The emerald glow of the fire could be seen from miles away and would have been seen by James if he had bothered to look out of his window.
James Grey was very much like his mother, a free spirit. He was not very tall, not very thin, he had gray eyes and straight brown hair that was always neatly combed.
At first glance, James was everything his father wanted him to be, an average little boy.
But he longed for adventure and excitement, and since routine had been forced into him for years, his desire for change and wonder grew each and every day.
On more than one occasion, he had used a “bathroom break” as a way to skip school and go on one of his haphazard adventures out in the cornfields nearby, wishing that his life was more exciting.
Which, to the disappointment of his father, was one of the reasons why he didn’t want to take his medication.
His nightmares and fears were challenges that needed conquering, at least that’s what Nurse Cassie had told him,
and he couldn’t very well let something as simple as bad dreams stand between him and glory,
that would make him no better than his boring old man and James couldn’t think of anything worse than that.
If only he could have known the things that happened on that night would haunt him for the rest of his days.
He would have listened to his father, he would have stayed in bed and slept peacefully through the night and even grown up to be a good man. Unfortunately, none of those things happened.
On that night, James pretended to sleep, facing the wall and clutching his blanket tight.
It wasn’t the sound of his locked door creaking open that woke him or even the sound of footsteps on the hard wood floor stopping at the edge of his bed.
It was the humming that pried him from his sleep. He could feel it staring down at him as it hummed its eerie lullaby; beeum, beeum, bambalow, bambalow and dillidillidow.
He refused to open his eyes and pulled the blanket tighter around his body, as all children do to protect themselves from the monsters in the dark.
And just as he was about to cry out in terror, the humming stopped and for a moment he thought the nightmare was over.
Until something gripped his body and pressed him down into the bed causing the frame to creak under the force as if whatever it was leaned down on top of him.
He wanted to scream, to call out for his dad but the air was being forced from his lungs. Panic overcame him, and he flailed wildly against the increasing pressure.
His eyes filled with tears and he whimpered beneath his sheets.
It’s coming for you! A bloodcurdling voice growled into his ear as the life was being crushed out of him and with an unsettling giggle James was released.
He gasped for air as the sound of footsteps running away echoed through his room.
His bedroom door swung open and slammed shut, leaving James sitting dumbstruck on his bed, illuminated by the moonlight shining through his window.
He wanted to call for his dad and for a few moments he was convinced that he would; but then he remembered what Nurse Cassie had said and he remained silent.
He threw his sheets aside and placed both feet firmly on the cold floor and stood on shaky legs. “I’m not scared…” he whispered to himself as he began to slowly creep toward his bedroom door.
His plain pajamas were soaked in sweat, his skin was covered in gooseflesh, and his hands were cold as ice, but he continued forward. Just not fast enough.
James froze in his tracks as the doorknob turned and the door slowly opened revealing a long ribbon of darkness on the other side.
“I’m not scared…” he whispered once again, but this time he wasn’t as confident.
He held his breath and wrapped his fingers around the cool wood of the door and ripped it open as quickly as he could as if it were a Band-Aid covering a scab.
He heard a light thud at his feet as the door swung open and he stared down wide-eyed, expecting some creature to be reaching for his bare toes, but to his relief,
it wasn’t some red-eyed horror gripping his ankles or any creature at all. There beneath the moonlight was his father’s watch.
For a moment, James forgot all about his fears as if they were all part of the same dream to be dismissed before breakfast.
Unhooking the leather strap, he noticed the engraving on the back of the watch face.
Time for a New Beginning.
He tried to fasten the watch to his own wrist but found that it was far too big. “Why would he leave this here?” he wondered.
A light clicked on from somewhere downstairs and James could see its shine from the banister.
“Dad?” He called out and waited for his dad to respond, to reassure himself that he was, in fact, awake. But nothing came.
He quietly crept to the top of the stairs and stared down at the light shining on the front door, hoping to see or hear anything.
“Jim, are you up? Come on down here, bud!” The sound of his dad’s voice was music to James’ ears for multiple reasons.
The most important being, that he was awake and survived his little nightmare.
James bolted down the stairs, passed the front door, through the living room, with a large grin plastered across his face.
“Dad, you won’t believe what happened! When I…” His footsteps slowed to a halt just at the edge of the kitchen, which to his surprise was completely empty. “Dad? Where’d you go?” called James.
“I’m down here, son. Could you come down here a sec?” His dad’s voice called from behind the basement door to his left and James knew that something wasn’t right.
The one good thing about routine is that it’s predictable.
James’ father was so precise in his daily routine that if just one thing were to be out of place, his entire attitude would change,
James would even venture to say that it would become downright deplorable and for as long as James could remember he had never once seen his father go down to the basement,
let alone be awake at this time of night. But he was sure it was his father’s voice.
He had heard it clear as day from the top of the stairs and once again from outside the basement door, it couldn’t have been his imagination.
Banging erupted from the front door, loud enough to make James jump out of his skin and after three knocks, he was left in silence.
“Who is it?” He called out, staring nervously at the front door, not daring to move any closer. No answer.
Just as James was about to work up the courage to move toward the front door, he caught something move out of the corner of his eye.
He turned his head just in time to see the basement door creep open and an unusual terror overcame him,
he didn’t understand how but he knew that whatever had opened that door was not his father and was far more frightening than whatever banged on the front door.
So, James did the only sensible thing that he could do in that situation, he tried to run.
He made it no further than two paces from the basement door before the sleeve tightened around his wrist and any hope for escape was lost.
Looking down at his right arm, he could see black slender fingers wrapped tightly around his wrist.
From just beyond the darkness of the basement door he could see two glowing eyes staring out at him.
Eyes that burned bright orange and stared hungrily at him, like a cat ready to pounce and yet, James never looked away.
“I’m not afraid of you,” he said defiantly, glaring at the orange-eyed creature in the dark.
We’ll see. It responded, with a shockingly elegant voice. So elegant, in fact, that James’ stone face relaxed and revealed his surprise. It almost sounded like… a girl, he thought.
And with a low growl and a violent tug, James was ripped back into the nightmare and into the basement as he howled in pain.