"Kids in this neighbourhood actually play outside all the time," she said to her mother, unloading the dishwasher and balancing the phone with her shoulder. "There are so many kids his age, and they all play these complicated pretend games-"
"Like what?" said her mother, who had a healthy distrust of pretending.
"Oh, I don't know. The other day he said they were rounding up cattle. Then they were astronauts. One day they were cave people. You know, cute kid stuff."
There was a brief rustling sound and she looked up to see five children staring at her from the other side of the yard's sliding door.
"Oh my goodness, mom! They're all here and wanting snacks! I didn't even hear them come into the yard! Talk to you later!' and she hung up without regret on her mother and let the silent children into the kitchen for cheese and crackers.
"Everything all right, Austin?" she asked. Her child looked up at her, startled. "I thought I heard you guys singing down the street earlier. Was that you and your friends?"
Austin looked cautiously at his friends. The little girl in pink - the one she had decided was the bossy one - nodded her head slightly at him, an oddly adult gesture in a six year old girl.
"Yes mom," Austin said. "We were singing and playing a game. Everything is fine."
He had a screaming nightmare that night, clutching his mother with terrified hands when she ran into his room.
"Austin, baby," his mom said, smoothing back his damp hair. "What's going on? Why are you so scared?"
He pressed his face into her shoulder and then smiled up at her. "Nothing, mommy! Just a bad dream."
"Have you met the other parents?" her mother said, sharply, on the phone the next afternoon.
"Mom, come ON," she said. "This is a nice neighbourhood. I'm sure they're all fine. But something is definitely bothering him."
"Have you tried WATCHING what's going on?" her mother said. "Something is frightening him."
When she ended the phone call, she had a knot of tight worry in her stomach. "I will not be my mother," she said to herself, but found herself silently leaving the house anyhow and walking down the tree-lined quiet sidewalk of her new street where nothing bad could ever happen, following the sound of children's singing voices.
It was, as she got closer, not quite a song. Not quite English, she thought to herself, as she quietly walked across a stranger's yard to peer over the fence and saw her son and a group of other children dancing, she supposed, until the dancing took a new shape and strange lights flickered in the yard and one by one the children flickered and were gone.