My eyes snapped open at the sound of a scream. I swung myself out of bed and groped the walls, finding my way through my bedroom and down the hall. I stopped at my son’s doorway and shivered while cold air flowed from underneath her door.
I flung the door open and flipped the light on. “What’s wrong, baby? What happened?”
My son trembled with his knees hugged to his chest. “Shadow people, Mama. They’re coming to get us.”
I crossed the room and settled down beside him. “It’s okay, you just had a nightmare. You’re safe now.”
He shook his head. “I see them every night. The shadows come in the dark, and they wanna hurt us.”
I held him close and shifted under the covers with him. “Listen, as long as I’m with you, you’re gonna be safe, okay?”
He buried his head in my shoulder. “I don’t want anything to happen, Mama. I’m scared.”
“Tell me about the shadow people, James. What happens in your nightmares?”
He huddled in my arms. “They creep in from outside my windows, under my door, and in my closet. My room gets really cold, and they attack me. The shadow people steal all the light.”
“What do you mean?”
“All the good stuff, my warm room, my dreams, my feelings.”
“Yeah, they steal all the happy ones, and I only feel afraid and alone.” He tightened his hold. “I don’t want them to take you away.”
I tilted his head up to meet my gaze. “Is that what they say to you?”
Tears stained his cheeks, and he nodded. “Mhm. They said they’re gonna steal you away, and I’ll be alone forever. Then, I’ll never have good dreams or happy feelings.”
I cradled his head to my chest. “James, I want you to listen to my heartbeat. Know as long as you hear it that I’m alive and safe. I’m never going to let anything take me away from you, baby.”
He settled in and placed his hand over my heart. “Okay, but can you stay here tonight?”
I smiled and kissed his forehead. “Of course.”
I shifted out of bed and shut the lights off before returning to him. We nestled in each other’s arms, and I kept watch for shadows. James kept his head close to my heart and gripped my hand.
“Sweet dreams now. Listen to my heartbeat as the shadows slip away.” I rubbed his back as I held him.
He started to shake as cold air crept into the room. “Mama, they’re coming.” His body tensed as I shifted to find the source. “Don’t leave me.”
“It’s okay, I’m not going anywhere. I’m just checking something.” I climbed out of bed as he wrapped the blanket around himself. “Do you want me to go get Daddy?”
His hand lashed out to grip my arm. “You can’t!” He propped himself on his knees and leaned in. “He’s one of them.”