Solitude didn’t both him, that wasn’t it, but his brother, Silence, was a different story. Nights when he was the only person alive and the vast silent expanse of the sky cupped over him like a giant’s hand. Those nights he curled up in his blankets and shivered, eyes tight closed, not wanting to see the Nightly Things creeping up on him. If he didn’t see them, they couldn’t see him, no matter how close they crept. Nightly Things couldn’t peer inside closed eyelids, that was the rule.
The Doctor didn’t look over at Mrs. Marshall as he spoke. “As you can see, he hasn’t gotten any better.”
“Do you know why?”
“The workings of the mind are still mostly a mystery. There is so much we don’t know about mental illness.”
“He isn’t mentally ill.”
“Look at him, Mrs. Marshall. He has no connection nor concept of the world.” He paused, feigning sympathy and patience. “He isn’t going to get better. The best thing for him is to put him into an institution so he gets the care he needs…” Droning on until his words turned into blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Care for him yes, but not love him. Not like a mother.
Mrs. Marshall stared through the window at her son. She knew so little about him, his world, but one thing she did know was he was not mentally ill. Those words he scribbling over and over – Nightly Things – scared her. What did he mean? What was he trying to tell her, his mother, the one person who loved him unconditionally?
She thought his words were a cry for help, for protection; to be heard. Something somewhere terrified him. Something, real or not, chased him in his silent world.
On the drive home, she thought about being a mother. Mothers didn’t give up. They didn’t leave their child behind. She stroked his hair, silky even at ten. Mother’s protected against Nightly Things, whatever they were. Mothers loved. Mothers listened even to the silence.
Mothers didn’t walk away.