Tuesday, October 23, 2018

NIGHTLIGHT

Genre: Horror




NIGHTLIGHT
By Daniel Skye




            Roses are wilted, violets are dead. The Boogeyman is real, he’s under your bed.

            That twisted nursery rhyme had haunted Jake Greene for weeks. It started as a chain letter sent out by one of his classmates. It warned the recipient to forward the email to ten of their friends within twenty-four hours…or one night, when they least expected it, The Boogeyman would snatch them right out of their bed and they would never be seen or heard from again.

            But Jake didn’t have ten friends to send the email to. Jake didn’t even have five. But Jake was quite sharp for his age and he gave chain letters no credence or afterthought. He didn’t believe in them.

He did, however, believe in missing people.

            A fellow student, Todd Atkins, had been missing for a year. The Atkins family had vanished without a trace on the eve of Halloween. Months later, the public was made aware of the bizarre, cryptic writing found in the family’s attic. Can you guess what it said?

            Roses are wilted, violets are dead. The Boogeyman is real, he’s under your bed.

            And after the chain letter had been forwarded to everyone in his grade, it’s all his classmates were talking about. They whispered that corrupted nursery rhyme in the hallways, in the cafeteria. They speculated about the fate of the Atkins family.

            Some kids believed that they were murdered and their bodies hidden or disposed of. Others believed that they had been abducted by aliens. One of his classmates even had a theory that the family had entered the witness protection program. And of course, a lot of the students assumed that The Boogeyman really did get them in their sleep.

            Jake thought the idea was ludicrous. The Boogeyman can’t be real. But Jake knew people didn’t just disappear. There had to be a story behind their disappearance. And Jake couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible had happened to them.

            Laura Greene felt the same, because she hadn’t let Jake out of her sight that evening. She kept her distance so as not to embarrass him in front of the other trick-or-treaters, but she didn’t let him wander too far, and she never took her eyes off him.

            She tucked Jake into bed just after 10 o’clock. The night was over. He’d visited every house on the block. He’d already wolfed down half a bag of candy, and Laura had no doubt he’d finish the rest by tomorrow night.

            Jake rubbed his aching tummy, all bloated and distended from all the Halloween candy he had gulped down. He was starting to have serious regrets about eating all that junk before bedtime.

            Same story every year, Laura thought. He’ll never learn.

“You’ll feel better in the morning,” she assured him. She gave him a big, wet kiss on the cheek and turned out the lights.

“Mom, can you turn the nightlight on?” Jake groaned, still nursing his aching tummy.

            His father disapproved of the nightlight from day one. He’s going to have to face his fear of the dark someday, was his rationale. But if it comforted Jake or helped him fall asleep faster, Laura didn’t mind one bit.

            But Jake hadn’t used the nightlight in over a year. His mother was pleased, his father even more so. They thought he had finally beaten it.

            The nightlight had remained an unused fixture, plugged into the outlet in the corner of Jake’s bedroom. His mother figured it to be a security blanket, that the thought of it being there was enough to comfort Jake without actually using it. But now she understood why he wanted to keep it around.

            “Please,” he added.

            “Are you sure?” she asked. “You were doing so well.”

            “Yes, I’m sure. Just for tonight. Please.”

            “Alright,” she smiled, walked to the outlet, and flicked the switch. The nightlight shined in the corner, illuminating Jake’s bedroom and giving him that sense of comfort and security he desperately needed.

            “Goodnight, sweetie,” Laura said and blew him another kiss from the doorway.

            “Mom?” he called back.

            “Yes, Jake?”

            “Is The Boogeyman real?”

            She chuckled. “Oh, sweetie, there’s no such thing as The Boogeyman. Someone made him up a long, long time ago to scare people. And it worked. Don’t let it scare you too. If it’s not real, it can’t hurt you, right?”

            “You’re right, mom. I love you. Goodnight.”

            “Love you too, sweetie. Goodnight.”

            She shut the door, leaving Jake alone with nothing but the warm, reassuring glare of his nightlight. The kids at school would tear him a new one if they found out he was sleeping with a nightlight on. But if gave him peace of mind, then to hell with what the other kids thought, he figured.

            He tried to get some sleep. But he kept thinking about poor Todd Atkins. Where had he gone? What happened to him, to his parents?

            The hardwood floor creaked, audible enough for Jake to notice. He sat up in bed, his eyes scanning the room.

            Nothing, he thought. It’s just your imagination.
            The room grew cold, the temperature being drained. Jake shivered and pulled the blankets tighter.

            The closet door creaked open. A sudden sense of dread hit Jake like a tremendous wave. He sat up in bed, the fear gluing him place. He waited, his eyes fixed on the closet door.

He expected to see two monstrous red glowing eyes staring back at him, for some hideous creature to come screeching towards him. He pictured two sets of serrated claws, ravenous teeth, and warped flesh.

            But nothing emerged from his closet. The room was quiet and empty. False alarm, he thought and breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

Then he recalled that terrifying rhyme. Roses are wilted, violets are dead. The boogeyman is real, he’s under your BED.

Jake gasped as a dark figure slithered out from under his bed, its serrated claws scraping against the hardwood floor.

            It stood, and a giant shadow engulfed the room.

            Even with the nightlight burning in the corner, Jake refused to look, refused to meet its blood red eyes.

            Its lips parted and it croaked. Its voice was the sound of death.

            “Rose are wilted, violets are dead. The Boogeyman is real, and he’s not under your bed.”

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