A craven childless feeling rose in his face as he asked his mother of the man who visited every night, but she had assured him and patted him on the head every morning that such a thing was just his active imagination. After all, no sound ever came from the long hallways built in the house and with seven sisters and three brothers to share a room with, a shadow built in the shape of a statue, standing in the doorway, moving nothing, could be nothing more than a nightmare. Days and nights passed and the shadow who surely wanted something, disappeared.
The eleven siblings, left to their own devices, played every day in small streams and marshes, with long runs across fields or hiding in holes and trees and enjoying the open space that surrounded them. Other neighbor kids came as well and amongst them, a party of children was as huge as it was possible, and there was much noise and theatrics all day, every day, as there was laughter, screams, fights, arguments, and hollering. So much was the marvelous elation of playing, that he only brought up the man who visited him once, and the general consensus was that he had been either a nightmare or a ghost, and there was nothing he could do.
But he waited and waited and the man came no more and he was able to sleep again. He realized this mistake when, after almost forgetting what it was like to fear for his life, he shook and trembled and cried in his sleep and found the door opened, and under its frame, nothing. And as he looked intently, he saw nothing. And then, he stepped in without making a sound, the shade of a man, and though his eyes he could not see, he knew it was staring.
His mother had asked of his sullen eyes and his lack of appetite, for he was the only of the children who seemed down about his free time. School was over and fresh days overruled every complaint, but he mentioned the nightmare and to calm him down, his father offered to stay up all night with him. He knew it wouldn’t work, but he nodded anyway as his siblings snickered at his weakness. And as he predicted, the man did not show and his father kissed his forehead compassionately. His siblings made fun of him for being so scared and he decided he would not mention the apparitions no longer. He would face him alone, he could so.
The days of summer were some of the favorite days of his life so far, but the nights were so hot and humid, and the snoring of his brothers and sisters so insistent, that when he saw the man show in the doorway again, he was almost relieved for he knew that he would stare all night, but he wouldn’t wonder, shaking and sweating, if he would appear. He tried to whisper, he moved his hands up in the air, and he threw something close to him waiting for a reaction, but the shadow simply stared through the darkness hollow and they would stare at each other until he could not take it anymore, and slaved himself to sleep.
And though his parents and siblings noticed how much more withdrawn he seemed and how much he seemed to dread the incoming night, they did not think it was prudent to feed his delusional fantasies. His mother kissed him and assured him everything was fine, and his father kissed him too and told him he loved him, and his siblings, ever so playful as always, even tamed their instincts, and said nothing but look with pity. He knew, deep in his heart, though he did not want to think it, that he had lost whatever game had begun, and the world was telling him so.
He thought about struggling and fighting but his mental fortitude, weakened by so many sleepless nights, was so weak, and getting weaker by the day, that he could barely do anything but stay awake and wait. And as he stayed in the bed, through the sleeping corpses of his siblings, he finally was attacked with that irrational, crippling sensation, a feeling of unmovement, of a bone clutching paralysis, where he could barely stare, and barely breathe, and barely escape, and through the darkness came, the soundless steps of the doorway, and he closed his eyes, barely whimpering, waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and he knew, in between sobs, that it would only end when he could see the shadow’s face, and as if a magical force strangled him, he bulged his own eyes open and saw up close the wheezing, flat, oval face, pale and smooth, the smiling eyes as if a loving mother overjoyed with happiness, and the teeth so big, from cheek to cheek, black entire, grinding, ready to laugh.