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He looks at her,
stares at her.
"Could you close the closet door?"
He thinks her teeth,
too sharp in this pale light.
"Of course, son. Can't have the Boogie,
Boogie Man come out of the closet,
and steal your soul."
She goes to the closet door,
closes it to a crack,
hand still on the knob,
turns to her son with that same smile,
closes the door completely with a thud.
laying back as his mom goes to the door,
goes to the door on her way out,
turns off the light,
still her son looking at her,
staring at her.
He is now alone,
in the dark,
then close like the closet door.
and so is that closet door,
and he doesn't want to look too hard at it,
doesn't want to stare,
'cause how did that door open on its own,
why can't he just be left alone,
no lectures, he's tired of learning,
stands in the closet doorway,
at the boy,
mocking in every way.
"So little boy, boy, what shall we learn tonite,"
the fiend asks,
its voice full,
but behind it, speaking,
always behind the speaker,
in the closet,
tucked away in another dimension.
"It's just that,"
the boy says,
"the job's so hard, very difficult. I don't know, I just..."
"None of us ever knew,"
the fiend's lips moving,
voice coming from behind him,
PERHAPS AT THAT FAR DISTANCE SCREAMING
yet now barely heard.
"But it's the way of the world, little boy, little boy. 'Accept and be glad', sayeth the Lord."
The boy looks at the door his mother exited from,
wishing it was the door she had entered from,
at least she would be in the room with him now to say goodbye,
but she isn't,
she's thinking her thoughts far away,
not knowing she's going to lose
at the same time this night.
"All us Boogie Men were once children,
and all us Boogie Men will be children once again,"
the fiend says.
"I'm tired of souls,
little souls for breakfast,
fears for lunch,
dreams for dinner.
I've taught you my ways,
take my place,
know my world.
I just want a voice for once,
one close at my side."
and the first soul he has that day,
instead of cereal,
is his mother's
Todd Sullivan currently lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he teaches English as a Second Language. He has had more than two dozen short stories, poems, essays, and novelettes published across five countries. He currently has two book series through indie publishers in America. He writes for a web and play series in Taipei. He founded the online magazine, Samjoko, in 2021, and hosts a YouTube Channel that interviews writers across the publishing spectrum.
Originally published July 12, 2022
Linda Gould hosts the Kaidankai, a weekly blog and podcast of fiction read out loud that explores the entire world of ghosts and the supernatural. The stories are touching, scary, gruesome, funny, and heartwarming. New episodes every Wednesday.