Bedtime Stories for the Insomniac by Matthew Yaeger
Later his father came home, tired from searching for his friend. Jimmy saw
the look on his face and knew that they had not found Ryan even before his
father could say anything. After returning from the shack Jimmy knew that they
would not find him. There was something larger going on than his parents could
understand that even Jimmy did not understand. He only knew that his dream was
more than just a nightmare that would disappear in the sunlight.
His father explained that they had not found Ryan, and that Jimmy's mother
would be staying with Ryan's mother overnight while they waited to see if he
would come home. Since they were on their own and his father was tired, Jimmy
made a microwavable dinner and ate it while watching TV. The microwavable
dinner had no taste and no matter how he tried to pay attention to the TV his
thoughts kept turning back to the origami creature in the shack, trying to make
sense of it all, then retreating from those thoughts in horror.
Night came and there was still no sign of his friend. His father put him to
bed and sat on the side of it for a moment looking down at Jimmy.
“You okay son?”
“Yeah.” Jimmy lied.
His father nodded, then surprised Jimmy by leaning down and kissing him on
the forehead in a way that he had not done since he was a child.
“We will find your friend, don't let that worry you. I love you.” his father
“I love you too Dad.”
He father then left and went down the hallway. Jimmy stared at the ceiling,
wondering what was happening to his friend at that moment.
Jimmy realized he must have drifted off to sleep. Time had passed and his
digital clock showed that it was close to two o'clock in the morning. Before he
could roll over and try to return to sleep, he heard an odd noise. The strange
music from the night before was playing again. The rhythmic beating swelled and
crashed, and grew louder.
Jimmy stood and went to his window. Down the road the streetlights were off,
the darkness too thick to see anything through. The music was coming from that
direction, and as the music became louder and moved closer more streetlights
turned off. They would flicker like candles in a strong breeze, and then the
light would cut off completely leaving the street below them in shadow. Jimmy
felt his heart speed up and tried moving away from the window, only his legs
wouldn't respond to the thought and felt as though encased in concrete. He
wondered if this is how a deer felt when caught in a pair of headlights.
The strange music continued to grow louder, more sounds became clear, though
not the sound instruments would make. It sounded like screeches and howls,
screams and growling, all flowing along the deep bass beat that had now grown to
such a volume Jimmy was wondering why his parents or neighbors were not awake
and storming out of their houses to see what was going on.
The streetlights towards his house continued to flicker and die. As the
darkness crept closer Jimmy realized he could make out a shape walking down the
street. Jimmy knew right away what the shape was. It was his friend, Ryan, and
he was walking down the middle of the road as though the leader of a parade.
Behind him the darkness was no longer the empty shadows of night, but the
silhouettes of larger things moving from within them. The darkness itself
seemed alive, twisting and folding into itself like the paper that Ryan had
fashioned origami monsters from.
The procession carried onwards, until it reached the streetlight right in
front of Jimmy's house. That streetlight stayed on and the darkness stayed back
though it continued moving and shifting in ways that made Jimmy's mind hurt.
Ryan stepped forward from the shadows until he stood under the streetlight, and
then turned his gaze upwards to the window where Jimmy was standing. They
locked eyes and at that moment the moving shadows and crazy dreams meant
nothing. He best friend was there, looking at him with an expression on his
face that was both pleading and scared. Then Ryan held his hand up, spit into
his palm and stretched it out in Jimmy's direction.
The message was clear. Jimmy found he could now move away from the window.
He went to his closet, put on a hooded sweatshirt over his pajamas, slid his
feet into his sneakers and headed downstairs to the door to join his friend.
There might be punishment for messing with the book they had found, there might
be creatures in the shadows that made him feel as though he was losing his mind,
but his friend needed him, and he had made a promise.
Best friends forever, no matter what.