They come at night. Stay by the nightlight.
Do Not Go Gently
“Do not go gentle into that good night,”
“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Lumen huddled with her back pressed against the wall, knees pulled up to her chest and arms wrapped around them. Her fingers curled into tight little fists, and her toes clenched in the shag carpet of her bedroom floor. She was trying to make herself smaller; less of a target. The pumpkin nightlight lit her platinum hair in a fiery glow, its toothy smile leering in the shadowed corner. Its face might have frightened another child, but Lumen knew that there were far more frightening things in her room than a plastic pumpkin head.
Her parents slumbered down the hall from her; her father's snore a gentle buzz through the walls, but she would never make it to them. As if to confirm this, the high-pitched giggles of children tittered nearby and tapered off into deeper voices. Sometimes they left claw marks on the wallpaper or footprints on the ceiling. Lumen used to think her parents would hear or see them, but no one else ever could.
The doctors called them "night terrors", and Lumen thought that was the perfect name for them. Except, they didn’t just happen at night. Once, she was in a bathroom and the electricity went out. That was the first time she actually saw one. It was only two in the afternoon, but they came scampering, and skipping, and slithering; amazed at their good luck. Then the lights came back on, and she caught a glimpse in the mirror. The one she saw had bulging, red eyeballs, and eyebrows that looked like they'd been drawn with a Sharpie. He was pale as a worm, with a wide smile, but no teeth at all. She didn't like him, or the way he was looking at her.
The room filled with the smell of wet soil and decay. She wanted to move closer to the light, but it already scorched the skin of her bare arm. She wished she could disappear into her pink pajamas, but they would probably just follow her.
“Lumen, Lumen, Lumen,” something whispered right next to her. The voice was pleading with her, but she didn’t look. Her light grey eyes widened, blind in the dark. They were trying to get her to leave the light, and she wasn’t stupid.
“LUMEN!” She slammed her back harder against the wall and her breathing came out in labored gasps. The voice was so loud and near that she couldn’t help but look up. Her eyes met the glowing golden gaze of the Dying One. He was sitting knee to knee with her, his face only a few hand spans away.
To anyone else, the Dying One was a ten-year-old year old boy. He had a curling black cap of hair and blue-black skin. His eyes were the color of spilled oil, extending all the way to the edges, leaving no space for any whites. He had pinpricks of gold in the very center of those eyes that had been growing smaller every night since the first time she’d seen him, at the age of three.
“I thought that you were the other one,” Lumen breathed. He nodded, and a red tear slipped down his cheek. The other one she called the Raging One. He was the one she'd seen in the mirror; the one who did bad things. Sometimes he told her about what he did to the other children who could see him when the lights went out. She had to put her fingers in her ears to make him stop. Sometimes he ate them up. Other times he stole their light away, so they stayed with him in the night forever.
“Why don’t I ever see the other ones?” Lumen asked. “I can hear them running around.”
“They have to wait their turn,” the Dying One answered. “But when you come with me, you can see them all."
“Are they all dying, like you are?” she asked. Not long ago, he’d told her that he was dying, and she could tell it was true. It was loneliness that was making him sick, and she was the only one who could save him.
“Everyone is dying, even in the light,” he said. He never blinked, just looked straight at her all night, like she was the only star in a pitch-dark sky.
“You don’t look well,” Lumen said, shaking. His eyes bled a lot now, in rivulets down his chin and plopping onto the carpet.
“If you do not come with me tonight, I’ll die.”
Lumen choked on a sob. If he died, then she’d be alone with the Raging One forever.
"Will it hurt you to die?" she whispered.
"I will stop, and then the Raging One will devour me. I don't think I will feel it much. He has no teeth."
“I--I guess I have to come with you, then. I can't let you die.”
His eyes flared for a moment, the gold growing to the size of dimes.
“But, you’ll stay with me? You won’t leave me with him?” she begged.
“I won’t ever leave you,” the Dying One answered.
Lumen took a deep breath and rose to her feet. She lifted her hand out, and the Dying One wrapped her fingers in his own. He felt like velvet. She took one shuffling step at a time until she was just outside the circle of light.
“Can there only be two of you at a time? Is that why the others have to wait their turn?” Lumen asked, feeling better now that she had saved the Dying One.
The Dying One did something Lumen had never seen before. He smiled. Inside his mouth was a toothless expanse of blue gums. “No. There can only be one of us at a time,” he said, and laughed in a booming voice that she had heard before. It was the voice of the Raging One.