give them light

Lily clears her throat. “The rhyme goes, ‘Moths are grey, they fly late, light they love, dark they hate.’”

“No,” Francis says, “it goes, ‘Moths are white, they fly by night, if you want to catch one, turn on the light.”

“Shut up,” Milly says, crossing her arms. “Moths aren’t white anyway.”

“Are too,” Francis says. “How does it go, then?”

Milly straightens. “It’s easy. It goes, ‘Moths love lamps, worms eat dirt, when moths get inside, moths get hurt.’”

Lily shrugs. “Why worms?”

Only Dave has not spoken yet. Dave lives in this house with his parents, who had left Dave and his friends in the care of a babysitter, Ursula. Ursula is asleep upstairs and had left Dave in the care of no one. Rain pours outside, and everyone waits for Dave’s version.

He clears his throat. “I think it goes, ‘Moths are grey…’”

Lily claps her hands. “See!”

Dave waves her down. “Well, hold on. ‘Moths are grey, their eyes are red’—”

Francis pouts. “Now you’re just making it up.” Milly also looks skeptical.

“I’m almost done,” Dave says. “‘Moths are grey, their eyes are red, give them light…’”

“I know that rhyme.” Thunder shakes the house, and all four heads turn in fear towards the staircase behind them, where the strange voice had come from. There they see none other than Ursula, tall and red-haired, leaning over the railing. An awful grin creeps across the babysitter’s face.

The rain thickens and the gutter chokes outside, a slopping gargle.

“I thought you were asleep,” Dave says.

Ursula glides down the stairs and takes her seat in the circle by the electronic fireplace. Lily, Francis, Milly, and Dave sit unmoving and watch the big teenager, who towers over them all. “I recited it with my friends once, many years ago,” she says, “and do you know what happened?”

All four shake their heads no.

Ursula closes her eyes. “Moths are grey, their eyes are red…”

Dave gulps, Lily swallows, Francis stares, Milly shivers.

“Give them light…”

Lightning bursts through the window. For an instant, Dave sees a horrible image projected on the walls by the flash, a great shadow of wings. He blinks, unsure if it was real. After it disappears, he looks to the window and sees nothing but velvety night. None of his friends had noticed it. He decides it was his imagination.

Ursula smiles. “Where was I?” she says. “Right: Moths are grey, their eyes are red, give them light—”

They all hold their breath. Ursula opens one eye, checks on their fright, and concludes:

“Or else… YOU’RE DEAD!”

She leaps onto Francis. Everyone screams. Ursula pretends to gnaw at Francis’s throat. She rises and chases Milly down. “Let me go! Monster!” Milly says, panicked. Ursula leaves her and targets Lily, who trips on the edge of a rug and falls into Ursula’s terrible clutches. Now the others begin to laugh, realizing the game. Ursula tickles Lily and she laughs, too. Four voices laughing together.

Four voices, not five. The laughter dies. Lily, Francis, and Milly go silent with terror, their eyes growing large. Ursula stands and spins, searching for the boy, the one child she was hired to watch, the one who had started the game in the first place. She calls for him: “Dave? Dave, are you here?”

Thunder again, more distant now.

“Dave, not funny!”

Ursula hears it—the sway of old branches against the house and the rattle of the woods, the splatter of rain on the floor inside. The creak of an open window. She looks, and she sees the most awful thing. Between the trees, in the absolute darkness, there are two glowing red dots. She blinks, unsure if they are real.

They blink back.

return to the garden