The moon barks its commands through its pale light, his body animating out of slumber and into full stalking mode. He sits up, slowly turns his head to the left, to the right, like the Terminator. Like all great things predatorial.
He’s doing it again.
I pretend to sleep. Pulling the comforter to my chin. Keeping my eyelids slightly cracked. Breathing slow and steady.
He tosses the covers and stands. Arches his back. Abdominal muscles flex and torque. He’s fully naked. The outline of his genitals dangle low, sway side to side with an alpha’s presence. I watch him move about the quarters with a methodical pace.
There are dozens of beds on this floor. All inhabited with teenage human beings amid full REM cycles with rainbows and lollipops bouncing through their dreamy minds. No worry. No cares. Once the sun rises, another day of summer camp is upon us. Another day for them to pretend like they are so adult and so independent and so knowledgeable about who they really are. Another day of swimming in the lake and singing songs by campfire and sneaking off into the woods or into a vacant cabin to fool around. Everything is so perfect.
Except for Amir.
This guy. This naked nocturnal nomad has done this each of the last five nights. The whole camp now knows about it. He’s been dismissed as just the creepy kid here. In between our designated lake time, our counselors tell us that Amir sleepwalks. We’ve all been cautioned to not disturb him while he’s doing it because bad things happen when you disturb sleepwalkers.
We plead our case. That this isn’t normal.
The counselors say, “Yeah, yeah, we know. But Amir is harmless.”
Tell that to poor Amber Willows. Amir’s first victim.
Her curly blonde hair strewn about her pillow. Her hands folded over her burgeoning chest. She was probably dreaming about Jake or Todd or some other boy at camp. But Amir had chosen her that night. He got out of bed, fully bare, and walked to her mattress. He leaned over her until his nose was just a centimeter away from her face. Holding that position until his warm breath or psycho energy disturbed her sleep. She opened her eyes. Frozen, fear-induced silent, Amber just stared back. She later said that Amir held his gaze and a pervert’s grin before slowly walking back to his bed and getting underneath the covers.
The next night it was Kevin Leavenworth.
Third night was Brian Kenner.
Fourth – Cristine Fryer.
Fifth – Harry Roche.
All the same thing. Naked. Walks to a random kid and leers until they wake up. They lock eyes until he eventually retreats back to bed. Then it’s over. The sun rises and everyone resumes camp life.
During the day Amir stays to himself. Sits at the end of the table and eats quietly. He goes off by himself five times a day and prays like a Muslim. Other kids laugh about it. More kids join in out of fear of becoming the next target of mockery. Nobody else has these obligations. But nobody else is a shade darker than the perfect Anglo summer tan. Amir comes back from his prayers and nobody says a word to him. He remains alone, only with his mild mannerisms as company. Always hand-combing the top of his head from right to left, patting down his wavy black hair in the process. His eyes look sad when he blinks. Like his eyelids move slower than they should. But in between his blinking, you can see something else going on behind those dark eyes. Something more thoughtful than we’re typically allowed at this age.
Amir continues to move through the darkness. Charting each row of beds. A mirror catches his reflection. He stops. Raises his hand to his face, lightly begins touching his own cheek. He turns his face to the side and examines his jawline. His arm falls limp by his side and he begins to cry softly. He picks his head up off his chest, stares back at his reflection. Tears continue to stream down his face. He looks back over the room and quickly straightens up.
Like he caught himself in a lie.
He resumes his stalk. He’s two rows from me. Stops by Stevie Richard’s bed. For a second, I’m sure Stevie is tonight’s victim. But Amir moves on. He’s heading my way.
He’s three beds down.
Two beds away.
He pauses right next to me. Gets closer to my bedside. This is it. He leans in. I’m ready to call his bluff. Expose this charade. I’m ready to spring up and surprise him with a clenched fist when I feel a warm tear pellet fall off his cheek and hit me on the chin. I wipe it away instinctively.
Amir jumps back as if I’m about to attack.
“Why?” I ask.
He shakes his head. Begins to sob. His hands come up and brush away tears as they arrive.
“Please don’t tell,” he chokes out over a hush of pain.
“I don’t know, man. Just tell me what this is about.”
In a hurt whisper, Amir unlocks the mystery. “I just want them to see me.”
A moment or two passes. I finally nod and Amir heads back to bed.
I never report it.
The next day I eat lunch with Amir.
Omar Hussain is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, transplanted to Ann Arbor, Michigan. His beta-test novel, The Outlandish and the Ego, debuted in late 2017. It received some praise, remarkably.