He was smiling, talking to himself and drawing on the floor with a dark liquid.

We heard noise from Tobias room. We just thought it was another one of his nightmares.

Magali nudged me with her elbow and rolled back over to her side. The light thuds from Tobias’ room continued.

Slowly I climbed out of bed, found my slippers and shuffled over to his room.

The first shock was that he wasn’t in his bed. I thought he must have climbed and fallen over the small wooden railing.

Then I saw him. He sat at the other end of the room. He was smiling, talking to himself and drawing on the floor with a dark liquid.

Blood.

It was all over his face and arms.

I thought it was a nosebleed. Like most kids he had those a few times, but never that bad.

I washed the blood off and Tobias already fell back asleep when I dried him with a soft towel. He looked healthy and his nose was fine. There was no further blood. He hadn’t cried, not even looked upset.

I checked his temperature, put a fresh pair of pajamas on his body and stuck him back under the blanket.

He slept with a slight smile on his lips. I pulled the blanket up to his chest.

It hit me like a hammer. There was no blood on the blanket. Neither any on the bed.

Equipped with a bucket of warm water I checked the room.

There was no blood under his bed. None on any of the furniture or toys. Only one spot was full of blood, still warm but slowly crusting: the one where he had sat, not far from the wardrobe. The moon light that fell through the window seemed to mark a square just around the dark puddle.

I wiped it all off. Just before I left the room I check Tobias’ nose. I carefully felt around his face and arms. If anything was broken or injured the prodding would have hurt him. He would have woken up. He didn’t.

Quietly I closed the door behind me and went back to bed. Magali was snoring lightly. I put my arm around her and despite the weird scene in Tobias’ room my exhaustion quickly pulled me into a deep sleep.

I watched Tobias closely in the morning. I insisted on dressing him and I made sure to ask whether he felt fine. He said he did. Does anything hurt? No, papa.

The next night I woke up around 1am. Magali was snoring, there was a faint whisper of the cars that drove by on the nearby freeway. Else the house was quiet.

My soft slippers kept my footsteps quiet. Carefully I pushed Tobias’ door open.

“Hi,” he said.

“You’re awake.”

“I am?”

“Go back to sleep.”

“Okay.”

I stepped closer.

“Don’t be scared.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sure of what?”

“That I don’t need to be scared.”

“Everything is good,” I said.

“Everything is good,” he said.

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

I watched Tobias for a few moments. He seemed to doze off. I went back to bed myself.

In the morning I wasn’t the only one that was tired. Tobias rubbed his eyes and yawned while we were eating breakfast. The oatmeal had cinnamon, sugar and raisins. His favorite. He ate a spoon or two and then stopped.

Magali sighed, packed him a snack, and brought him to preschool.

The next two nights I slept through and Tobias seemed fine in the morning.

The third day Tobias was sleepy again and refused to eat.

Magali thought that Tobias might be sick. I thought he had night terrors. I struggled with myself whether to tell Magali about his nosebleed but decided against it. She was always a worrier and telling her such a thing would drive her up the wall.

At night I waited until Magali was asleep. Then I sat on the hallway with a small light and the second book of Lord of the Rings.

I was too enthralled by the story. I didn’t pay attention.

Finally I heard Tobias talking to himself.

“Good,” he said. “Very good.”

Silently I got up but the door handle squeaked.

“No!” said Tobias.

I stopped moving.

I heard him shuffling in the room.

“It’s me,” I said. “Can I come in.”

“No!” Tobias said.

There was more shuffling, then a loud thumping noise.

“Okay,” he finally said.

Tobias stood on the floor right at the foot of his bed. His face was in the shades.

“I was sleeping,” he said.

His footprints said otherwise. Red footprints that reflected the moonlight and led to the right and away from the bed.

I stepped into the room.

“I was sleeping,” he repeated.

There was a small puddle of blood to the right, right between the wardrobe and the treasure chest that held most of his toys.

“What is that?” I asked and turned to him.

He was quiet.

I was quiet too.

In the white light I saw that his face was crusted in blood. So were his arms and legs.

“What happened?”

“It wasn’t me, I promise!”

“It wasn’t you?”

Tobias hesitated. He looked to the window.

“It was me.”

He glanced to the window again and I quickly walked over to look through the glass. Outside was just the normal night. Quiet gardens and in the distance the flickering lights of the highway.

“I made it all alone.”

I crouched down to him. His nose looked fine.

“Where did the blood come from?”

Tobias shrugged.

“Is it yours?”

“I did it.”

“Where are you bleeding?”

Tobias looked around the room. Then up and down his body. He opened his mouth and his finger pointed inside.

There was blood on his teeth.

“Your mouth is bleeding?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“No.”

Tobias closed his mouth.

“Does something hurt?”

Tobias tried to walk away but I quickly held him in place. He turned his head away from me.

“No.”

“What hurts?”

“Nothing hurts.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“And where did the blood come from?”

Tobias shrugged.

“It was there.”

“Where?”

He pointed towards the puddle.

“There.”

“So it’s not yours?”

“I don’t know.”

“What happened?”

“It was me.”

“Was someone here?”

Tobias pressed his lips together and shook his head.

“Was someone here?”

“I don’t know.”

Tobias began to cry.

“Was someone here?”

“You hurt me.”

I realized that my hands were clutched around his arms.

“Sorry,” I said.

I released my hands and Tobias quickly ran behind the bed.

“You know I won’t hurt you,” I said. “I’m really sorry.”

Tobias, half-hidden behind the bed, shook his head. The tears rolled down his face.

“It’s okay,” I said.

I moved closer.

“But I need to know whether someone was here.”

Tobias sank to the floor and just cried.

I tried to console him but he kept me at a distance with his outstretched arm.

While Tobias cried I checked the wardrobe and even the treasure chest. Then I quickly went outside and checked the bathroom and our bedroom. Magali was still soundly asleep.

I went back to Tobias’ room.

He sobbed.

“Don’t tell mommy!”

“I have to tell her.”

His sobs got louder.

“Don’t tell her. Promise!”

“I can’t promise that unless I know what happened.”

“Promise!”

“I promise not to tell her if you tell me what happened.”

“I’m so small,” Tobias said.

“You’re not that small.”

“I’m small. All the others say I’m small.”

“You’re not that small.”

“And one of the others told me that eating made him grow.”

“If you eat well you will grow.”

“So he was right.”

“Who was right?”

“The other boy. He was right that I will grow if I eat.”

“Yes. But you’ve not been eating much.”

“I ate loads.”

“You ate loads?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“When you and mommy sleep.”

“You eat when we sleep?”

“Yes.”

“And the food made you sick.”

“No.”

“What do you eat?”

“Meat.”

“Raw meat?”

“I don’t know.”

“Was it soft and red?”

“Yes.”

“Then it was raw.”

“I don’t know.”

“And you took it from the fridge?”

“No.”

“No?”

“Maybe.”

“Where did you get it?”

“I can’t say.”

“You have to say.”

Tobias shook his head.

“Else I have to tell mommy.”

“No!”

“She will not be happy.”

“No! No!”

“Then tell me.”

“I promised not to tell.”

“You promised?”

“Yes.”

“Who did you promise?”

“The boy.”

“What boy? Is it one from school?”

“No.”

“Is it the one that told you to eat more?”

“No.”

“Is he older than you?”

“Yes.”

“And how do you know him?”

“He comes here.”

“Here?”

Tobias looked towards the window.

“He comes through the window?”

“Yes.”

“How many times was he here?”

“I don’t know.”

“More than once?”

“Yes.”

“More than five times?”

Tobias hesitated. He looked at his own blood-crusted hand.

“Yes.”

“And he brings you meat?”

“And sauce.”

“Sauce?”

Tobias pointed towards the puddle of blood on the floor.

“That sauce.”

“He gives you meat and that sauce.”

“Yes.”

“And you eat it?”

“Yes. The boy said it will make me bigger.”

“The boy from school?”

“He also.”

That same night we had Tobias’s stomach pumped. He got tested for disease but nothing unusual was found.

The meat in Tobias’s stomach turned out to be beef. The blood was not.

We have moved now. The new house has two different alarm systems and we sleep with the doors open. The kindergarten too has been alerted. Two other kids admitted that they had met ‘the boy but only one of them had ‘eaten.’

The kids’ descriptions varied wildly but they all agreed that the boy was thin and had very pale skin.

I still can’t get the last part of our conversation out of my mind.

“So the boy from school knows this boy that visits you?”

“He told the boy to come here.”

“And he brings you meat and sauce?”

“Only meat.”

“I thought he also brings sauce.”

“He makes the sauce.”

“He makes the sauce?”

Tobias pointed towards his own wrist.

“With his arm.”

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