BOOKS

The White Boy


“Daddy, there’s a boy in my room!”

Quinn Becker doesn’t believe in ghosts. Or coincidences. That changes when his five-year-old son, Drew, tells him about the “white boy” who visits him at night. As Drew’s encounters with the white boy escalate, Quinn and his wife, Mel, are forced to decipher what is real and what is the product of their son’s vivid imagination. As the family searches for answers, they discover a link to a 40-year-old mystery and a connection to Quinn’s own past.

But the most unsettling discovery is that the white boy is only the beginning. A much more menacing threat is coming.


QUINN BECKER SAT UP IN BED and tried to determine if what he thought he heard was real or the tail end of a dream. He waited, and then it came. Crying.

Not a dream.

He turned to his wife, Mel, to see if she was awake. Maybe she’d handle it. Since having children, Quinn fell prey to the ultimate parental curse—at some point he became a light sleeper. In college, he slept through thunderstorms, drunken couples fighting in hallways, kegs rolling down stairs, and a few final exams, but ever since his children arrived into the world, the faintest sound woke him from the deepest sleep. Even the automatic ice maker dropping cubes into its bin a few rooms away did the trick.

Mel was sound asleep with a smile on her face. Perhaps the smile created by a pleasant dream or by her subconscious telling her, “That’s okay, keep sleeping. Your husband’s got this one.”

Quinn listened again. Definitely crying, but was it Drew or Abby? Too faint to tell. He slid out of bed, rubbed his throbbing shoulder, cursed his wife’s slumber, and glanced at the alarm clock. The fog of sleep caked his eyes, but he could still make out the blurry red numbers.

Damn, 2:17. At least I’ve got four more hours to sleep.

He pinballed off the oak railing as he made his way upstairs, running through the nighttime disaster checklist in his head: Bad dream, missing blanket, too hot, too cold? He hoped it wasn’t an accident. Nothing was worse than changing piss-soaked sheets in the middle of the night. Except maybe vomit.

Oh, God, please don’t let it be vomit. 

Quinn stepped into the upstairs hall and realized the sound came from Drew’s room. He pushed the door open and stuck his head in. The crying had turned to whimpering. He wiped his eyes and looked at the tangled sheets on the bed. No Drew.

“Daddy,” said a faint four-year-old voice.

Following the sound, Quinn found his son hiding behind the open closet door. He might have overlooked the boy had it not been for Drew’s tiny fingers wrapped around the door’s edge. Quinn closed the closet door, revealing his son kneeling on the carpet with his blue and white blanket across his knees.

“What’s wrong, buddy?”

Drew mashed his blanket into his face as Quinn squatted down in front of him.

“It’s okay. What’s the matter?” Quinn tugged on the blanket, pulling it away from his son’s face.

Drew shook his head and pulled the blanket back toward him. Quinn, surprised at his son’s strength, released his grip, and reached for the boy’s hands to calm him.

“Buddy, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

“There’s a boy.” He sniffled. “Behind the chair.”

Quinn’s eyes opened wide and his muscles tightened as though reanimated by a shot of adrenaline. His head now clear and fully awake, he spun on his knees, almost losing his balance, and looked at the rocking chair sitting motionless on the other side of the room. A three-foot tall Darth Vader figure wielding a menacing red lightsaber stared back at him from the floor next to the rocker.

“There’s nothing over there.” Quinn stood up and tugged on Drew’s hands. “Come on over and look.” He fought the urge to click on the light on top of the nightstand because he knew it would be easier to get his son back to sleep in a dark room. Click on the light and it would take an extra twenty minutes. Maybe thirty.

“No,” said Drew pulling back.

Quinn tugged harder on the boy, moving him out of the corner. He picked Drew up, rested him on his shoulder, carried him to the rocker, and sat down. He felt his son’s body tense and his arms stiffen as he buried his head in the crux of Quinn’s neck to avoid looking over the back of the rocking chair.

“You probably just saw Darth Vader.”

“No, it was a boy.”

“What kind of boy?”

Drew hesitated for a moment, his face still pressed tightly against Quinn’s neck. “He was a boy like me, but he looked different.”

“What does he look like?”

“He doesn’t have a face.”

The shimmering race car nightlight on the dresser caught Quinn’s attention. He followed the nightlight’s subtle beam, which illuminated the Darth Vader figure and cast a shadow on the wall next to the rocking chair. He cracked a grin and nodded.

“I think I know what it is, buddy.”

“What?”

“Your nightlight is shining on Darth Vader and that makes a shadow on the wall. It’s just a shadow. Nothing to be afraid of.”

“No,” said Drew raising his head. “Shadows are black.”

“What color is the boy?”

“He’s white.”

“What?”

“The boy is white. And he doesn’t have a face.”

“What do you mean, he doesn’t have a face?”

“He has a place for a face, but there’s nothing there. He looks like the doll that Abby dragged behind her bike. The one with the face that got skidded off.”

Quinn patted Drew on the back of the head as he gently rocked him in the chair. “I’m sure it was nothing. Try and go back to sleep.”

“I want to sleep in your bed tonight.”

Quinn hated letting his children sleep in his bed, but if it meant getting back to sleep quicker, why not?

Probably the only way I’m getting any sleep tonight anyway.

“Okay,” he said. “But you have to go right to sleep.”

“I will.”

Quinn stood from the rocking chair and walked toward the door, still clutching Drew in his arms.

“Daddy?”

Quinn stopped. “Yeah, buddy?”

“Why didn’t the boy have a face?”

“I’m sure it was just a shadow or something. Don’t think about it. Now let’s go back to bed.”

Quinn carried Drew to the first-floor master bedroom where Mel slept peacefully surrounded by thick, fluffy pillows. He tucked Drew under the comforter and then climbed into bed next to him.

2:31. Four hours left to sleep. 

Quinn rolled over to find Drew nestled into his mother’s side. Then he closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep.

 

Own The White Boy