The next day Aris woke up feeling normal and well rested. It felt like any other Friday, which relieved Aris, because it meant she was one day closer to the end of school. There were a few finals to take, but most classes had final projects that were already complete. When Aris and Billy got to school they parted ways, like always, and met back up at lunch. Although Aris still craved meat more than usual, she did not think it was anything out of the ordinary. The last few periods dragged since all the teachers were reviewing. After what seemed like ages, the final bell rang, and they were free for the weekend. Billy walked with Aris to her house, but they only hung out for a little while since Aris had to babysit for Mr. and Mrs. Benson who lived a few streets over.
The Benson’s had one child, Rachel, a seven year old handful. She had short brown hair cut into a cute bob. The kid was adorable, but Aris knew that the cutest kids also seemed like the hardest to take care of. They knew they could get away with more when they pouted their eyes or gave a sly smile. Even though Rachel acted like a brat at times, Aris enjoyed watching her. They had fun together. Aris could remember being her age and all the fun she had during her childhood. Babysitting was a good way to relive all those years growing up. Usually when Aris babysat on Friday’s she would play games and watch movies with Rachel until her parents came home; then she would go to Billy’s and spend the night hanging out with him. Tonight, however, Aris’ plan would not go exactly as she thought.
Aris was finishing up the dishes, occasionally looking at the stars through the window when Rachel came into the kitchen.
“Can we play hide and seek in the dark?” Her big blue eyes looked up at Aris.
Aris smiled. Rachel always wanted to play hide and seek in the dark. It was her favorite game, though Aris did not understand why. There were few places to really hide in the house, so they always found each other in under a minute. Sometimes Aris would humor the girl and pretend to be stumped as to where she was hiding to make her think she found really good places.
“Of course we can. Hit the lights.” She dried her hands on a dish towel. “Do you want to hide first?”
Rachel began to turn all the lights off in the house. “No, you hide first!”
Aris nodded and began to think of a place to hide. As Rachel began to count, Aris went into Rachel’s room and quietly snuck into the closet. As soon as Aris sat down she began to feel weird, just like that day in biology, and that night in bed. A sick feeling began to bubble up in her stomach, her breathing got heavier, and she began to feel light headed. Aris snapped her eyes shut trying to get rid of the feeling. She had barely started to concentrate on ridding her body of the sensation when Rachel popped out in front of the closet.
Aris looked up at the girl, but instead of Rachel laughing like she usually did, she screamed and flipped on the closet light. She was staring at Aris, who had begun to shake a little. Rachel was still staring, and Aris stared up at her confused.
Rachel looked amazed at something. “How’d you do that?”
Aris gave her a quizzical look trying to figure out why the little girl had screamed.
Rachel swallowed. “Your eyes…they were glowing silver…it was awesome!”
“What?” Aris could not comprehend what she was hearing.
“Can you teach me?” Rachel’s eyes grew big.
Aris stood up from where she was sitting and shook her head. “My eyes didn’t glow. Now go turn on the rest of the lights.”
“Aww, but I didn’t get to hide!”
“Now, go, and then we can watch a movie okay?”
Rachel looked disappointed. “Fine,” She turned on the rest of the lights and went to go find a movie to watch.
Aris walked through the house, turning on every light Rachel missed along the way. There was something about the darkness that affected her. When Rachel had turned on the closet light Aris felt her body return to normal, but when she looked into the long shadows of the room, she felt those feelings deep within her. She felt that if she stepped into the darkness everything she experienced before would return. Aris walked into the living room to see Rachel trying to find a movie to watch.
“I’ll be right back, I just need to go to the bathroom.” Aris walked by her, and headed straight to the bathroom.
Rachel did not acknowledge Aris as she walked past her.
After walking into the bathroom, Aris shut the door and locked it. She stared at herself in the mirror and inspected her eyes. Everything seemed normal. She glanced over at the light switch and stared for a minute before turning it off. After a few moments the feeling came back. Aris gripped the light switch under her hand. She looked at her eyes in the mirror, gasped and jumped back at what she saw. Her eyes were glowing, just like Rachel had said. They reminded her of the way an animal's eyes reflect when the light hits them just right. The silver glow was bright compared to the rest of her features, but then Aris realized that the dark bathroom did not look so dark anymore. She could see all the objects pretty clear. Everything had a silver tint to it, but it was as if there was a light coming from somewhere in the room.
The more Aris looked around the room, the more she thought of the moment when Rachel jumped out. She saw Rachel’s expression before she screamed, even though the room was completely dark. The more Aris thought of Rachel, the more she could picture the young girl sitting alone in the living room. The thought of fresh meat began to sound good, but before Aris let those thoughts proceed, she flipped on the light and let out a big breath. She stared at her self with wide eyes, not believing the thoughts that had just invaded her mind. Aris shut her eyes and took in another big breath; once she had calmed a little, she took her phone out of her pocket and dialed as fast as she could.
The phone rang three times before Billy answered, but Aris did not even give him a chance to say hello.
He instantly knew that something was not right. “Aris, what’s wrong?”
She looked around the bathroom a little bit trying to figure out what exactly she was going to say. “Umm…I’m not exactly sure. The Bensons should be home around nine, could you meet me in front of their house then?”
“Aris, what’s wrong, just tell me.”
Aris let out a shaky breath. “I-I can’t, not over the phone…will you just meet me here? Please?”
“Yeah, of course. Do you want me to come over there now?”
Aris checked the time on her phone. “No, it’s only about an hour from now. Just be here at nine okay?”
Billy was silent for a moment, trying to wrap his head around things. “Yeah, okay, I’ll be there.”
Aris hung up without saying anything. She stayed in the bathroom for another minute before going into the living room to watch the movie with Rachel. The little girl had already started the movie and was getting settled on the couch with her stuffed jellyfish, Cuddles.
Rachel got a blanket and covered up. “Will you make popcorn?”
Aris tried to smile. “Yeah,” She got up and went into the kitchen to find the popcorn.
The entire process took twice as long as normal since her hands were shaking so much. When the microwave beeped Aris put the popcorn in a bowl, and headed back into the living room. She handed Rachel the popcorn, and stared blankly at the movie.
After a few minutes Rachel spoke again. “Can we turn off the lights?”
“No.” Aris did not miss a beat on that one.
They both sat in silence until nine. Rachel was enthralled by the movie, while Aris was so distracted that is was the last thing on her mind. All she could think about was this monster that seemed to be taking over her. It was as if some wild force was growing inside her gaining control. She constantly checked the time until finally the Bensons arrived. Ten minutes after nine, the front door opened and Aris sprung up from the couch. She faked her way through small talk as to not tip off the Bensons, that for a brief moment she considered ripping their daughter to shreds.
“Hi guys. Rachel was great today.”
Mrs. Benson smiled. “Oh good, I hope you two had fun.”
“Mommy Aris’ eyes glow in the dark!” Rachel hopped up from behind the couch.
Aris’ eyes widened and Mr. and Mrs. Benson laughed. “They do, do they?”
Aris gave a nervous smile. “We were playing a game, she sure does have a big imagination.”
“Thanks Aris.” Mrs. Benson smiled and handed her a check for the night.
Aris took the check and headed for the door. “Thanks. Bye Rachel.” She smiled at the Bensons. “Bye.”
As soon as she shut the door, Aris ran across the street and stood under a light until she spotted Billy. It was clear to him that she had no intentions of moving, so he ran over to where she was.
“What’s going on?” His face looked worried.
Aris looked around and shook her head. “Not here.” She grabbed his arm and made him follow her, making sure to stay under the street lights as she hurried away.
Aris led Billy to the neighborhood park, which was empty and very well-lit. She walked towards one of the wooden benches under a bright street lamp and Billy followed. As Aris sat trying to figure out what to say she stared at all the dark shadows that seemed to creep up at every corner. She felt like a little girl again; afraid of the dark. Although this time she had something to be scared of, and it was not the boogeyman.
Billy was getting tired of the anticipation; they had been sitting on the bench for almost five minutes. He tried to give Aris time to tell him whatever she needed to tell him, but he was beginning to grow impatient. “Aris, what is this all about?”
That seemed to break her out of her thoughts; she looked at him through the corner of her eyes.
“We’ve been friends forever right?”
Billy looked at her a little with a confused look, but nodded.
Aris nodded to herself to confirm this. “So if I told you something completely crazy, you’d believe me no matter how weird it was, right?”
“Aris, what is this about?” Part of Billy wanted to shake his best friend for acting so strange.
Aris looked at Billy with worried eyes, the street lamps reflected off the green of her irises. She took a breath before looking at her hands and beginning to talk. “Something weird is going on…no, weird does not even begin to describe it. Something completely bizarre…I don’t know what’s going on, but I need help figuring it out.”
“Aris whatever this is, we’ll figure it out.” Billy sighed. “This is about the fainting the other day isn’t it…and the dream? Did something happen tonight?”
After a few moments of silence Aris managed to nod a little. “Rachel and I were playing hide and seek in the dark, which we do all the time…she loves it. But when Rachel turned off the lights…” Aris looked up at Billy and back down at her hands. “Something came over me, something…the only word I can think of is…primal? At first it was like when I fainted, I felt dizzy, nauseous, so I shut my eyes, but then Rachel found my hiding spot. I could see her Billy, in the pitch black. She was as clear as if there was light on her.”
Billy was trying to figure things out. “Well maybe it was just the light from outside.”
Aris shook her head. “That’s not even the worst part, s-she said that when I looked at her, my eyes were glowing. I didn’t believe her at first, but then I went in the bathroom and shut off the light. She was right. They were glowing silver.” Tears began to fall out of Aris’ eyes. “But the longer I was in there with the lights off, the more I started to think about Rachel. Billy, I was thinking about her as some kind of fresh meat, like to eat. She’s just a little girl, but at the moment I didn’t care, I would have gladly gone into the living room and ripped her apart, limb from limb. It was like every annoying thing she had ever done made it okay. It gave me incentive to want to go in there and kill her, actually kill her. I don’t know what to do.”
Billy stared at Aris astounded for a few moments, before pulling Aris into a hug. “It’s gonna be okay.” He was not sure if he should believe any of what Aris had told him, but he knew that something was going on. At the very least Aris believed she was turning into a monster, so he would have to go along with it for now.
“I don’t know what to do Billy. I’m so scared. Even being out here in the dark, I can feel it want to rise up and take over. God, what’s happening to me?” Aris hiccuped.
“We’ll figure this out, I promise.” Billy did not let go of Aris until she stopped crying, he did not know what else to do. “Come on, let’s get home.”
Aris wiped her tears with her wrist and nodded. They got up and walked to Billy’s house, keeping extra care not to step out of light from the street lamps. They stopped at Aris’ first so she could grab her already packed bag, since they had pre-planned her staying at Billy’s. They then headed straight to his house. Billy turned on all the lights on their way to his room. They both sat in silence for a very long time.
“What if this thing takes over completely?” Aris sat on Billy’s bed, staring at his crimson red lamp.
Billy looked away from a spot on his floor and turned his black chair towards Aris, “We’re not gonna let that happen. We just, we need to think. Has anything happened to you recently? Dog bites, bee stings, toxic ooze?”
Aris smiled a little. “You watch too many movies, but as far as I know, nothing different has happened.”
“Okay, when exactly do you think this all started?”
Aris thought for a moment. “Wednesday I guess…when I fainted.”
“Huh, well I was with you most of the day before and that morning. Did anyone bump into you or anything before bio?”
Aris shook her head. “No. At least not anything to make this happen.”
“Are you sure?” Billy continued thinking about causes. “What about Tuesday? Did anything weird happen then?”
Aris shook her head again. “Nothing at school, and then I was with you after.”
“Oh right,” Billy sighed, “This doesn’t make any sense! We are together almost all the time. Why wouldn’t this be happening to both of us?” Billy perked up a little. “Oh my God!”
Aris stared at him confused. “What?”
Billy’s eyes widened. “What if this is happening to both of us? Maybe it’s all just taking longer for me. Maybe it’s going to hit me any minute, maybe-“
“Billy!” Aris interrupted. “Calm down, I think it’s just me. Something would be happening to you by now.”
Billy knitted his eyebrows together and looked at his closet. “There’s one way to find out.” Billy got up from his chair and walked over to the closet.
“What are you doing?”
“You said it only happens in the dark right? Maybe I haven’t been in the dark long enough.” Billy opened his closet door and walked into the darkness, shutting the door behind him.
Aris got up quick and walked over to the closet door. “Billy wait! If you’re right then maybe the dark is how it activates or something. Shouldn’t we keep you in the light, just in case?”
There was silence on the other side of the door.
“Billy?” Aris stuck out her hand and reached for the golden door knob, terrified of what she might find on the other side of the door. If the same thing was happening to Billy then he would be feeling the same as her, which meant he could bust out of the closet at any moment and try to eat her.