When Jake was ten he stared into the sun. You’re always told, growing up, that you should never look straight into the sun during an eclipse, but they never really tell you why when you’re seven. Yes, the ultraviolet radiation concentrates around the gravitational pull of the moon and blisters your retinas if you stare too long, so they say. But these stories are adults’ tales, hardly to be believed.

Jake’s eyes were fine when, despite his mother’s admonitions, he looked right into the darkness. His retinas didn’t blister, he didn’t go blind. It would’ve been better if he had. In the void, where the light had been consumed by shadow, there was a bright yellow eye. It blinked at Jake, and Jake blinked back. It was as natural as breathing, but something in that eye recognized him. In that moment, it became his friend, the eye in the void.

Growing up, Jake had to be careful. The eye was jealous. When he was sixteen, he brought his girlfriend home. A stupid decision, since he knew that the eye had been watching him all those years from the places from which the light fled. Shadows weren’t an absence or obscuring of light to Jake. No, those were adults’ tales too. Jake knew that the darkness was its own animal, breathing and consuming everything it touched. When Jake turned on the lights, the shadows knew him, and they did not disappear. The shadows in Jake’s room stayed where they were even during a bright day with all the curtains pulled back. Nothing pierced the shadows that followed Jake like an enamored stalker.

The girl slept on Jake’s bed. They were intimate with each other, and Jake tried to avoid thinking about the encroaching shadows. He wanted  so desperately to believe the fables adults told him, about a world of order and natural laws that followed a clear set of patterns discovered through human reason. Instead, when the lights went out, Jake shut his eyes. When he awoke, his girlfriend was gone. The police questioned him, but there was no trace of her, and no one would ever see her again.