I’m awake, but it feels like a dream. Light creeps in from the hallway, and there’s a small voice making unintelligable noises. But I left the light on, I think. Why’s he still scared?
Did I imagine it? Did the light just flicker?
My son’s voice gets louder, and I hear the terror. I feel it. My wife’s warmth is a tether; I cling to it because I know what will happen if I get up to check on our boy.
The light from his room flickers again, no mistaking it this time. His chanting turns desperate, and I recognize the lullaby he sings to himself. It won’t do him any good. Tears ride his voice, corrupting the melody’s soothing purpose. He doesn’t need lullabies; he needs a firm shoulder to curl against, a strong arm to ward off his nightmares. He needs his father.
I relinquish my wife’s warmth and cross the hall. My son’s door is halfway open, as I left it, and I can see the child in his bed. The lamp on his dresser buzzes like a fly in its struggle to stay alive. The strobe effect deceives my eyes and causes the blackness to creep in at the edges, and my son sits at the center, staring across the room at something I can’t see as he sings pitifully to himself.
He hears my footstep, turns to face me. “Daddy—”
The light goes out.