children of the moonlight

It was always slightly ominous hearing the ice cream truck drive by in the middle of the night. The tinkling music became eerie as it echoed along the empty streets.

A little boy lay stiffly in his bed, listening. He felt like he was the only person in the world who was awake, and his frightened mind couldn’t stop imagining what sort of other people the music might rouse. Part of him wanted to go to the window and see; instead he pulled the covers over his head and shivered. But if he had looked, the sight that met his eyes wouldn’t have been at all what he expected.

Children.

Several of them, as a matter of fact. They emerged from the shadows, their milky forms fading in and out of focus, and they ran to catch the truck. Then one by one each child happily grabbed an ice cream, letting it smear across their mouths and drip down their hands like moonlight.

And afterwards they would play. Their shoes scuffing against the old city streets and their laughter rippling out into the night, they would dance and run and fight and live. They  frightened cats and made dogs bark; and sometimes, just sometimes, they would rouse a half-sleeping driver, shocking him into wakefulness. They prevented a lot of accidents, these children.

Their voices were carried on the wind, fading to almost a whisper by the time anyone heard. But sometimes a whisper was enough. Enough to wake up the sleeping little boy one night, and enough to finally draw him to his window. And he watched, eyes wide, as these strange shadowy children played in the street. Their clothes and toys were different from anything he had ever seen, and no matter how hard he listened he couldn’t hear anything more than occasional whispery laughter.

He watched them for hours, as they played marbles and jump rope and hopscotch. But as the sky turned pink and the stars began to fade, the children started to yawn. They slowly gathered their toys, and, as the sun’s first droplets fell onto the ground, they sleepily faded into the shadows.

It is always slightly ominous hearing the ice cream truck drive by in the middle of the night. But sometimes, over the sound of its tinkling music, a little boy hears whispery laughter and marbles clinking softly on the ground.

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