“Moooooom!” Jack’s screamed as his feet stomped down the hallway past my door.
I turned over and took a look at the clock.
I’ve barely been asleep for a half hour. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I heard mom complaining to my little brother, “We already checked. There’s no monster under your bed.”
“But I felt the blankets! It’s tugging on my blanket. It stole my dino plush too!”
“Honey, go back to bed,” mom said, and that was the end of that.
Jack shuffled down the hallway, and I saw his shadow stop at my door. Before he could knock, I flung open the door. Jack jumped back, rubbing his wrist nervously and sniffling. “Amy?”
“I told you to keep the dino on your bed,” I hissed. “He protects you. Dad told me so.”
“I tried,” Jack whined. “That thing stole it when it took my blanket.”
I shouldn’t have faulted Jack. For a five-year-old, he was doing well. Dad knew mom would never believe him or us, so she thought this was all in our heads. We’re kids. We make up stories, right? Every kid thinks there’s a monster under their bed or in the closet.
But dad says only a few people can see the monsters.
I grabbed a flashlight and followed Jack to his room as silently as possible. If mom came out, she’d yell at me for ‘feeding into Jack’s over-active imagination’ or something equally as dumb.
Jack’s room was surprisingly clean for a 5-year-old, but it was that or lose toys to it. Dad said he doesn't know what happens to the toys if those things eat them or just collect them like dragons collect shiny jewels and gold in stories. Maybe each monster is different.
Making sure not to get too close to the bed, I got down on my hands and knees and turned on the flashlight. Even under Jack’s bed, there were mostly boxes, a couple of stray socks, and a sneaker that looked gnawed at the toe.
A patter of feet and a shadow moved past the bed to the dresser.
“Fast thing, isn’t it?” I grumbled. “Wish dad wasn’t on a business trip.”
I hauled myself up and went over to his closet. I kicked the door closed and wedged the desk chair under the handle.
Standing tall, I announced in a loud whisper, “Give back the blanket and dinosaur plush, or I’m bringing reinforcements.”
Jack waited at the door, squeezing his hands into tight fists.
Another quick patter of feet or hands or something and even a creepy giggle echoed in the room. Jack jumped back, ready to bolt again.
“Fine,” I hissed. “You asked for it.” At the door, I handed the flashlight to Jack. “Point it in the room wherever you hear the giggle. He’s in for a world of hurt.”
Mess with my brother?
I threw open my door and fell hard on the floor, staring under my bed now. Clothes and plushies littered the floor, and some pooled under my bed in a chaotic mess.
I waited for the shadow to move. “Hey, we got a problem.” The shadow moved again in response. “Dad’s out of town, remember. Come on. I’ll grab you a few cookies; just take care of whoever’s in Jack-Jack’s room.”
It didn’t take long for a response. A specific shadow slithered out from under my bed. He never liked the light, but cookies could coax him into the bright hallway. I called him Specter. Most of the time, he wasn’t clear. A formless shadow under my bed. He’d only scared me once when I first met him. To any kid, the clawing and scraping sound in the middle of the night would cause nightmares. But dad said he was probably lonely and trying to wake me up to make a friend.
I’m not really sure what Specter looks like. He changes, though most of the time, he’s small. A black figure, almost like a cat hiding under my bed. A kind of shapeless cat that wanted cookies and sweets. But he could shift, like now. Specter stood up to the ceiling, ducking the hallway light as his dark form moved down the hallway. Jack moved to the side, gaping at Specter.
I touched my finger to my lips, making sure Jack didn’t scream. “Don’t wake mom! Specter will take care of it.” I whispered, then turned back to Jack’s room. “Last chance. Give it back, or Specter here will earn his cookies.”
Jack handed me the flashlight again. I wished I could see them more clearly, but dad said it would give me nightmares.
Specter rushed to the bed, the dresser bumped, and a few toy dinosaurs fell to the floor.
“What’s Specter going to do? Is he going to…?” Jack knew the word but hated saying it.
“No, he’s just going to scare him away. I don’t think this one wants to be friends like Specter.”
The desk crashed into the wall, so I decided to shut off the hallway light, step inside Jack’s room and close the door. Jack huddled close to me. The closet door slammed shut, and I felt Specter come closer.
“Hope mom is still asleep,” I mumbled.
“Is it gone?” Jack asked, glancing down at Specter.
Specter didn’t really make noise or talk, but he rubbed against Jack’s leg next.
“Yeah, I think so. Want to run down and get the cookies? You owe Specter.”
Bending down, Jack patted Specter on the head and beamed. “Two for you, two for me?”
Specter stood on two legs, stretching towards Jack’s hand belly, and pawed at him, sending Jack into a flurry of giggles.
“Ok, three cookies. Be right back!” Jack ran downstairs as I moved around and started picking up the toys that fell.
As I passed the closet door, something banged the door. Specter arched his back and started to grow, but the scuttling in the closet faded.
I opened the closet and at my feet was Jack’s dinosaur plush and a scrap of Jack’s favorite blanket. Specter came and sniffed at the items, grabbed them, and hopped onto Jack’s bed.
“Why don’t you stay the night under Jack’s bed,” I said. “Keep him company. That was pretty scary for him.”
Specter hopped off and made himself comfortable under Jack’s bed in the shadows.
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What a fun story!