Defy the Dark
For my friend Steve
Sleepstalk - Courtney Summers
Nature - Aprilynne Pike
The Dark Side of the Moon - Dia Reeves
Ghost Town - Malinda Lo
Eyes in the Dark - Rachel Hawkins
Stillwater - Valerie Kemp
I Gave You My Love by the Light of the Moon - Sarah Rees Brennan
Night Swimming - Beth Revis
The Sunflower Murders - Kate Espey
Almost Normal - Carrie Ryan
There’s Nowhere Else - Jon Skovron
Naughty or Nice - Myra McEntire
Shadowed - Christine Johnson
Now Bid Time Return - Saundra Mitchell
The Moth and the Spider - Sarah Ockler
Where the Light Is - Jackson Pearce
This Was Ophelia - Tessa Gratton
About the Authors
About the Editor
To you, my dear friend:
Since my very first library card, I’ve loved nothing more than books. Through them, a kid who lived in government housing could also live in a windswept house by the sea (thanks, Lois Duncan!), in a secret-filled hacienda (thank you, Isabel Allende!), and even in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (love to you always, E. L. Konigsburg!).
Long Saturdays at the Warren Library supported my habit. I burned through novels and anthologies, bereft when I had to wait for new ones to arrive. In the meantime, I fantasized about meeting my favorite authors: we would be great friends!
We’d have tons in common, and we’d do cool stuff together, and oh yeah, they’d love to write a new story just for me. Anytime, about anything I wanted! I got older, but I never gave up the fantasy of getting my favorite authors to tell me new tales. We were friends, after all.
I loved Stephen King’s anthologies especially because they were frequent and fat, and in them, he wrote letters. (To me!) In Skeleton Crew, he said a short story is like “a kiss in the dark from a stranger.”
That thought stayed with me. It rose to the surface when I wrote my first novel, my second, my third. Every time I put words down, I thought about a stranger’s kiss in the dark. Anticipation and tension, romance and fear, places where bad things happen, places where wonderful things happen unexpectedly—the dark! Of course!
So I asked some of my favorite authors if they wanted to write about things that only happen in the dark—and they said yes.
From a wrong number that might be right to the blue-and-white pill that makes everything bearable, from the backseat of the Night Trolley to the smoky corners of Club Rose, this anthology contains seventeen kisses in the dark, from strangers.
They might scare you, or haunt you, or show you something you’ve never seen before. But these authors are trustworthy, I swear. It’s safe to go into the dark with them, and this is why:
They’re your friends now. They wrote these stories for you.
Jed Miller is a sleepwalker.
I found out the first night I went to his house. I wanted to break his bedroom window into a million pieces. I had a rock and it felt good and heavy in my hand at first but the closer I got to his place, the lighter it became until finally, I was standing on his front lawn and I wasn’t holding anything anymore. It probably would have looked bad to anyone who walked by: me, standing outside Jed Miller’s house, staring at his bedroom window with no rock in my hand to break it. But no one walked by. That’s how late it was.
It was also cold. Fall was giving itself over to winter and I could see my breath on the air. I wouldn’t have known I was alive, otherwise. Ever since my accident, I’d been so empty. I couldn’t feel anything. My parents kept telling me it could change if I just started making the effort, but they were wrong. I think they were wrong. The emptiness had to change on its own, and that night it did. It became an itch.
The itch made me pace for hours. It made me shove my knuckles into my mouth. It made my teeth bite down.
It made me crawl out of my bedroom window.
I had edged over the sill and jumped to the ground without hurting myself. I could have crept down the hall and left through the front door—I had the house key in my pocket for when I got back—but the window seemed right because it was the kind of thing I had done before, and I was trying to remember what that felt like. It was hard. I had to rewind past the Jed parts to do it except when I got past the soundless, fast reverse of him in my head, the tape would stop and if I tried to go back any farther, it was blank.
Once my feet were on the ground, I picked up a rock from our flower bed. I walked the streets with it, trying to make sense of this new feeling invading my bones, disturbing my cells. After months of nothing, it was this scream inside me begging to get out and I had to swallow to keep it down. I didn’t run into anyone else. The whole world seemed dead, and for a moment I really thought it was. I tossed the rock onto the road just to hear something. The clatter of it was too loud and it made me wince.
I should tell the truth; no one will believe me, but I didn’t know I was heading to Jed Miller’s house, not that first time. I was told to stay away from him and I did. And if I didn’t know I was heading to Jed’s house that means I didn’t set out to break his window, either.
It’s just when I got there, I wished I had. Broken his window, that is.
Because I wanted him to see me.
I wanted to see him.
I wasn’t wearing a jacket that first night. I crossed my arms and watched wisps of clouds drift across the sky. They were so faint, the stars shone through them. The moon was close to full and for as late as it was, I could see everything. It was that kind of night. Clear.
Nothing happened until something did.
The front door opened. The subtle click of a lock releasing interrupted the quiet all around me, and the Millers’ front door swung out. I was already still but I made myself go even stiller than that. I stopped breathing.
A boy stepped outside.
It could’ve been anyone. It could’ve been Mr. Miller. It could’ve been Jed’s brother, Erik, but it wasn’t. It was Jed. He stood there and turned his face to me, and it was like a thousand knives carved themselves into my skin. I worried I’d bleed out right there, while we stared at each other, and that would be the end of me.
My lungs hurt. I never thought I’d see him again, face-to-face, even though we lived in the same town, even though the only distance between us was mere streets. I worried he wasn’t happy I was there, that he’d want me to explain myself. I didn’t want to explain. I wanted to ask if he thought about me to see what, if any, emotion flickered across his face when I did.
But before I could, he walked down the stone path leading to the street. He passed me and he kept walking. The shock of it froze me into place. He saw me, but it was like I was so much a part of the landscape, it didn’t matter that I was there. It should have mattered.