THEY ONLY COME OUT AT NIGHT – a sci-fi short story

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     “And hello there lovely and loyal listeners and all those not listening as well, I’m not proud and I make no distinction. This is Bobby Morgan, the Doctor of long ago and far away, reaching out and touching you, touching you, but only respectfully. I’m ready to put the lime in the coconut for you to drink it all up, because I’ve got everything to cure what ails you at the flick of a switch. We are starting the final hour of the Doc Bobby show and we’ll keep on playing all the oldies but goodies ‘til the devil goes down to Georgia. So everyone out there, there’s still time to make a request, so Ricky do not lose that number, but give me a call. If I got it, I’ll play it and dedicate it to the one you love, if you are so inclined. In fact, up next are the Mamas and the Papas with Lowman Pauling and Ralph Bass’s cool melody of that very name.”
     Robert “Doctor Bobby” Morgan, a pretty average fellow by all accounts, a bit more rotund than he would care to be, with a not unremarkable beard to match his lumberjack chic manner of dress, hit a switch and leaned back, feet on the console, hands intertwined behind his back, and listened to the rich harmony wafting over the speakers, voices from the past that somehow still spoke to the present inside of him. He closed his eyes and let himself drift off to another time and place, floating on some sort of Zen cloud.
     About halfway through he opened his eyes and looked at the phone, as if willing it to ring. When it didn’t, he closed his eyes and floated again.

The song ended and still the phone did not ring so the Doctor, sometimes called the Doc, sometimes Doctor Bob, sometimes Doctor Bobby, put on another song, this time Country Roads by Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert and John Denver, whose soaring tenor gave the lyrics and music such a melancholy, nostalgic feel that the Doctor had to stop himself from crying. At least no one was around to see me almost make a spectacle of myself, he thought. And then he realized how stupid that sounded so instead he began a new song and then another and another until it came on twelve o’clock and still no one had called.

“And so my listeners and those who aren’t,“ he continued in his special mellow radio voice, “it is now the Midnight Hour. The party’s over and it’s time to call it a day. So until six tomorrow evening, this is the Doc, or Doctor Bob or Bobby, call me what you April come she will except late to dinner, playing all your favorites songs from yesterday when all my troubles seemed so far away, and as usual, I will conclude with that Beatles classic.”

He played the song as he cleaned up the booth, throwing away the trash, putting all the music away, making everything perfect. As the song came to an end, he looked at the phone once more, picked up his coffee cup which said “Jesus is coming, look busy”, and left the room, mechanically flipping off the light as he did, his shoulders sagging more than a bit.

Once in the hall, he was met by a silence that seemed so at odds with the music that was playing. The only noise he could hear was the slightly unnerving hum of five deep freezers that crowded a room he passed. He halted a moment, then went in and opened the closest one and took out a sirloin steak. When he came to a kitchen, he placed it in the sink to thaw. He emptied his cup of coffee, rinsed it out, and set it on the counter. He then prepared a Cup of Noodles and grabbed a couple of beers from the refrigerator.

His last stop was the green room, but as he walked down the hall, he stepped inside a room with several monitors connected to cameras that watched the outside. There he observed his outward domain a second, hoping maybe, but not really, then sighed and continued on. Inside the green room was the largest flat screen television set that could possibly fit in a space this size. The Doc chose a movie from an endless stack of discs crowded onto bookshelves covering two and nearly three walls. It was Duck Soup this time, his favorite Marx Brother. He sat down on a lounger, pulled a lever and laid back, and began to eat, starting the movie.

He did everything he did as a routine set of reoccurring motions, without thinking, without any emotion. One could almost feel the vestige of a character in a Greek tragedy, someone punished for doing something that was his fault, though he was really innocent in many ways.


The Doc awoke eight hours later, almost jumped up from his slumber as if he heard something. But of course, there was nothing to hear…except the hum of freezers.

He got ready for the day. He didn’t change his clothes. That would come later, when he returned. First, he made himself an omelet with cheese, tomatoes and mushrooms; he added mushrooms to everything.

When breakfast was over with and he had cleaned up, he went to the front room. From the top of a desk by the entry door he grabbed some empty bags and a plastic bottle for water and put them in a supermarket cart along with a half empty bag of chicken feed. He also added a rifle. Just before he left, he got an Ipod he kept plugged in by the huge picture window that gave a view of the country and city below…or it would if the curtain was opened. But the curtain was never open.

The Doc put on some ear buds, turned on the Ipod to some Edith Piaf, why not, he thought. Next he put on a sun hat, and struggled a little to get the cart outside, leaving the door unlocked. He always left it that way, though it was made of a strong metal with all sorts of locks and bolts. A long time ago, before even the Doc was at the station, there had been some…security issues. But now…

As he stood outside, the radio station with its huge tower displaying the call letters WKLM, towered behind him. The building was painted all white and was flaking a bit (the Doc thought it might be time to get some paint…or maybe not). It was two stories high, with a basement whose small, dirty window could barely be seen (“Why are basement windows always dirty” the Doc use to think until he gave up cleaning them because it was too much trouble and thereby answered his own question). All the other windows had bars on them except for the large picture one at the front which was made of unbreakable glass…the same security issues.

Before the Doc went down toward the city, he took the bag of feed and went behind the station where he had a chicken coop set up. The birds seemed impatient waiting to be fed. The Doc couldn’t blame them and strew the ground with corn. They all rushed to eat, completely ignoring the one who had fed him.

The Doc then went back to the cart and headed into town.


It was a pretty standard day. It was so quiet, all he could hear was the squeaking of the cart’s wheels. Some birds sung and he saw a rat or two. But nothing out of the ordinary.

There wasn’t very much he needed, and it was awfully hot so he was glad he’d be back to the air conditioning sooner than usual. He stopped by a store and got some spices he needed. He dumped a few canned goods inside as well; it never hurts to have more and you can never have too much fish. He also checked that the store’s freezer was still working, and it was as usual. He stayed inside it a few moments to cool off, then filled a bottle with water, picked up some snacks, some beer and wine and several Cup of Noodles and left.

Next he did what was the most significant part of his day. He stopped by a few community gardens and got some tomatoes and lettuce and other vegetables. He thought he should plan a trip to an orchard not far away and see if there was some good fruit. That was always a bit of a chore, but he could bike there. He also did some weeding and watering, but began to feel the heat again and thought maybe of heading back.

As he left the last community garden he suddenly heard a noise, like a trash can being turned over. He took out his rifle. A wolf calmly turned a corner and stopped upon seeing a man with a gun. There was a slight stand off. When the Doc shot above the wolf’s head, the animal quickly ran away.

He made two more stops, one at a house where the inside was dank and dark and mushrooms grew everywhere. The Doc loved to add mushrooms to everything, so he took a few. Then he came upon a house he had never entered before. Inside he looked through the book and DVD collection. There were a few that interested him, so he dumped them in the cart and headed back to the station.

Once there, he put everything away. Then he prepared his lunch, a simple tuna sandwich, filled a small cooler with ice and beers, grabbed a book, his Ipod and went onto the roof. He sat in one of those plastic chairs one fills with air that lost their popularity almost before the Doc was born, but could still be found, adjusted the large umbrella to keep off the sun, and began to read while listening to music.

A number of hours later, he woke from a nap and took everything inside. He collected some eggs from the coop, but cooked the steak and baked a potato for dinner. He then cleaned the station until it was nearly six o’clock, took a quick shower and changed clothes, and it was time for his show. He went into the booth, set everything up and began.

“And welcome once again all my fans and those who aren’t. It’s time again for Golden Oldies with Doctor Bobby under a starry, starry night. This is a full request show, so call in and let me know what you want to hear and if I have it, I’ll play it. Tonight, tonight, to start it all off, I will play for you, my fans and those who aren’t, one of my personal favorites, Ewan McCall’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ as sung by the late, great Roberta Flack.”

Then, as the soothing and aching voice filled the airwaves, the Doc looked at the phone and waited.

And that was a typical day for the Doc.


His week continued on with only relatively minor variations. Today he stopped by the library to exchange some books. He didn’t keep many at the station. They took up so much room and he didn’t read them as quickly as he watched films and television series. And he rarely reread them, but he could watch his shows over and over again.

As he left the building with a Dickens and a King, nothing like a good horror story when you’re living alone, he leisurely made his way down the main street, the wheels of the cart still squeaking rhythmically along, passing a small side street. He glanced down out of habit and kept going. But then he stopped. He stopped and slowly walked backwards with his cart and stopped again.

He didn’t really know what to do. He saw what he saw, but still, did he see what he was seeing.

Down the road he peered and there, about thirty feet away, was…a little girl. Perhaps eight or ten. She sat calmly on the street, quietly playing with a doll, as if the Doc didn’t exist or that she didn’t care if he did or not. Her face was grimy, her blonde hair ratty, her clothes ragged and torn, covered in dirt, her tennis shoes falling apart. And she just sat there.

The Doc slowly approached her. When his shadow covered her, she looked up and stopped what she was doing. She clasped the doll closer to her, as if frightened this new man might take it away from her. She has such large eyes, thought the Doc. Why do kids always have such large eyes?

After a moment the Doc bent over a bit to get a little closer to the child and said, “Well, hello, there. What’s your name?”

But the little girl said nothing, just grasped the doll closer and stared at the Doc. The Doc stood up straight and looked around, looking for something, but not really knowing what. But then he saw him.

About twenty yards back and at the side of the road was a body, a man, about the Doc’s age, maybe a little older. His clothes were as dirty and torn as the little girl’s, his face as grimy. He wasn’t moving so the Doc went to him. He was definitely dead, even the Doc could tell that. But it was the way he was dead that both fascinated and alarmed the DJ. It was like the man’s chest and stomach had exploded from the inside. Flies were swarming over his body and the smell of decay was filling the air.

The Doc wasn’t sure what to do next. What does one do in a situation like this? What kind of situation was this anyway? He was frozen in indecision and he simply didn’t know how to react. And then the little girl spoke, and spoke very calmly and even with disinterest as she returned to playing with her doll.

“They only come out at night.”

“What?” the Doc asked.

The little girl just took a breath, shrugged her shoulder and repeated herself. “They only come out at night.”

“Who only comes out at night?” But the little girl said nothing.

After a moment, the Doc dragged the dead body off the street where it couldn’t be seen anymore. He then went back to the little girl who again shrunk away from him and grasped the doll tightly.

“It’s okay,” he said gently. “I’m not going to hurt you. Are you hungry?” and he opened a bag of potato chips and held them out to her. The little girl didn’t take them so the Doc laid them on the ground by her. When he backed away, the girl grabbed the bag and stuffed the chips inside her mouth and pretended to give one to her doll.

After watching her a moment, the Doc said, “Would you like to come with me?”

The little girl didn’t say anything and when the Doc stepped toward her she pulled away. So the Doc went back to his cart and said, “Well, come along then if you want,” and Doc starting walking away. A few seconds later, the girl stood up and followed him, ignoring him as she did.


Not long after, the Doc was pushing the cart with the little girl sitting in the kiddy seat, though she was still ignoring this man with a bushy beard. When he was passing a Target, he stopped. He looked at the store, then looked at the girl.

“How about some new clothes, huh?”

The little girl just raised her arms and the Doc lifted her out of the seat. “Do you have a name, yet,” he asked her as he put her on the ground. But still she didn’t say anything. “Guess not,” he said and held out his hand. This time she took it and followed him into the store.

It was dark and cool inside. The lights were off, but there was more than enough from the outside for the two to find the children’s department. The Doc grabbed a shopping basket on the way.

.  “See anything you like?” the Doc asked. The girl looked, but said nothing and started looking around the store. The Doc chose a couple of dresses and pants and held them against her. “Close enough,” he shrugged and threw them into the basket. “Shoes next,” and he headed down another aisle, the girl following.

At the shoe department he selected a few different kinds. “If they don’t fit, we can always come back. Nothing to stop us from exchanging them as often as we like”, but when he looked the girl wasn’t there. Panicked, he quickly ran back the way he came and down an aisle he saw the girl staring at something. When he got to her, the Doc saw what she was looking at. It was a tea set. Beige and plastic and cheap looking, but the girl couldn’t look away.

“You want that?” he asked and the girl shrugged. The Doc took it off the shelf. “Well, let’s see if we can afford it.” He glanced at the price as the girl seemed to hold her breath. “Yeah, sure we can,” and he put the set in the basket. He then saw something not far away and he grabbed it. It was a doll’s dress, sweet and flowing. “Maybe your doll would like some new clothes, too?”

“I think it’s time to go home and get something to eat, don’t you?” and she took his hand. As they walked out, the Doc saw a plastic boat, twice as big as the girl. He grabbed it. “We might need this. All I have is a shower.”

And they left the store.


A little while later, the Doc was making a dinner of macaroni and cheese while the little girl finished taking a bath in the oversized boat, her dolly getting clean with her as well. Beside her on a chair were some of her new clothes. She seemed to be playing some sort of game with her doll, something of her own making that children often play.

After that, she and the Doc sat at a table eating their dinner. Both the girl and the doll were in their new clothes, their faces clean and their hair combed. No one spoke. What would they say? The girl talked to her dolly, but in tones so low the Doc couldn’t understand her. And she pretended to feed her doll as well. The Doc felt some tears forming, but he caught himself before the girl could notice.

As they finished, the Doc said, “Well, it’s almost show time, hm?” The little girl looked at him, not really understanding, then returned to play with her doll. The Doc picked up the plates and carried them to the sink. He left the room, followed by the girl. He stopped by the front room and hesitated a second, then opened the curtains of the picture window with an almost dramatic flair. He took a look at the sun going down, a long look, as if catching his breath after a run.

When he saw that the little girl was standing by him, he picked her up and they looked out together. But after a moment the little girl pointed at the door.

“What?” the Doc asked. But the little girl just kept pointing. Then the Doc realized she was pointing at one of the locks. “You want me to lock the door?” he asked and the girl kept pointing. “There’s not really a point. There’s no one…”, but she kept pointing and pointing, so the Doc locked and bolted the door. With that, the girl sank her head into the Doc’s chest as they returned to the window and continued looking at nothing and everything. And then he closed it.

Another day gone.


The Doc whistled to himself as he set up the booth for the night. He had energy he hadn’t had for ages, it seemed, and he even danced a little about the room as he grabbed certain discs. The little girl was sitting peacefully on the floor having tea with her doll. The Doc motioned to her and when she looked up, he juggled a few of the discs. When he finished, he waited for a response, but the girl went back to her tea party.

“Hm, tough crowd, tonight,” he said as he sat down and reached for the buttons to start his show. He flipped a switch in an over the top way and leaned into the microphone. “Hello to all my listeners. It’s Doctor Bobby, or the Doc if you are so inclined, coming at you again from WKLM, ready to play you some oldies, but goodies. I have a feeling about tonight, my friends. Tonight, there is something special in the air. And to begin, I have something different, something old, but something even I have never played before. So here were go with, believe it or not, Thank Heaven for Little Girls, sung by the great French chanteuse, Maurice Chevalier.”

A flip was switched and a Gallic accent soon floated like feathers through the loudspeaker. The Doc leaned back into the microphone. “Tonight, as always, is an all request show. You request it, if I’ve got it, I’ll play it.” And he gave out the number and leaned back, feet on console, hands behind his back.

But then…but then the phone rang.

The Doc slowly lowered his feet to the ground and stared at the blinking light and listened to the buzzing tone. Could it be? Finally? He looked at the little girl, but she played on as it hadn’t rung at all.

He suddenly rushed for the headset like a life preserver and put it on and pressed the button. “Yes? WKLM, your request is my command.”

But there was nothing there, only static, no voices, no sounds, just the static. The Doc finally hung up, but couldn’t stop staring at the phone. He looked at the little girl, who only looked at her tea set and doll. Then the phone rang again. When he answered, this time he said nothing at first. After a few seconds of static, he whispered, “Who is this? Please, talk to me.”

Then the little girl spoke. “They only come at night.”

The Doc looked at her, not wanting to ask, but knew he had to. “Who? Who only come at night?”

The little girl shrugged her shoulders and sighed. “They.”

After slowly hanging up, the Doc didn’t move. But his head suddenly jerked up as he heard a…noise. A noise? He listened and it seemed to be…he left the booth and went to the front. The doorknob was being turned, jiggled, someone was there, someone was…the Doc almost tiptoed to the door and as he reached for the lock, behind him he heard a shriek. He turned to see the little girl screaming and screaming and pointing at the door.

The Doc pulled his hand away as if there might be a backdraft on the other side. The little girl stopped shrieking, but then whatever was at the door started to hit against it, and the Doc could see the door jamb shake a little. Panicking, not really knowing why he was doing it, he took the desk and pulled it in front of the door, then piled it high with whatever he could find.

When he was done, he slowly backed away, staring at the sounds coming from the outside. Suddenly he turned and ran to the room with the security cameras. And there he saw…them, or something, he couldn’t quite tell what they were, shapes, but shapes that twisted and almost floated and seemed to turn solid then not, that seemed almost corporeal, then morphed into a vague opaqueness. They were like static on a radio or television set that came and went with a bad connection. But then they were corporeal, they banged against the door. When vague and opaque, they floated almost with a tornado like intensity.

The Doc couldn’t tell exactly how many there were. He went to the front window and peaked out through the curtains. He still couldn’t tell the number, but he could tell there were too many, too many not to do something.

At the back came a noise, like at the front, like someone trying to break through. He ran past the little girl who just stood there clutching her doll and staring at the door. The Doc stopped and ran back to her, picking her up and hugging her closely. He ran with her saying, “It’s going to be all right, it’s going to be all right…” over and over again.

He put her in the room with the freezers, but she kept whimpering and pointing down the hall. Her doll, she had dropped her doll. He grabbed it for her then pushed her inside and closed the door. As he ran to the back, he picked up his rifle and found some more shells. When he reached the back exit, again someone was hitting against the door. It was made of the same material as the front. It hadn’t been opened in years and almost seemed rusted shut, but the Doc stacked whatever he could against it.

He ran back to the room with the security cameras and looked. Were there more? He couldn’t tell. But what was he going to do? Is there anything he could do? Then he suddenly looked up. Holding onto his rifle and shells, he ran to the second floor and to the ladder that led to the roof. He climbed quickly and pushed through the door and climbed out.

Stealthily he moved to the roof. He looked down and then shot one of the opaque figures, but nothing happened. It still twisted and turned. Then he shot another opaque one and again nothing happened. Then he shot a corporeal one and it exploded like glass, shard like pieces flying everywhere.

Now he knew how to stop them and he continued shooting one after another. But there were more and more and now they knew he was on the roof. They turned and starting climbing the metal ladder. At first, the Doc was able to keep them at bay, but they were slowly making their way up and the Doc couldn’t hold them back.

He ran back to the roof door and climbed down, locking the door just in time, just as they reached it. He climbed down, they couldn’t seem to open the door, so he caught his breath and then ran back to the first floor to check on the little girl. But as he passed the door to the basement he heard glass break. It was dark at the bottom of the stairs. Still, there they were, making their way in. He shot a few and when he realized he couldn’t stop them all, he shut the door and hurried to the room with the freezers.

Inside, the little girl was sitting there, very still, afraid, terrified. The Doc slammed the door shut, locked it and then moved a freezer in front of it. He grabbed the little girl and his gun and backed up against the newly made barricade and closed his eyes, closed his eyes and prayed.

The forms were at the door trying to get through, but the freezer with the Doc pushing against it, held firm and the two just waited.

It seemed like hours, but before long, whatever they were, they seemed to give up. There was no more pounding or pushing on the door. But the Doc didn’t move. No one moved. They just waited.


Then it was morning. The Doc woke up. Somewhere, somehow during the night he had fallen asleep. He got his bearings and saw the little girl fully awake, playing with her doll as if nothing had happened. He managed to stand up and look at the door. No sound, nothing. Picking up his gun, he slowing moved the freezer and very hesitantly unlocked the door. The little girl made no sound.

The Doc opened the door and peaked through. The hallway was calm, nothing was there, it was all stillness. The Doc slowly went down the hall, poked the gun into basement, but again all was stillness. When he reached the front room, he carefully looked out the front window. Nothing. It was a calm beautiful morning, like every other morning.

Finally the Doc moved everything from in front of the entrance and unlocked and went outside. Nothing. Nothing as far as he could see. He kept looking until he turned and saw the little girl in the doorway with her doll. She spoke.

“They only come out at night.”

“Yeah?”, he asked, still looking around. The little girl only nodded. Then the Doc said, “Well, in that case, tonight we’ll be better prepared, won’t we?”

The little girl didn’t respond, but that was all right, the Doc thought. There was plenty of time now. He went back inside briefly and came out with the feed. Reaching out his hand, “Would you like to help me feed the chickens?”

She paused, then had a quick whispered conversation with the doll and looked up at the Doc. “She wants to know if she can help, too?”

“She certainly can. It wouldn’t be the same without her. So do you have a name yet?”

“Emily,” the little girl said and with that, she took the Doc’s hand and they begin walking back beind the building.

So tell me what you think.

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