Long after everyone else had gone to bed Parva rose and went for a walk in the garden. The lights of the city were all extinguished, leaving them safe from the things that moved in the dark, the things that would be drawn in like the insects, though far more dangerous. In the garden, she could see the stars above, a vast web of sparkles, a river where the Milky Way crossed the sky, and she thought of her grandmother’s constant wonder.
“I didn’t know they were there,” the old woman had said. Not, she had explained, that the stars were there at all. Of course she knew that. But she hadn’t known they could see so many, with only their eyes, and from their own gardens. “It was the lights, you see.”
Parva still could not picture that, a world where the lights were left on in the night, were so bright people could not see the stars above their heads. How had they survived?
“I’m not certain we did.”
It was something no one could quantify now, just how many of the countless people who’d vanished in the nights of light had been the victims of the things in the darkness, rather than of human monsters as was assumed. Her grandmother’s grandmother had lived in the world that suspected the dark held danger, but Parva’s grandmother had thought those stories to be nothing more than fables. Perhaps another step back, her grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother might have known the truth, as Parva knew it now. Knowledge was never lost, after all, merely misplaced.
She tried to believe that, when she walked in the garden, listening to the sounds on the other side of the wall, to the things that tried to find a way in, even without the light to lure them. There would always be at least one, of course, drawn by the sense of humans in one place, a different sort of lure and not one about which much could be done. After all, spreading themselves out invited other dangers, and at least this way they were close enough to help.
That was what they said, at least. Parva suspected, and she could not be the only one, that the true reason they wanted to risk drawing those who came to large crowds was because then there was always the possibility it would take someone else. If you were alone, then you were the only target. Here, there were many.
In the garden, there was only Parva.
Her mother would not have approved. Fortunately, however, he mother slept well and deeply, using the dark and the night to take herself away from the things that moved there in the only way she could. Her mother never walked in the garden after dark. Parva’s grandmother had. Even when she was old enough to need two canes, she somehow managed to take herself out at night with no one in the house being any the wiser. No one, except Parva.
She’d heard her grandmother, night after night, the sound of the canes on the floor as she crossed the rooms, the whisper of the door sliding open and sliding shut. Once, she’d snuck out of her bed and they’d walked around the garden together. Her grandmother had made her promise not to do it after that. She hadn’t explained, but when there came a morning when their family found her grandmother’s bed empty, Parva knew.
There was no way to predict who the things in the darkness would come for, who they would take. But you could stack the odds. The one who walked in the garden protected the house. For if anything came, they would take the first person they found. Now, long after her grandmother had gone, Parva walked in the garden, alone under the stars, and wondered if she would grow old enough to need two canes before something, at last, found her.