By Jason Fucanan
The door shut, and Lucas lay alone in bed, comforters pulled up to his neck. Cars whiz past the window, their headlights and taillights casting eerie shadows on the walls. They danced through the room, swiftly gliding across before teleporting to the other end and making the terrifying trip again. He tried to fall asleep, knowing that nothing would hurt him, and when he woke, it would be day and he would be safe. And yet, he couldn’t bring himself to shut his eyes, for he felt that his watch was the only thing keeping him safe. He kept his vision trained on the window, waiting for a grotesque face or a pair of wide eyes to suddenly appear, or in the dark corners, watching for unusual movements. He knew that once he dropped his gaze, they would come.
His fear was irrational, and he knew it. Monsters aren’t real, his mother assured. The cause of it simply didn’t exist. No books, no movies, no scary stories. It was as if the dark of night, the lack of a sense, sparked wild panic all on its own.
Earlier that night, Lucas consulted his father for help. He asked for a night light, but he said he was too old for that. He requested a door to his closet, but he said it was unnecessary. They asked what it was all for, but he didn’t say. They wouldn’t have believed him anyway.
Under his door, the lights of the hall glowed a hopeful orange and yellow. Every once in a while, the friendly silhouette of a pair of legs would walk by, reassuring Lucas that there was still someone keeping him secure.
The night petrified him. He didn’t dare turn to watch the gaping closet behind him. Every move he made felt cold, unsafe. He kept his limbs rigid under the blanket, for he felt it was the only protection offered between him and whatever creatures prowled his room. Any movement could give him away.
A small click came from outside the door, and a thump confirmed it. Light’s out, everyone’s gone to bed. Now Lucas felt truly alone. Every tick of his analog clock was a snap of a finger bone. Every rush of the AC was the breath of a beast. In the void of night, sounds were amplified to horrible degrees. Lucas tugged the blanket up to his nose. He tried to shut his eyes, telling himself over and over, ”You’re safe. There’s nothing.” He heard the thump of weighted feet on the carpet. “You’re safe, There’s nothing.” He felt the rush of wind over the covers. “You’re safe. There’s nothing.” He felt tendrils brush his hair. Clawed, scabby hands gripped his ankles. He felt the bed move under him as he was torn away from his home. That moment, Lucas didn’t tell himself he would be safe, but he wouldn’t have believed it anyway.
Photograph “Bells” by Emily McCormick