A Friend in the Darkness
The Hair of the Back of Your Neck
It was dark in the room, but I wasn’t alone. The hair on the back of my neck stood straight out, my skin having that feeling when you know someone or something is close to you but you can’t see it. My heart beat faster as I sat in my bed, staring into the dark.
Something made my books fall over and I couldn’t hold back my scream. It was was getting harder to breathe as I anticipated how my last seconds of life were about to play out.
“Who’s there?” I called out into the room. There was no response so I asked again, gaining more control of my quivering voice, “I asked who’s there?”
“Please don’t be frightened.” The voice was incredibly smooth yet completely distorted. It echoed across the room, seeming to come from all over the room at once.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
“I am nothing. I want nothing.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Who sneaks into someone’s home and wants nothing?”
Silence answered me back and I stood to get the light, “No!” cried the voice, and I’m not sure if it was fear or curiosity but I listened.
“If you see me, you will forget me once you look away. I will have never existed to you.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“Because this isn’t the first time this has happened between us.”
I couldn’t wrap my head around this idea. All this was was just a regular person invading my home. Why should I believe that I would forget this? Forget someone hiding in my room?
“When you were five, you had a dream, didn’t you, about a boy.”
“I probably had lots of dreams about lots of things.”
“You dreamt of a boy who who read you a story. That was me. Only it wasn’t a dream, I just made you think it was.”
I remembered that dream. It had stuck with me all these years later. It was the most vivid one I had ever experienced and it was a rare one where I was happy. Feeling my way around the dark room I found my bed and sat there, “Alright, I’ll keep the lights off, but only if you answer this one question, why are we talking now?”
“There are some nights where you can’t sleep. You drift in and out of your slumber because your mind can feel that something isn’t right. That happens when I am here with you.”
“But why now? Why are you here to begin with?”
I felt the bed shift and despite our conversation I felt myself reaching for anything to use as a weapon. I couldn’t see him but I felt him. I felt his presence and, it felt familiar.
“I like to check up on you. You are my favorite.”
“Favorite? How many people do you watch while they sleep?”
“It’s not only when you’re sleeping. You know that moment when you decide to talk out loud even though you are alone? You have that urge to speak to the open space around you even though no one is listening. That’s me. Think of me as your guardian angel.”
I ended up talking to the faceless voice for hours that night. At one point I asked what I should call him and he said his kind didn’t have names, they didn’t communicate. I told him to pick a name and he chose Charlie.
From that night on, every time I felt the urge to talk to myself, I asked if Charlie was listening. He always was.
Quickly, the faceless boy who I could never see became my best friend. During the day we were very cautious to keep him behind me. I couldn’t do any quick turns or look in the mirror.
Eventually, as the years went by, we fell in love. Maybe not in the romantic way but we did love each other. I could always feel his presence before he was there, his voice, as difficult as it was to focus on, became clearer the more we spoke and it became my favorite sound.
“How many times have I forgotten you?” I asked him. We were sitting in my room. All my mirrors were covered and the lights were off. Even though the curtains were closed light still peaked through their edges. I had my back to him, my shadow as I often called him.
“More times than I would have liked.” I could hear the sadness in his voice as he started recalling the memories only he had of us.
“Is it strange to love someone you can never look at?”
“I love your voice and the stories you tell. I don’t need to see your face to hear what you have to say and enjoy it.”
We sat in silence a little longer, just enjoying the company of one another.
“Would I forget you if we touched?”
“What do you mean?”
I held my hands behind me, “Hold my hands.”
“I don’t want to risk it.”
I sighed, “Isn’t it worth it?”
I waited for him, thinking he had left before I felt it. Warmth over my own hands. It didn’t feel like when someone held your hand. It was as if the softest breeze on a summer’s day was washing over you. It was the way the air felt just above the water, pure happiness with life and existence itself. I was unable to fight the grin spreading across my face in that moment, not that I wanted to.
Now that we knew touch was possible we did it every chance we could. We held hands as we spoke, our conversations more real now that we understood more about each other and how we worked together. We read each other stories at night making them come alive.
Sometimes when I was out in public I could feel him there, my shadow. It always felt like a safer world when I knew he was there.
We loved each other with all of ourselves. In the night when I was upset and it was dark I could count on him to hug me until I felt okay again. He was everything I had ever needed to live a happy life.
“What am I going to do when I meet someone? Will you still be there for me?”
We were in the kitchen and I was doing the dishes. Only the light above the sink was on as he stood behind me, “Of course, I could never leave you.”
“That’s good. I don’t think I could stand to loose as good a friend as you.”
“Do you have any new songs for me today?” He loved when I showed him new music. He had grown to love listening to the different songs I played him. I often imagined him dancing along with me to beat of whatever song graced our ears.
“I do have a few songs for you, let me pull them up.”
I dried my hands and went over to my laptop. I could feel Charlie behind me, excitement for the new sounds that awaited him. I opened the screen, ready to show him the music when I saw it.
In the reflection of the blank screen was a face like no other. It was the faceless boy, my shadow, my guardian angel. All of it was over with just a glance, “I’m so sorry.” I whispered as a warm tear slid down my face.
I closed my eyes and when I opened them I was confused. Why was I crying? I turned on the main light of the kitchen and continued washing the dishes. I heard a chair move and called out, “Who’s there?”