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The clock read 12:50, but that meant little to him. At his age he had, at best, a vague conception of time. Rolling onto his back, he jostled his little legs and kicked off the covers. It was warm tonight, even for him. Looking to his left, he stared at his fluffy brown teddy bear. It had fallen from a sitting position to a crumpled mess next to his pillow. Reaching over, he snatched up the stuffed animal and held it tightly in his arms. Charlie Grant would turn eight years old tomorrow.
Charlie was small for his age. The other kids he played with were much taller than he was. As he lay quietly in bed, he wondered if he would ever grow up. He touched a small scratch on his left cheek and winced. He would show those other kids once he grew up. He knew the cut was an accident, but they didn't have to laugh at him. He didn't mean to cry, it just hurt so much. Next time, he would remember to be much more careful as he slid into second base. Running his hand over his messy blonde hair, he tried to think about something else.
Looking over at the nightstand next to his bed, he began to reach for his glass of water, but stopped. It was empty. Pushing his bear aside, Charlie swung his feet over the edge of the bed. He wasn't supposed to be up right now. It was way past his bedtime. He didn't want to make his parents mad, but he really needed a drink. Sliding off the edge of the bed, he snatched the empty glass from his nightstand and began to walk toward the door.
He stopped. Something didn't feel right. His wide innocent eyes quickly scanned his room. It was the smallest room in the house, but his parents assured him it was just his size. To his left, therewas a small window that looked out onto the front yard of their two story house, and in front of him, he could see his toy box, still heaped with action figures from the previous day's adventures. To his right was the closet. Always closed at night. Always.
A small round nightlight was plugged into the outlet next to his door. He didn't really like the light. It always seemed to cast strange shadows across the room; mean outlines of things he didn't like, but Charlie was brave. Clenching the glass tightly in his small clammy hands, he pulled his attention away from the shadows and walked briskly to get some water. His heart began to pound. It felt like something was watching him. Charlie froze. The room seemed to become still almost instantly. He could hear his heart pounding in his chest, but then came another sound. A sound so terrifying, it shook him to his very bones. Slowly turning his eyes to the right, he could see his closet door slowly opening. It creaked and groaned as its old hinges rubbed against each other. In an act of sheer will, Charlie slowly craned his head to look at the closet. The door had been partially opened and was starting to close again. Looking into the closet, Charlie could only see darkness, but then terror gripped him. He wasn't sure how, but before he could even register the thought to run, he was already out of his room and charging toward his parents. Bursting out of the room, Charlie dropped the glass to the floor and dove head first into his parents' bed. The bed shook hard, then stopped.
Charlie's father shot straight up out of bed. Groggy and dazed, he looked frantically around the room. His boxers were hanging down slightly exposing the small gut he had been cultivating over the past few months. Rubbing his hands over his eyes to wipe the sleep from them, he looked down to see Charlie cocooning himself in his blankets. He let out a soft sigh of relief, then sat down on the edge of the bed. "Charlie," he said softly. He could hear his only son breathing heavily, almost frantically. "Charlie," he added a little more sternly. Reaching over slowly, he pulled the blankets away from Charlie's face. He recoiled slightly when he saw the fear in his eyes. "What's the matter, boy?"
"What's going on?" his wife asked as she sat up in bed.
"Mom, Dad," Charlie began as he started to catch his breath, "can I sleep with you tonight?"
Dylan Grant looked over at his wife and smiled. This was not the first time this had happened. He rubbed his thick brown beard as a smile emerged on his face. Dylan was a tall and well built man. He had medium length dark brown hair that hung to the middle of his neck. It was naturally wavy, which drove his wife crazy. He was closing in on his thirty-fifth birthday, but he didn't feel it. In his mind, he was just a big kid. "I don't know. Cynthia, what do you think?"
Cynthia waved her hand in the air as she scooted back down in bed. "Why can't you sleep in your own room, Charlie?" She was much more petite than Dylan. Measuring only five foot three inches, her forehead barely reached Dylan's chin when they stood next to each other. She had long blonde hair and what Dylan referred to as "sky blue eyes". She used to be afraid to age, but even now, at thirty-two, she was one of the most beautiful women around.
"There's a monster in the closet," Charlie admitted sheepishly, not wanting his parents to know he was scared. After all, he was a big boy now.
Dylan ran his large hand over his son's hair. "I've got an idea."
"Let's go find that monster and flush him out!" Dylan stood and walked across the room toward his golf bag. Hastily looking over the silver clubs, he grabbed a wedge out of the bag.
Charlie started to shake his head. "That's not a good idea, Dad."
"Why not?" Dylan asked, holding the club tightly in his hands. "Your old man's a pro at this. I bet you didn't know that back in college your dad majored in monster hunting."
Cynthia chuckled. "Stop making things up, honey."
Dylan shook his head. "No, it's true," he said with a laugh. "While other kids went out for the football team, I went out for monster hunting."
"Stop egging Charlie on and take him back to bed." Cynthia pulled the covers up tightly to her chin. She had to be up in less than five hours to be at work. She had a major meeting she had to be well rested for.
Dylan knelt down in front of Charlie. "Your mom never was a believer," he said in a whisper.
Charlie laughed. His dad was his hero. They did everything together. Tomorrow was going to be extra special for him. His dad was taking the day off from work to take Charlie to his first major league baseball game. He had even promised to show Charlie how to run the scorebook. Sitting up in bed, Charlie scooted toward the edge and hopped off. When he was with his father, they were invincible.
"Are you ready to go get that monster?" Dylan asked as if he was taking the family out for ice cream.
Charlie nodded his head. "Yeah."
"Then what are we doing standing around here for? Let's go."
Dylan started for the door with Charlie closely in tow. Once in the hall, Dylan glanced across at Charlie's room. The door was still wide open and an empty glass was lying in the middle of the floor. Dylan looked down at his son. "Did you leave that glass there, Charlie?"
"I'm going to let it go for the moment, but as soon as we get that monster, I want you to pick that up and put it where it belongs, okay?"
Turning back toward Charlie's door, Dylan lifted the club in front of him. It was his sword and he was headed to slay the dragon to bring peace back to the kingdom, or at least a good night's sleep. Taking another step, he stopped. Something wasn't right. Looking down the hall to his left, he caught a glimpse of a dark form moving past the window. "What the hell was that?" he asked himself. Reaching behind himself, he patted Charlie on the head. "Stay here for a minute, okay?"
Charlie looked up at his dad. He was transfixed, staring unblinking at the window at the end of the hall. "Dad?"
"It's okay," Dylan assured him without turning his attention away from the window, "I just want to go look at something. Stay here." Without another word, Dylan began to walk slowly down the hall, his bare feet sinking into the thick carpeting.
Charlie looked at his dad, then returned his attention to his room. He glared into the darkened space. What happened to my nightlight? He began to feel his heart pound in his chest again as he heard a soft rustling noise coming from within. Turning around, he ran back into his parent's room and dove back under the covers with this mother.
Dylan stopped. Turning around, his eyes widened. There was no sign of Charlie. "Son?" The golf club momentarily loosened in his hands. "Charlie!" he said again. An odd sensation passed over him. He felt as if he was being watched. Spinning around, he saw a pair of burning red eyes outside the window peering in at him. Dylan's mouth fell agape as he stared.
The window shattered inward sending shards of glass sailing past Dylan. One of the larger pieces sliced through his upper arm. Blood instantly began to seep from the wound. Slapping his hand on it, Dylan began to stumble backwards through the hall. He kept his vision trained on the red orbs still outside his window, barely noticing the crunch of glass under his bare feet. All at once, the eyes blinked once and a dark object flung itself in through the shattered glass. There was no sound from the creature, only the howl of the wind outside. The dark form undulated and transformed as it moved down the hallway toward Dylan, its form finally settling on something vaguely human. Dylan could swear he was looking at a man standing before him wearing a large flowing black cape, although he could make out no detail in the creature, only darkness and those burning red eyes.
"You will not escape," the being hissed in a low, angry voice.
"Leave me alone!" Dylan cried as he moved faster. "Cynthia!" he cried out. "Cynthia, call 911!" Dylan looked down at his hands and stopped. He gripped the golf club tightly. Taking a deep breath, he lunged forward at the being and swung with all his might, but connected with nothing. The blade of the club sliced right through the middle of the creature without any effect. The force of the swing threw Dylan off balance and he tumbled to the floor. Looking up, he saw he was lying at the feet of the being.
Turning his head to the right, he peered into Charlie's room. To his horror, a second pair of red eyes appeared. "Shit," he muttered under his breath. Pushing himself off the floor, he tried to run for his room, but was cut off by the first shadow. The creature lifted what looked like an arm and pointed it toward him. Four thin tendrils of darkness shot from the hand like coiled snakes and wrapped themselves around Dylan's neck. Reaching up, Dylan tried to tear them off, but they were like steel. Gasping for air, he watched as the second pair of red eyes emerged from Charlie's room and moved toward him. This one was also in the form of a human. He didn't appear three dimensional in nature, rather flat. Its billowing darkness reached out and began to wrap around Dylan. It felt cold and evil. The darkness began to engulf him as it slowly moved up his body.
The second shadow echoed the first's sentiment. "You will not escape."
Dylan felt his eyelids becoming heavy. The oxygen was being cut off to his brain; he was dying of asphyxia. A horrid smile crossed the faces of the two shadows as Dylan took his final breath. Retracting the darkness, the two of them ripped Dylan in half. Red blood splattered against the wall in a horrible pattern as his torso fell next to his legs. Reaching down, one of the shadows slid its fingers forcefully into Dylan's chest. It wrapped the darkness around his still beating heart and ripped it from the man's chest. The creature held it above its head to examine. Once satisfied they had what they came for, the two creatures slowly moved toward Dylan's bedroom and entered.
Charlie looked out from beneath the covers at the two pairs of burning red eyes in the darkness of the room. Reaching over, he shook his mom's shoulder in an attempt to wake her up. "Mom," Charlie said frantically.
"What is it now, Charlie?" Cynthia asked, still half asleep.
Charlie swallowed hard as he stared at the eyes. "The Shadow People are here," he whispered.