Zach said nothing of the incident and his father didn’t seem to smell anything when he got home. Instead, they had a stunted conversation where his father lied about having an interesting day at work and Zach lied about going through his stuff and losing track of time. Any other night, he might have retreated to his room and his father might have done something similar. Tonight, however, Zach was dreading going to bed. He didn’t want to be left to the silence again and he drew out their difficult conversation for as long as they both could stand it. He dad noticed but said nothing and in that moment, Zach wondered why. A part of him wanted to say something himself. He wanted to tell his father that he wanted out of this house. He wanted to tell him that there was something weird about this place and he wanted to leave now. If he thought that he might be able to get through to his father that this place was starting to kind of scare him, he might have. He had hoped that his awkward behavior would do this for him but he was disappointed to find that when the conversation ran out, his father was less than helpful. He said nothing and eventually he tired of their discomfort. Zach wanted to linger in the communal spaces but he couldn’t find a good excuse. Eventually he slipped away to his room.

Zach busied himself with small tasks that would make him look busy if his father came in to check on him but he found that he quickly became tired. He was surprised to find that he was itching to get to bed and soon enough, he gave in to the urge to sleep and crawled under his covers. During the night, he dreamt of town being covered in snow and walking around the empty streets with a woman that he had never seen before. He could not see her face but he knew she was looking at him as he walked. In every window, the lights were dark and he felt the cold drawing in. The woman spoke to him and even though she seemed kind, there was something about the dream that was quickly starting to feel frightening. They walked through the whole of the town before ending up at the graveyard. There he stood at an old crypt but could not read the name on it in the dark. He tried to ask the woman what it said but he was standing alone now and when he looked back, he saw that there was a ribbon tied around a single red rose at the base of the crypt. As he approached, he saw that it was not a ribbon but the gathered strands of long, silver hair.

“So the memories shall never die,” the woman said behind him. She spoke directly into his ear, her lips so close that he felt them on his skin.

Zach woke with a start and was immediately alarmed that the first thing that he could smell was roses. He looked around the still dark room and wondered if he had woken up in the middle of the night. He was surprised to find that it was early morning but his father was already up for work. He didn’t know how he had slept through the night. It had only felt like maybe a few minutes but the clock in his hands insisted that it had been hours. He looked around himself, still feeling the pulse of adrenaline from his dream even as the individual details were quickly fading. He knew he’d felt a kind of dread but he didn’t remember why. The only clear thing that he could hold on to from what he’d seen was that the town was so bleak. There were no lights anywhere. Not on windows or doors. Not on trees around public spaces. There were no lights here.

Zach thought about this and carefully slipped out of bed. He wandered over to the window and saw the same empty, darkened windows that he recalled from his dream. In the still waking light of dawn, he only saw the glow cast by the sparse street lamps and the hollow yellow light of lamps behind heavy shades and blinds dotting the darkness. He frowned. This place had seemed odd to him when he first arrived but he’d reasoned that it might be too early here. Maybe things were a bit backwards. A little romantic. His father had said this when he’d mentioned it before. Here they were, only about a week away from Christmas and there were no lights on anywhere. He’d seen trees and wreathes out there before. He’d even seen decorations in people’s yards. It wasn’t like people here didn’t celebrate but no one had any kind of lights in their yards or windows. Even in the town hall or anywhere in public buildings. There was nothing. It didn’t just seem wrong to him, it seemed a bit sinister. There was a reason this had to be the case. It couldn’t all be that everyone here was watching their power bill. Zach wondered what they had wandered into. The town seemed to get creepier to him by the day and he wished to anything that he could just run from this nightmare.

“What are you doing?”

Zach’s breath caught in his throat as he turned to see a darkened figure behind him. He squinted as his father turned on the light and looked at him, first confused and then looking resigned.

“Well I’m glad to see you’re up at least,” he said. “I had hoped that you would have done more to clean this up last night. What are you doing?”

“Just looking,” Zach replied, fidgeting. “It’s so dark out there.”

“It’s winter,” his father shrugged. “It was dark in the city too.”

“No but it’s darker here,” Zach insisted. “No one has any lights on here. And not just their house lights. I mean Christmas lights. It’s a week away and no one has any up here. Not one house has anything here.”

“I guess that’s just not a thing here,” his father said, dismissively.

“But doesn’t that seem wrong?” Zach said, knowing that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with this conversation. His father sighed but Zach wasn’t ready to give up the ghost just yet. “Doesn’t it? This doesn’t feel weird to you at all?”

“They’re just lights, Zach. I looked last week and they don’t sell them here,” his father replied. “I think you’ve had too much time to think about things. You’re not staying home to play on the games all day like you did yesterday. Be ready by seven thirty.”

“I’d hate to make the daycare workers wait,” Zach muttered as he turned his back.

“Be ready in twenty minutes or I’ll be late,” his father said, tersely. “I don’t want to hear another word.”

His father stopped short of slamming the door but the anger was there. Zach might have felt something like guilt over giving his father attitude, knowing that he was trying to make a good impression. At least he would have felt this if not for his own anger at knowing that he was right about this place being wrong and he knew that no matter what he said, it was going to fall on deaf ears.

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