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The man in the green jacket always came late in the night and never through the door.

The first time he came, we were all sleeping – my brother, sisters and I – but we eventually learned to awaken around the time he’d arrive. From the very first moment, I was wary of him, in a naïve sort of way. I didn’t like the way he only showed up in the darkness, like some creature stalking through the night. I didn’t like how he smelled like dirt mixed with the musk of homelessness. I didn’t like the glint in his eyes by the light of the moon or our nightlight. All of these things and more were conflated into a childish dislike for the man in the green jacket, something I couldn’t articulate in the least at ten.

The moment of his arrival wouldn’t be heralded by any sort of fanfare – there was no flash of bright light, no sense of magic. Instead, there would be a soft tap at our windowpane, and one of us would rise wearily from our bed and open the window for him to lean in. He would beckon to us through whispered hisses, calling us by name, until we all rose quietly and tip-toed to the window, a congregation of children. It always began, and ended, the same way.

Once we had clustered around him, in his low, gravelly voice, the man in the green jacket would begin to speak of far-off places – exotic waterfalls, verdant pastures and dense forests. He’d speak of the sea and the ships that rose and fell on the seafoam, of the mermaids that would cluster starboard and portside, enticing the sailors and pirates above to leap from the deck and splash into the salty waters for a short dip with them. He’d speak of ancient places, full of magic – of fairies’ nests and their extravagant balls. He’d tell us of the other children he’d taken there – and how he’d take us too – in time.

He always warned us to never tell our parents. If we told them, we’d not be able to go.

After his stories and his warnings, he’d make us all promise to keep our word, and we would shake our heads and whisper our bonds. Then, as with every night, the man in the green jacket would slink downward and away, out into the rural woodlands, perhaps to seek the others he had told the same stories – of which, I am sure now, there were many.

More than once, my fear got the best of me, and I resolved to divulge it all to my parents but, each time, my brother or my younger sisters would chastise me, would plead with me to hold my tongue so that I might come with them and the man in the green jacket when the time was right. I suppose, in my heart, somewhere, I knew that I should refuse them – that I should tell my parents of the man in the green jacket’s antics – but I never did. At their behest, I would stop my fears – push them away – at least until they’d well up again and the cycle would repeat.

The time came when the man in the green jacket no longer seemed to come at night and, while my younger siblings distressed, believing they’d been forgotten or abandoned by him – that, in some way, he’d discovered my fears and chosen to sever ties with all of us because of them – I took comfort. When I awoke in the middle of the night, there was no more scratching at the glass. Instead, I would rise and go to the bathroom by the light of the nightlight, returning at ease, knowing that I wouldn’t see that man or have to listen to his whispers in the dark.

Two weeks. Two weeks without his face in our window. Two weeks without his musk invading the scent our warm, loving home. Two weeks without the man in the green jacket, and my fears had all but subsided.

I rose from my bed, my body not yet able to sleep through the night soundlessly again, and marched into the hallway. As I stood in the bathroom, I fancied I could hear a tapping somewhere far off. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled. Two weeks, and not a single tapping. I tried to shrug it off, but it all felt wrong.

I eased the bathroom door open and crept silently toward my room where the door lay ajar, nothing but shadows beyond. As I peered inside, my breath caught in my throat.

The man in the green jacket stood in the center of the room, my siblings crowded around him. He bent on one knee, and I heard him whisper to them all, “The time is here. It’s time to leave.” Neither my brother, nor my sisters, raised protest on my account. One by one, he embraced them each – a long, tight hold. Then, they began to stumble, and then fell. He caught each before they hit the floor.

Three little bodies, each tucked soundlessly into a burlap sack and flung over his shoulder. Weren’t they supposed to fly away? Weren’t they supposed to be sustained by the magics he had so often spoken of? The man in the green jacket rose, and, for a moment, I saw the glint in his eyes reflected by the nightlight’s sliver of luminescence. The glint wasn’t magic at all. It was a hunger.

The police questioned my parents that night, having arrived almost a full hour after they’d been called. As my parents cried, they recalled how I had screamed and shaken them awake, how they had entered the room, only to find that the man in the green jacket had escaped soundlessly – three of their four children stolen from their beds. The police noted everything and cast cautious glances toward each other, never in the sight of my parents.

The man in the green jacket was never caught.

Now, I’m in my thirties and have children of my own. I live in the middle of a crowded suburb, safe amongst my neighbors. Each night, I lock the doors and the windows and, each day, I make sure to know where my children are at all times.

But today, in the mail, I received a horror more terrifying than any I could have imagined:

A leather-bound, homemade copy of Peter Pan; scrawled on the first page “They’re already mine.”

Credits to: -Faust-


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