Silhouette (Ghosts of Nagasaki Excerpt)

At the age of six-going-on-seven, though I’d never admit it to anyone, I’m still afraid of the dark. One day my foster parents take the nightlight out of my room and the world goes dark. I plead to have the nightlight put back in, but to no avail.


“You’re not a baby anymore,” my foster mother says. “You have to get used to the dark.


What do I have to be scared of? Werewolves, festering corpses in the closet, of course, and centipedes. Centipedes especially scare me. Ever since I saw my first centipede slithering on the ground, I can’t stop having nightmares about them. But no, that’s not the scariest thing. The scariest thing, I soon find out, is the outline of my foster mother in the door of my room. With the hall light on and the room dark, all I can see is her dark silhouette. She lingers there watching me.


It’s bad enough that no matter how long I stay in that house I won’t belong there, but to make matters worse, I have that creepy vision of her in the doorway. It follows me for as long as I live. And there is no telling when my foster mother will drop in. The door will crack open and she’ll just stand in the frame of the door. Sometimes she says something, other times she comes and prays by the side of the bed, and still other times she does nothing―just stands there, watching me.


Each time I pretend to sleep, hoping she’ll go away. But even when she does go away, I lie awake scared because there is no telling when she’ll come again. Sometimes it’s a matter of days. Sometimes it’s a matter of hours. Three times a month or three times in the same night.


I don’t really remember much from my first foster home. What was my first foster home like, the place I stayed for nearly ten years of my life? It all lies somewhere deep in the shadows. And I prefer to leave it there. But every so often, I see her silhouette in the frame of the door.

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