The Boy awakens.
The boy awakens and has to pee. He gets out of bed feeling groggy and slow, hating the need to get up. Wouldn’t it be nice to just go back to sleep and not bother? If only. But nature’s demands are absolute, so the boy gets out of bed and yawns a big yawn that cracks his jaw and makes him wince. And now he is awake, more awake than he wants to be. Of course that’s what happens.
The boy lifts himself out of bed and sits. The bathroom is only a few feet away, but that distance seems like miles.
Miles. Everything seems huge at night. Huge and antagonistic. And the boy feels so small.
Such is the way of things.
The boy gets out of bed and starts walking when he notices a distant light coming from the living room. Surely dad left the T.V. on. What a hypocrite. He is always complaining about little things, about the TV or the need for coasters or the toilet seat. But the little things never apply to him.
Adults. They get to complain and order and don’t have to follow their own rules.
The boy decides to go turn the T.V. off before going to the bathroom. He knows to make a mental note of it before he turns it off, knows to calmly tell his dad about the mistake that was made. The accident.
And his dad will care.
For a time.
The boy walks into the living room, a large room with its large T.V. because dad wants—needs—to make sure everyone knows they are “well to do” and with its bookshelves containing expensive hardcovers that his mother never reads. But they fool everyone.
And the light grows. It expands and shines.
The light is soft and sad, like moonlight. It sends its waves to all corners of the living room, and then expands into the hallway. It is stoic and cold.
The boy approaches but notices a lack of sound. Surely if the T.V. were on, there would be sound. Perhaps an action hero would be shooting a bad guy, or a comedy character would be telling an inappropriate joke, or an adult cartoon character—a character he wasn’t allowed to watch of course—would be cracking a wise, but there is no sound dancing to the light.
The boy looks into the living room and the T.V. is off. Puzzled, he walks closer, looking.
Gazing at the bookshelf is a person. A thing. A combination of the two, staring, browsing the titles. A being made of light. Soft light. The kind of light that gives false hope; the kind of light that makes all of the monsters under the bed hide, but not disappear completely.
The kind of light that does nothing to the monsters hiding in the closet, for those monsters are powerful and unafraid.
The kind of light found in a sterile, uncaring store with all sorts of clothes, or toys, or appliances.
But the being doesn’t look uncaring, for it cares. It cares very much.
The boy stands still, gazing at the being made of a soft light that offers no happiness, and he is afraid.
He makes no noise.
Or so he thinks.
The being stops looking at the bookshelf, the kind of bookshelf that plays host to outdated almanacs and autobiographies of old presidents and political commentaries by journalists and turns around. It is a slow turn, but the light never fails, even with the movement. It is a constant thing.
The way the aftermath of a feeling is constant.
The being looks at the boy and pauses. It moves its hand away from whatever book it was on—as if it cared about the book at all—and looks at the boy, quivering in wonder and fear and in need of a bathroom.
The being starts to walk towards the boy. Slowly.
The boy is stuck in his fear. He knows about this kind of fear from books, the kind of fear that is so potent the hero can’t move. But of course the hero ends up moving. Someone comes to save the day; someone comes to holler “Hey!” and the hero acts as a hero does. Because the hero is a hero and the villain is a villain. That is the way of life. The way of things.
But those aren’t the kind of books on his mother’s expensive, mahogany bookshelf. She prefers nonfiction.
The being of light approaches the boy timidly, as if he were a deer frozen in front of a hunter with a fast moving automobile. It casts away the shadows, and in doing so, adds more. These shadows are unnatural and disruptive, but the being doesn’t notice.
The boy does, but only peripherally. Though young, he still needs to grow up in a world where the shadows matter.
The boy is still frozen in fear, wondering why fiction, which is marketed as fiction, is so true, when the being is a touch away from him. The hand of light is near his face, welcoming something. Something. Something.
And then the boy screams.
It is a high pitched scream, the kind made by an animal both wounded and afraid, but it is enough to make the being pause. The being has never been screamed at before. The being has never been caught before.
And the boy is afraid.
The boy knows to flee. Instincts have taken over, and they know best.
The boy runs to the staircase leading away instead of towards his parents who are sleeping through their home invasion and their son’s terror, continuing to not care. He runs down the stairs leading out of his house and to the door, not bothering with socks or shoes. Socks and shoes are not important.
As he nears the front door, he sees more glow coming from the basement. The basement is always scary at night, yet it seems scarier now. A soft light is floating up from another being made of something. Something. Something.
The new being looks up at him. It seems shocked. Yet it holds no expression on its face for its face is made of light and nothing more. Its hands brush the walls, and it hesitates slightly before putting an illuminated foot on the first step leading upwards.
The boy screams again, and no one blames him.
The boy opens the door and runs out, still screaming. There’s something cathartic about screaming. He runs to the end of his driveway, seeing a soft light float out the windows of his quiet house. His parents room, where they sleep uncaring and unaware.
It is cold.
The door of his house opens, and more light flows out looking for him. He screams again, but the night doesn’t care. The night never cares and isn’t expected to care. The boy learns this fact and weeps.
But the night isn’t dark like it’s supposed to be. The night glows in a way that is inhospitable.
The boy sees beings of light inhabit his neighborhood. They walk into and out of houses, sometimes transcending doors and walls altogether.
Unlike the night, the beings care.
The boy begins to run, wailing as his legs move.
And the beings continue to fill the streets, peering out of windows inhabited by neighbors who sleep through it all.
The boy takes a left at the end of his block; the rightward street fills with glowing beings, hands outstretched in a wanting fashion. They need. He finally notices the tears painting his cheeks and wonders, “how long have I been crying” as if it matters.
The snow bites into his feet as he runs along the old road of his neighborhood. If only the snow could hide the rocks and age of the street, but nothing can hide rocks and age is wanting in its existence. Such is the way of things.
Yet his feet don’t notice the biting pain as he runs in fear. Blissful fear.
Because there is something blissful about fear. Truly blissful. More so than any other emotion.
The boy feels complete, yet he is terrified and his tears continue to run down his young cheeks. And the world is so big. So dark. So cold. And the beings continue to come out of houses and everywhere and look at him. They look at him with a kind of illuminated emotion that he wishes he couldn’t understand.
But he does.
And the emotion is necessity.
The boy runs, veering off of the road and to the wooded area on his right. Somewhere deep inside of him, he knows he can’t lose these beings of light, these beings that can penetrate the darkness yet cause darkness to spread. But he wants to try. He needs to try. Trying is better than falling over and giving into the stitch in his side and gasping for a cold and uncaring air.
His longs ache.
The cold is cruel, as it always is. It frosts windshields and windows and makes the rocks beneath his feet hard and sharp.
The boy continues to run.
The beings of light continue to follow.
Somewhere to his left, the high school rests dark and uninhabited. Its parking lot has jettisoned all cars and responsibilities. The boy thinks, “One day I’m supposed to go to school there. With all the big kids” but he thinks this between internal screams.
And all around him the world is soft and bright.
But the world isn’t frozen. Hope exists around him, hiding in the darkness and bitter cold that has the capacity to be greater, but for tonight, for the boy, it isn’t. There is hope in the shadows that fall beneath these beings. Hope of a tomorrow and a sanity and a dream.
For this must all be a dream. A pure and beautiful dream where everything is vibrant and false and nothing exists except the feelings of cold when a sleeping body kicks away the blankets.
And the world is growing brighter as the beings congeal around the boy who is now incapable of screaming. His throat hurts as if he has a bad cold, but his mother isn’t near him to give him comfort and feed him hot soup.
Not that she would. She’s much too busy for that.
The boy gives one last chocked sob as he trips. His foot tangles in a branch in the woods off to the side of the high school—where the big kids go to smoke and seem so important and old—and he falls. His ankle twists. The pain is intense, and he knows he isn’t dreaming, but he wants to be. He wants nothing more than to be.
And he sees the rock as he falls. The large and gleaming rock in the darkness, now lighted by the beings chasing him, wanting him. Needing him out of a brilliant necessity.
The rock is waiting for him.
He has chance to think, “No.” An adult thought, one his father might think while watching T.V. or reading the newspaper. One his mother might say while at work or while ordering takeout because there just isn’t enough time in the day to cook. “No” is a simple thought. A defiance.
The boy lands with a hard thud, cracking his forehead against the rock. He feels a sharp pain as blood pours out of the wound in his head. His brain hits the forefront of his skull in a simple fashion. The kind that marks futility. The kind that marks failure.
The kind that causes death.
And the beings of light converge on the knowledgeable boy. The accidental boy.
And then they depart.
The boy dies in the snow, wearing his pajamas but no shoes. The world around him is cold and unforgiving, the kind of cold that causes the frosting of windshields and windows. The kind that makes the rocks beneath one’s feet hard and sharp.
When the sun rises, the boy’s parents cry and call the police. They are unaware of what happened, as is everyone. As is everyone but the boy, but the boy is dead.
The police search for the missing child, and they find him, cold and pale against the earth. He has a look of fear upon his face, and his feet are blue and bloody. They don’t know what to make of it, so they assume sleepwalking.
The accidental boy had an accidental death, and anyways, the house showed no signs of a break in. The beings of light are careful about such matters.
And anyways, what else is there to assume?
Something? Something? Something?
The town morns the tragedy.
Three days from the boy’s death there is a funeral. His parents cry and beg God for something they don’t mean or understand, and the boy stays dead. God has his limits, and anyways, the boy knew.
Months later the town forgets. People go about their lives and sleep at night, unaware of the light people. As is the norm.
Such is the case in these matters.
Such is what needs to happen.
Such is the way.