "soon" was probably tomorrow at the very best. The police weren't too interested in helping out back when their father had died while on the way home from work. But the coroner was a hard-working man. He was very kind and understanding to them seven years ago when that happened. She just kept hoping they didn't need his services this time. The next two nights, she couldn't sleep at all. She just waited with her mobile phone always right next to her.

Two days later she finally got a call back from the same policeman she had spoken to before, and he told her he had some bad news. They had found their mother lying dead on her bedroom floor. The cops were convinced at first that someone had broken into her house and that there had to be foul play involved. They found a pistol in her hand and a bullet hole in the wall against the bedroom door. But soon it became obvious she had in fact died of natural causes. There was no sign of forced entry, no unknown fingerprints or anything to signify that anybody else had been in the house. Then, the cop told her there was nothing more they could do and the investigation was over. He offered his condolences. Devastated, the daughter hung up and sat on her bed with tears running down her cheeks. She felt dizzy, and her vision kept changing from clear to blurry. She had tried to prepare for this moment. She had even had nightmares a few months back about receiving a phone call from the police.

"I thought I was ready for this," she said to herself. "And my poor little sister doesn't even know yet. How do I tell her?"

A million thoughts rushed through her brain. Their mother had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor last year. She had been hospitalized after passing out and collapsing on the floor. They had only given her an estimate of six months at the most. She had struggled and fought the tumor much longer than expected, so they had started to get used to the thought that everything was okay. The doctor had prescribed her medical marijuana for the pain, but the woman had a nasty habit of smoking more than what was recommended for a daily dose. They caught her a few times smoking an extra joint before bedtime. It was awkward, but they could see she was in a great deal of pain all the time. That really broke their hearts, so they just let her smoke how much she wanted to. The marijuana made her a bit anxious sometimes, but mostly it seemed harmless to them.

But now she was dead. She was gone, and the pain that was eating her away was also gone. At least she didn't have to suffer anymore. That was actually a bit comforting in the middle of all this, she thought as she lay on her bed, still in shock but a little calmer now. She would tell her sister, too, in a minute. She had to. As soon as she could pull herself together.

However, there were two things she couldn't quite understand just yet: the gun in her mother's hand and the bullet hole in the wall.