He takes the job in the summer, while enrolled in classes at the university, two semesters shy of graduating. Babysitting. Three kids, twice a week, all under eight, the oldest bedridden with juvenile psoriasis so severe it knocks him out, lying in a hospital bed, a tube stretching from his left arm to a blood bag over a shelf used to gather the flakes of dead skin that peel off him like bark from a tree. He empties it once a night. The rest of the time he watches movies with the other kids – Disney and Pixar – and always orders pizza.
One night there’s a power outage, and the two younger ones ask to be put to bed with a story. “A th-cary one!”
He nods, checks on the oldest, and comes back. He decides to tell them about the red-eyed children. “They show up on nights of the red moon. Three knocks on the door, and they’re there. With their eyes like tomatoes. A chorus of high-pitched voices whispering, ‘Let us in, let us in. Our flesh needs blood to keep us thin.’”
The kids giggle, until he gets up and opens the window shade. Raspberry light shines in from the blood red moon. “Oh no. Was that tonight?”
Three knocks sound on the door, but the kids don’t see his knuckles on the wall. They scream.
“If the red-eyed children come, please, please, don’t give them blood. I can’t stress that enough. Good night.”
The kids are shaking with fright as he leaves. He checks on the oldest, his eyes stopping on the bag of blood above the bed. He goes down to the living room. A beautiful night. A beautiful red-mooned night. He works in silence until he hears three knocks.
He rises slowly, walks over, and opens the door.
He brings it inside, takes out a slice, plates it. He goes upstairs to the bedridden one’s room, but instead of fiddling with the blood bag, he leans over the shelf and gathers up the skin. He goes back down and pauses in front of a mirror. He sees the red, much fainter these days, in both of his eyes.
“No, not blood. Never blood.”
He picks up his pizza, sprinkles his topping on it, and takes a bite. He swallows and chants, “Let us in, let us in. Our fat needs blood, our blood needs skin.”
Elie Lichtschein is a writer and producer based in New York. He’s the creator of Middle Grade Horror, a scripted podcast of scary stories for kids. His fiction is forthcoming in a YA anthology set to be published by Knopf in 2019.
Image: Flickr / Imtiaz Ahmed