The Intruder

The morning of my eleventh birthday, I woke up to my dog Scarlett softly growling. Scarlett was a sweet little Irish setter mix. Stupidest dog I ever owned, but sweet and loyal. She slept on the floor in my room, guarding me from all the dangers the suburbs have to offer: squirrels, laughing children, more squirrels. I had never heard her growl in the night, though, and yet here she was: letting loose a constant, low, warning growl. Frightened, I opened my eyes only a little. Silhouetted against the dim, early-morning light was a man. He was standing there, over my bed, watching me sleep. Terrified, I kept myself still, pretending to be asleep so as not to alert the intruder.

As my sleepiness faded a little, I began to reason: why would someone break in to my room just to watch me sleep? I must be imagining things, I reasoned. It’s probably just a trick of the light! I cracked my eyes open just enough- nope! It was a man, alright! And not my father—this man was roughly the same height and build as my dad, but bald. My dad had a receding hairline (it was the object of many a Rogaine joke with my siblings and me) but this intruder was completely bald!

Really terrified now, as Scarlett continued her warning growls, I began to formulate a plan of action. I couldn’t just lay there and let some weirdo watch me sleep! What would Kevin McCallister do if one of the Wet Bandits was standing there in his room? He’d fight them, that’s what! Probably hit them in the groin with an iron taped to a hockey stick. Alas, I was no Kevin McCallister. I didn’t even own a hockey stick. I did own a Tic-Tac container filled with mercury freed from a thermometer—potentially deadly, sure, but I needed something more expeditious than mercury poisoning to handle this guy. I had the element of surprise, I figured, due to my brilliant sleeping performance. I could probably jump up, tackle him, and run out of the room before he could react. This was it, then. On the count of three…

I peeked my eyes open, again, to make sure he was still there before I leapt. The light had grown as I’d lain there, and I could see the man more clearly now. In fact, I even recognized him.

It was Captain Picard, standing in my room as if he had just beamed down from the Enterprise.

For a few seconds, I was stunned. Was I dreaming? Was I crazy? My mom was a Star Trek fan in her youth, and so wasted no opportunity in getting me hooked on Star Trek: The Next Generation when it debuted. It was a ritual to stay up every week and watch the latest episode. I loved Star Trek, wished it was real, but I knew it wasn’t. But… could something have happened to the space/time continuum? Maybe my desire to fly through the galaxy, exploring strange new worlds, was so strong—my childlike hope so pure--that I had actually ripped a hole into a dimension where anything was possible, and now Captain Jean Luc Picard himself had beamed down to take me away.

And that’s exactly what happened. I spent the next six years as a guest aboard the Enterprise; learning from Data, sparring with Worf, playing poker with Riker, and all the while seeing parts of the universe no one had ever even dreamed of before!

Nah, not really. It was actually a life-sized cardboard cutout of Patrick Stewart in costume. My incredibly stupid dog was growling at my birthday present. I found out later that my mom had snuck into my room and, hoping to surprise me, left it there for me to discover upon waking up. In her defense, it really was an incredibly cool present… well, cool for an eleven-year-old nerd.

I proudly displayed the standup in my room for years (outliving both Scarlett and The Next Generation series, itself) until my desire for girls to be in my room overtook my desire to hang out with imaginary Starfleet captains. That paid off, I guess, because now I’m married, and ready to have kids of my own.

That morning was one of the scariest, most confusing moments I have ever experienced. It was also one of the most wondrous: the time when, for a brief moment, fantasy became reality, and I was faced with something extraordinary. To me, that’s what being a geek is about: living in the real world, but always hoping for (even expecting!) the wondrous.


  1. If it's any consolation, I wanted him to be real too.

  2. So maybe we are nerd brothers... I could tell the same story, but it involves a lazy cat, iron filings from a magic kit, and a life sized cut out of Chewbacca... Ok, so I guess since it is star Wars and not Star Trek, then it's completely different things. But it was the middle of the night, and it was a large furry man standing over me while I slept. However, the difference was that I had put him there, and simply forgotten in the middle of the night!

    Jessee Eppley


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