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The small room was almost pitch-black and the curtains were drawn. It was usually the most playful room in the house, but that air of childhood was missing now. The little boy sat up in his bed, clutching his race-car patterned sheets around himself. He looked at the clock and yawned, almost as a reaction to the numbers he read on it. It was eleven-thirty, much too late for this eight-year-old to be up. He looked around at the menacing shapes in the shadows and shivered. He smoothed his light brown hair, tugging the ends to try to cover his face. He peeked out from under his fingers at the surrounding darkness. He was suddenly wide awake as his eyes darted around the room.
“Will?” he whispered timidly. He looked at the crack of light spilling in through the doorway. “Will?” he called again, more loudly this time. He waited. The time on the clock changed to 11:31. The door creaked open and the strip of light widened. The little boy relaxed visibly. His older brother, Will, came into the room, his dark t-shirt flat against his chest. He sat down on the edge of the boy's bed.
“What's the matter, Alex?” Alex laid his head down on his pillow, his eyes still wide open. Will looked at his brother, one half his age, and barely one half his height. Alex sniffled and allowed his brother to smooth the sheets and tuck Alex in tighter.
“I can't sleep.” He looked at the closet in pure childlike fear, and Will followed his gaze. He stood up and strode over to the closet. He opened the closet and Alex dove under the blankets instantly. “Don't do it, Will,” he said, his voice muffled. “There's a monster in there!”
Will laughed. “I don't see any monster.”
Alex sighed as if it was obvious. “That's because he's hiding. He doesn't want you to find him.” Will glanced around the closet. Alex peeked out from under the edge of the denim quilt while Will looked under Alex's clothes and in between toys. He shook out one of Alex's sneakers, making the red lights on it flash.
“See? I told you, nothing there.”
Alex brought his head and shoulders out from under the sheets, but he still didn't look reassured. “It might be under my bed.” He curled his legs in closer to him, as if something was going to come grab his toes at any minute. Will shook his head, but he dropped to the floor anyway in one fluid movement. He glanced underneath the bed, and, seeing nothing but dust and a lone white sock, he stood up and brushed off his jeans.
“There's no monsters. Are there any more places they might be hiding?”
Alex bit his lip and thought about it. His eyes darted around the room. “No. Unless...” Will smiled.
“Unless what?” Alex frowned, contemplating whether to say anything or not.
“They might have climbed out my window to the backyard.” Will shook his head with a small laugh.
“We would have seen it. Trust me. Goodnight, buddy.” He turned to leave, reminiscing on his own childhood fears of monsters and demons.
“Wait!” Alex bolted upright. Will turned back to his brother, his eyes questioning. “You didn't sing to me tonight.” Will nodded and sat back down on the bed.
It was their routine, since Alex first was old enough to be afraid of the dark. Will had made up a lullaby for him, and he sang it to him every night. It calmed Alex more than anything else. Will smoothed the covers out once more and Alex rested his cheek in his hand. Will began to sing, softly at first. He went through the lyrics automatically, without thinking of what he was singing. His eyes perused the room, taking it all in. His gaze fell on a photo of their family- Alex was sitting on his shoulders, their mother on the left and their father on the right. All four were laughing, but no one was more animated then Alex.
Will stopped singing without realizing it, his focus lost on memories. A beat passed. Then a new little voice took up where he had left off. It was hesitant and quiet, but Alex had a remarkably good voice for someone so young. Will turned back to his brother. He listened to Alex sing another line, than started singing again. Both Will and Alex sang the lullaby together, in almost perfect harmony.
The two brothers finished the song a few seconds later, holding the last note. Neither wanted to let go of it. Will half smiled and asked his brother softly, “Where'd you learn to sing so well, Alex?” Alex brought his knees closer to his chest.
“I listened to you.” Will bit his bottom lip and said nothing. He swallowed and stood up. He ruffled his brother's slightly overgrown hair.
“Night, Alex. Love you, kid.”
“Goodnight, Will,” Alex whispered sleepily, as Will made his way to the door. “I'll see you in the morning.”
Will turned to his brother. He hesitated in the doorway, waiting until Alex's breathing had deepened. Within seconds, Alex was asleep. Will smiled at his brother's still form. His mouth was slightly open, and his eyes fluttered but stayed shut. Almost subconsciously, Will began singing the lullaby again. The words were soft, so soft he could barely hear them himself. He murmured to himself, as he shut his brother's door behind him, the last line of his lullaby. “Sing me to sleep.”



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