He appeared years ago, when I was young enough to believe in mermaids and ghosts and a fairy who sneaks in at night and trades human bones for pocket change.
I’ve watched him grow alongside me with wilting clothes, marred by age. His brown uncut hair darkened to black. And with every inch he grew, his skin stretched tighter around his increasingly prominent bones.
But his eyes? They have never changed. Black like the center of an empty galaxy yet bright as a solar flare, they look only at me. Into me.
Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I stare back. Maybe to see what he will do, maybe to see what will happen if I can win at this staring contest he initiated all those years ago. Perhaps he’ll finally step closer, or say something, or tell me his real name so I can stop calling him Z.
Or maybe nothing will happen, and our nightly routine will continue unchanged.
I’ve never seen him come or go. But every night, he’s outside, and every morning, he’s gone. I’ve never stayed awake long enough to see him leave despite my best efforts, but tonight, I'm determined. It's the last summer before high school, and I refuse to become a teenager without knowing what happens to him in the morning.
When does “morning” officially begin? When the sun rises, when the stars disappear, when most of the town is awake and heading to work?
Today, I’m going to find out.
Keep staring. Even as sleep threatens to overtake me. My limbs fall heavy and my eyelids more so.
But I keep staring.
Is it three? Five? Barely past midnight?
I keep staring.