The lullaby was written in an old book Eloise found buried beneath the roots of a snowbriar tree, near the far back of the underground museum. Her palms were caked with mud by the time she pulled the book free and slumped back on her heels, holding the book to her tiny chest.
Worms wriggled beneath her feet; bats swung from the ceiling of the museum. But she paid no mind to the dark, crawly things that watched her. She only cared about the book.
She placed it on her lap, legs crossed beneath her, knees muddied, and flipped open the front cover. But the first page was empty. So was the second. She fanned through the pages and found them all blank— only smooth white paper stared back.
Tears welled at the rims of her eyes as she flitted through the pages, desperate, heartbroken. But then, at the very end—at the last page within the book—she found writing. The ink was bold and sharp, still wet, as if it had been pressed to the page only moments ago. But the words were not a magic spell or a curse, as she had hoped.
It was a lullaby. A song sung to babies to help them sleep.
At first, Eloise was angry, and she thought of closing the book, drop- ping it back into the earth and covering it with soil. But she felt a tickle at the back of her throat; her vocal cords beginning to hum the words aloud. And soon she was singing the lullaby with her head craned back, as if she were commanding the stars far above the dark chamber of the museum. She sang the words bright and clear, Let the night woods bury you alive; let the dark swallow you whole. You are not a tonight; you are a stripped of your .
When she climbed back up through the old, crumbling well, the book held carefully in her arms, she stood once again aboveground and watched as dawn inched through the alabaster trees. Night becoming day.
But she was not the same.
Eloise was no longer the heroine of this story—she was something else. She was the dark between tree branches, she was the vile thing that is hidden in corners and low places.
She was the shadow.
Called by a name that would not be spoken, unless you desired to summon her close. To look death in the face. To be changed into some- thing that was not yourself.