When He Left Himself
By Jillian Bost
Alfred curled up underneath his blankets. The evening shouting had begun. His father had staggered home early from the White Hart Inn, and his mother had hurried Alfred upstairs. He fancied he still felt the warmth of her grazed kiss against his forehead.
But the ghost of his mother’s kiss, and the warmth of the blankets, didn’t keep out his father’s shouts, and the smash of glass, and his mother’s silence.
Alfred squeezed his eyes shut, willing the blackness to grow darker still until he could become nothing, and float away from his body, away from his trembling limbs and the chilled attic.
He murmured the words again and again: “Far away, far away, far away.”
Alfred felt himself floating and gave a quick whisper of delight as he gazed down at his prone body. He spotted an owl perched on the windowsill. He longed to sit beside it and stare out into the night.
He moved through the window, seeking the moon.
The round comforting glow became obscured by a figure, with no face but a black void. It beckoned to him.
He flailed about, but couldn’t get back to his body.
The dark figure was pulling him down to the ground. Alfred could sense a grim joy from the thing.
He couldn’t speak. Couldn’t move.
A warm spot on his forehead grew and intensified, and Alfred jolted back to his bed, feeling as if he’d fallen from the sky. He stared wild-eyed at the chestnut-haired woman looming over him as she stroked his forehead.
“Back to sleep, my darling.”
He smiled and nodded, and closed his eyes again, scarcely hearing his mother’s soft footfalls as she left the room.
He was just about to drift off to sleep, when he felt a tugging on his foot.