By Henry Black
Dusk was approaching. Everyone had to call their children in soon. Before they were too late. All of the children rushed inside as soon as they heard their parents calling. Jennifer Rodgers called for her two children, Rose and Alfie to come back inside. Rose was seven and Alfie was fifteen. They both reluctantly trudged indoors after having a day of fun by the lake.
‘Why do we even have to come inside anyway?’ Alfie complained.
‘You know we always have to. The children aren’t safe on a nighttime. Now come and help me put the lights on for the observation.’ Jennifer instructed. Alfie placed the lights on and proceeded to draw a fresh X on the front door with white chalk. He was growing tired of being trapped inside on an evening. He had never experienced the night like all of his friends from school in the next town over.
That evening, Alfie, Jennifer, Rose, and their father Oscar gathered around the window to observe. Alfie put up a resistance but he was convinced by Jennifer and Oscar that they had to for them to survive.
‘Here he comes.’ Jennifer said gravely. The lampposts at the other end of the street began to dim. A dark ghostly figure was now standing at the end of the street. He didn’t seem to have a face, just a ghostly veil. He floated above the ground on a cloud of black mist. He remained at the end of the road for a full minute before moving. He floated menacingly along the street. Observing every door. Jennifer watched as he approached their house. He hesitated outside the house for a second. Jennifer’s heart fell to the floor. She wondered what they had done. Was the ‘X’ not thick enough? Had they not put all of their lights on? He finished his inspection of the door and continued his venture down the street. Jennifer breathed a sigh of relief as she and her family watched him finish his journey along the street. After he had disappeared to the next street, Jennifer wiped the ‘X’ from their door and turned off the lights before retiring to bed.
The next evening, Jennifer called for Alfie and Rose again. They turned on the lights and marked their ‘X’ as usual. The Sun Down Man appeared as usual in his shroud of black mist. He proceeded down the street in his usual fashion. Jennifer was alerted by the crying of a child from further down the street. The family observed as a child had sneaked out of his family home and into the street.
‘Poor kid. He’s doomed. It’s a shame. That’s Nina Jeffords’ toddler. He was such a lovely baby.’ Jennifer said with a tear in her eye.
‘Yeah but Nina must know the rules. She should have kept a better eye on him.’ Oscar said very sternly. He had always been very matter-of-fact with the situation. It wasn’t that he didn’t care, he had just grown to accept it as fact.
The Sun Down Man inspected the doors until he reached the child. He put down a shadowy arm towards the child and let out a blood-curdling screech. Jennifer was now in tears. She really felt for Nina and the family. Oscar placed his hands on her shoulders to comfort her as she watched in fear. The boy trembled as he reached out to grab the hand of his doom. Jennifer turned away in anguish as the man enveloped the boy with shadows. The street lights flickered intensely. The shadows disappeared and the boy was no more. The Sun Down Man hesitated for a second before continuing his rounds of the street and disappeared. Oscar wiped the ‘X’ from the door and retired to bed. Jennifer took Rose to bed.
‘Mummy. I’m scared. What if something happens to one of us? Is the Sun Down Man going to be around forever?’ Rose whimpered as Jennifer tucked her in tight lovingly.
‘Aw honey nothing’s going to happen to you. Not while I’m around. All we need to do is to make sure we follow the rules and we’ll be safe okay? As long as I can remember the Sun Down Man has visited the village every night. It’s just a part of life.’ Jennifer stroked Rose’s hair and handed her favourite teddy bear to her.
‘What if we don’t and end up like Tommy Jeffords? Why can’t we move villages to one without the Sun Down Man?’
‘Don’t worry. We’ve been doing it our whole lives. There’s no way we’ll end up like him, I promise. As for moving, I remember a family who tried to move away when I was a kid. They drove to the edge of town and as soon as they were about to cross the border they were surrounded by a black shroud and nobody ever saw them again. We all learned that you just can’t leave. I know it’s a sad way to live but it’s the only way we can.’ Jennifer stroked Rose’s hair to comfort her. She had always been brutally honest with her children. She thought it best for them to learn that things were not always so good. She kissed Rose on the forehead and went to sleep herself.
Alfie arrived at school the next morning to be taunted by his classmates. They pushed him and laughed at him.
‘Your mum doesn’t let you out after school! Weirdo!’
‘How’s your BEST FRIEND mummy?’
‘He hasn’t even been out in the night time before!’
The tormenting had been going on for around six months. Alfie was growing extremely tired of it. All he wanted was to be a normal teenager and spend time with his friends after school. He felt robbed of his youth all because of some stupid superstition. He believed the Sun Down Man was just some idiot trying to scare the villagers into submitting to his curfew. He grew more and more tired with it every day. All of the rules had to be followed precisely. He didn’t want to follow the rules of some idiot in a black cloak. He was just about tired of the whole thing. He wondered, what if, just what if they didn’t follow one of the rules? What if they didn’t put the lights on? Or drew the ‘X’ on the door? He could easily take on the Sun Down Man.
That night, Alfie arrived for his curfew with a bad attitude and a rebellious flare that meant nothing but trouble. He turned on the lights and when Jennifer asked him to he exited the house to draw on the ‘X’. Except he didn’t. He wanted to see what would happen if he drew something else. In anger, he etched ‘F*** YOU CREEP!’.
‘All done?’ Jennifer asked when Alfie returned inside.
‘Yeah.’ He mumbled before taking his seat at the window. He slouched with a stern scowl on his face. Everyone gathered around and watched as the Sun Down Man appeared at the end of the street as usual. Rose snuggled up to Jennifer in fear. She was too young to experience such threat. Everything seemed to be in order along the street. That was until he arrived at Alfie’s house. A deafening screech rang through the ears of the entire family.
‘What did we do wrong? Oh god no!’ Jennifer cried. She rose to her feet and noticed that upon the inside of the door, a red ‘X’ had been etched into the wood. Jennifer’s face was aghast. She turned as pale as milk.
‘Rose! Go upstairs right now baby. Please. As quickly as you can!’ Jennifer called. Rose began crying and ran up the stairs to her room. Oscar ran up the stairs after her to make sure she was safe. A black smoke lifted from underneath the door. Jennifer cried. Alfie realised that he was responsible for this. His teenage ignorance had caused the downfall of his family. Jennifer pleaded the Sun Down Man, who just floated passed her and ascended up the stairs.
‘Mummy help me!’ Rose cried.
‘Don’t you dare touch my daughter!’ Oscar shouted.
‘I’m coming baby!’ Jennifer called as she stormed up the stairs.
‘Noooo! Please don’t take me!’ Rose pleaded.
‘Stop this! We will not let you get away with this!’ Oscar screamed. Alfie rocked back and forth as he curled himself up into a ball on the floor. He tried to block out the sounds but he couldn’t. He could never block out what he had done. The screaming soon stopped. The Sun Down Man descended the stairs and disappeared down the end of the street.
‘What did we do wrong?’ Jennifer sobbed.
‘I don’t know the lights were on, we were observing him. Check the door.’ Oscar suggested. Alfie’s throat suddenly became a desert. His heart was beating like a samba drum.
‘Oh my gosh! Alfie what the hell have you done?’ Jennifer shouted furiously. She ran over to Alfie and began screaming in his face. ‘We told you the rules. We’ve raised you with the rules your whole life. If you break a single one you knew he would take the youngest of the household. You knew all of this. You idiot!’ Oscar helped Jennifer to bed and left Alfie to cry on the floor.
The next day, Jennifer and Oscar surprisingly seemed fine with Alfie. Jennifer made him breakfast, much to his confusion. She hugged him and saw him off to school. Alfie couldn’t quite put his head around it. He couldn’t concentrate in his lessons. His sister had just been taken and his parents seemed to have just forgotten. After returning home, Jennifer and Oscar continued to shower Alfie with love and affection.
‘I’ll do the door tonight, you just put the lights on and grab your seat.’ Jennifer said as she twirled Alfie’s hair with her finger. The family sat down as usual and waited for the Sun Down Man. Jennifer wrapped her arms around Alfie and squeezed him tight. He flinched in confusion. The same cloud of mist appeared and there he was again. He made his rounds. He stopped yet again outside the home of Alfie. Alfie arose to see a red ‘X’ etched into the inside of their door. He froze in fear. He was now the youngest in the house.
‘We’re sorry Alfie. We didn’t really draw the ‘X’ for you.’ Jennifer said coldly. ‘We may never get our precious daughter back but at least we can take revenge on the person who took her from us. How dare you risk the life of your little sister for your own selfish gain. I despise even the thought of you after what you did.’ Jennifer scowled horridly at him. Oscar appeared behind her and the couple watched as the Sun Down Man entered their home. Alfie ran out to the back door and out of the garden. He needed an escape. He looked behind to see Jennifer and Oscar standing at the door, observing the Sun Down Man looming behind him to his death. He sprinted as fast as he could but no matter what he did the Sun Down Man always seemed to be getting closer. The whole street observed from their homes. Alfie called out for help but he could do nothing. He felt an icy hand on his shoulder and disappeared in a cloud of black mist.
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