"Daddy, I think we should leave now," said Shelly.
Father nodded as he saw the seven pillows and shivered. He gazed at the family who had become ever so close during the past one hundred years and decided.
So much had changed since Billy set the fire. Since the night they arrived.
The mother, father, daughter, and son grasped each other's hands and prayed they could escape before cousin Billy returned. When he emerged from under the bed with his shadows, the family might disappear like Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Nell and Uncle Charlie did in previous years.
The first year it happened, Billy had smiled and disappeared under the bed to join the chorus of whispering shadows. The next year his opaque hand reached up for Fuzzy.
Father didn’t know where they would land when they jumped from the bed, but anything was preferable to waiting for the inevitable. If Halloween struck tomorrow and they still lay there, he knew the shadows would take one of them below.
“Now?” Mom grabbed baby Finn and gazed down at where they used to live.
They felt the bed quiver. Billy had arrived with the shadows. One reached out for Shelly.
Four people. Four shadows. And Billy.
Someone wouldn’t fit. The dark would take back one. Like it had every year.
No more, thought Father. With a spring and wishes whispered, all four jumped towards the Halloween night.
Not one of them saw Billy grin.
The sixth year it happened, they left everything behind.
The shadows had grown over the years and followed them like kite strings toward the moon.
By morning, the family had been reunited, the bed stilled by darkness.
Yet underneath, a new story began.
David Simms lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife, infant son and two furballs after escaping New Jersey and Massachusetts. His first novel, DARK MUSE, a YA horror fantasy, was released this summer by Melange Books. A special education teacher, college English instructor, counselor, music therapist, and book reviewer, he moonlights in the Slushpile band on lead guitar with F. Paul Wilson, Heather Graham and Alexandra Sokoloff, and other dark minds, performing across the country. His short stories have been published in various anthologies and he is currently shopping a historical thriller about one of the country's darkest secrets. www.davidsimmsmuse.com