Jamie Green grew up in a house full of monsters. Her dad drew them for comic books and his office was littered with sketches of fanged, nightmarish creatures. It might have been cool, having a comic writer for a dad. But Tom believed monsters were real, and that one had taken his sister when they were children. It grew to a point of obsession, which is why Jamie’s mom wasn’t around anymore. But Jamie stayed. She hoped she could one day convince him to go back to therapy and tackle the real monsters: the grief he felt about losing his little sister.
“Dad, I brought you some breakfast.” Jamie knocked on the partially open door to his office, nudging the door open further. Tom was hunched over his desk, his brow furrowed in deep concentration as he sketched. Jamie made her way over and nudged some notebooks out of the way to make room for the plate of eggs and sausage she was carrying.
“Breakfast,” she repeated. A faint mumble was her only reply. Jamie rolled her eyes and picked up a sausage link, practically smacking him in the face with it. He seemed comically dazed as he finally looked up from his drawing.
“Jamie, I’m working,” he said. “Did you just hit me with a sausage?”
“Yes. I don’t know if you’re aware, but human beings need this thing called food in order to stay alive.”
Tom shot her a mildly exasperated look, but he finally took the plate and started eating. Satisfied that she’d kept him from starving to death, she left his office and went back to her own room. She was seventeen but the creepy monster drawings still made a chill skitter down her spine. Lately he’d begun drawing the same one over and over again; the one he believed had stolen his sister. He called it the Shadow Eater.
Jamie flopped on her bed, putting on her headphones and picking up the Jane Austen book she was reading for school. Her dad being so focused on his monsters meant she was left to her own devices most days. She figured if she could finish her assigned reading tonight, she might be able to drag Tom out of the house tomorrow. She couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually dragged himself away from the secluded house. She wondered sometimes if their relative isolation here on the outskirts of a small Maine town didn’t contribute to her father’s delusions.
Mr. Darcy was professing his love to Lizzie Bennett when the lights flickered ominously, then went out. Jamie groaned, tugging her headphones off.
“Dad?” she called. “Can you check the breaker again?”
She scooted out of bed, trying to feel her way to the door. She didn’t realize it had gotten so late; her room was pitch black. She reached the door and frowned, realizing there was a tiny strip of light at the bottom. Did the power only go out in her room? That was strange. She turned the knob but the door wouldn’t open. Jamie shoved her shoulder against it but still the door didn’t budge.
“What the hell?” she muttered. Then she heard the sound. Like someone was scraping long fingernails against the floorboards of her room. Jamie spun around, but her eyes didn’t seem to be adjusting at all to the thick darkness. She couldn’t see anything; even her window seemed shrouded in shadow. But the noise continued. Tap, tap, scrape. Tap, tap, scrape. Tap. Tap. Thud.
Jamie shrieked as her bed moved. She had her doorknob in a death grip, frantically trying to rip the door open. Jamie had never been scared of the dark, but she was suddenly desperate to reach the comforting light on the other side of her door. The awful scraping noise was faster and louder now and Jamie’s heart was pounding with such force she worried her ribs would crack. She realized she was whispering the word please over and over as she yanked helplessly at the door. The scraping was getting closer, and when she whipped around a flash of glowing green appeared in the middle of her room. Something oily and wet touched her arm and Jamie screamed.
Abruptly the door swung open and Jamie fell backwards into the hall. She banged her elbows on the floor but barely even noticed. She was shaking so hard her teeth chattered. Once the door opened, the lights in her room came back on and everything appeared normal again.
“Jamie, are you okay?” Tom knelt to help her to her feet, and she felt like a little kid again. She hugged him tightly; it had been a while since she’d done that.
“I…I guess I fell asleep while I was reading, and I had a bad dream. And then I couldn’t get my door open so I panicked.”
She tried to convince her shaking hands and frantic heart that that’s what must have happened. She did not see a monster that crawled out from under her bed, because that was impossible. It must have been a dream. Her heart called bullshit. Tom looked skeptical of her story too, but to her relief he said nothing. He glanced briefly into her room, then forced a smile.
“Why don’t you come downstairs, and I’ll make some spaghetti?” he suggested. Jamie managed a weak nod. He had always made her spaghetti to cheer her up when she was little. She had almost assumed he’d forgotten about her comfort food. They’d been walking around the house practically like strangers for so long.
“I’ll be down in a minute,” she promised. When he was gone, she stood in the hall and stared into her room. Realizing that she was afraid to go inside, she squared her shoulders. It had been some kind of dream, that was all. She forced her feet into the room and over to the bed. Nothing happened. The lights didn’t flicker and nothing reached out to grab her. In an effort to prove to herself beyond all doubt that nothing had happened, she knelt beside the bed and lifted the edge of her blanket.
And there, beneath her bed, were jagged gauges in the floor.
Jamie said nothing to her father about the alleged monster for a week. She worried what effect it would have on him, and she worried that maybe she was going crazy. Maybe her father’s delusions were genetic. But every day she checked again, and the claw marks beneath her bed were still there. That was no delusion, and nightmares didn’t have claws.
Jamie lay awake in bed on Friday night, her bedside lamp still on despite it being midnight. Even as a child Jamie had never slept with a nightlight. She felt like an idiot sleeping with one now, but the memory of that scraping sound and the feel of something unnatural touching her arm stopped her from turning it off. And the worst of it was the glowing green eyes. Because Tom drew a creature like that. His sketches of the Shadow Eater depicted a monster made of darkness, with claws like butcher knives and eyes that glowed like toxic waste.
Deciding that maybe her father’s wild imaginings were less wild and less imagined than she’d always thought, Jamie swung her legs out of bed and got up. She knew Tom would still be working in his office. She had just twisted the knob and begun to open her door when the room was plunged into darkness. The most primal part of Jamie’s brain knew that a predator was approaching and urged her to bolt from the room. From the house. Run all the way to the edge of town and then keep running.
But this time the monster didn’t seem as interested in toying with her. Jamie had gotten one foot over the threshold when she felt that awful wet sensation again, this time around her ankle. She was yanked off her feet, banging her chin on the floor before being dragged straight towards the bed. She kicked like an angry mule and screamed for Tom. She fought to roll onto her back, seeing those glowing green eyes watching her from under the bed.
“Let’s play, Jamie.” The voice made her feel like snakes and bugs were writhing across her skin. It rasped and echoed and seemed to overlap on itself; like it wasn’t one voice at all, but dozens. Jamie grabbed onto the edge of her bed, trying to pry herself from the thing’s grip. She realized that it wasn’t actually grabbing her with its hands, but instead a thick mass coming from its mouth, like a slobbering tongue. She felt queasy. As she held onto her bed in a death grip, her phone fell next to her. She’d left it resting on her comforter when she got up.
Letting go of the bed seemed like suicide but she scrabbled for the phone, clicking on the flashlight and shining it under the bed. The monster hissed, the grip on her ankle loosening slightly. Jamie kicked and flailed herself free, scooting away from the bed and brandishing the phone like it was a sword.
“You're such a cliche,” she said, despite her knees trembling like water. “Big bad monster is scared of light.”
“We do not know fear,” the voices rasped angrily. “We are fear.”
“Good to know,” Jamie grumbled. She clutched her phone for dear life, seeing the monster’s dark body shifting restlessly as she tried to make a dash for her open door. She nearly crumpled with relief when Tom appeared.
“Hello, Tommy.” The monster dragged itself out from under Jamie’s bed, glowing eyes fixed on Tom. Jamie had the sense that the shadows of its face were splitting into a gruesome smile, oil-dark teeth filling its mouth like a shark’s.
“We’ve been waiting to see you again, Tommy. The one who got away. Jessica is with us. She misses you.” The voice shifted, taking on the higher pitched quality of a little girl but still with that dry-bones rasp.
“Tommy, why didn’t you save me?” it mocked. “You got away from the monster, but it took me. You let it take me. And now it’s coming to take Jamie.”
“Like Hell.” Tom grabbed Jamie’s arm and shoved her behind him. She staggered into the doorway.
“Daddy, come on,” she begged.
“Dad, no. I’m not leaving you here.”
Tom turned to her, calmly putting a hand on her shoulder and pushing her into the hallway. The monster watched, and then that horrible tentacle slithered out of its black mouth, wrapping around Tom’s waist and dragging him back. Jamie lunged forward with a choked sob, but her dad kicked the door shut and she stumbled back again. She could hear the Shadow Eater dragging him across the room.
“Fuck this,” Jamie said. She dropped her phone and raced downstairs, yanking open a drawer and digging frantically for matches. She gripped the box in her hand and made her way to the fireplace in the living room. There were two old logs sitting in a pile beside it. She heard a bang upstairs, like her bedroom door had flown open. Darkness began to creep down the stairs, all the lights extinguishing one by one as the monster came looking for her.
“I’m in here,” she said, her voice shaky with nerves. It didn’t help that her stomach had sunk into her feet and her heart had jackhammered its way into her throat, as if it were trying to escape. She didn’t blame it. The house descended into pitch black.
“Jamie. Come join your daddy.” The shifting mass of shadow and glowing green came into view, and Jamie could see that it was trying to absorb Tom. He was partially trapped inside the darkness, trying to claw his way free. Jamie held a match in one hand and the box in the other, preparing to strike.
“Come and get me, then,” she challenged. The thing dropped into a crouch, her father sticking out of its side, shouting at her to run. The monster dragged itself toward Jamie with its claws, moving at an alarming speed. Its body slithered and undulated like a fat snake, and its mouth stretched so wide it could probably swallow her in one gulp. Jamie struck the match and threw it into the fireplace. The dry logs went up in flames and the monster hissed, pausing and shifting restlessly.
Jamie grabbed a cushion off the couch, stuffing it into the flames and letting it ignite. Then she ran straight at the monster, thrusting the flaming cushion against its body. The howl that tore out of its gaping mouth threatened to shatter her ear drums. Fetid breath cold as a January night hit her square in the face and she gagged, staggering back. The creature was so distracted by the pain and fury that Jamie was able to grab Tom’s hands and help pull him from the thing’s clutches. He fell in a heap, his veins tinged black beneath his skin.
The monster wheeled away from the fire, streaking away up the stairs. A few moments later, the lights came back on. The charred cushion sat smoking on the floor while Jamie sat huddled beside Tom, who was flat on his back with his eyes closed.
“Dad? Are you okay? If you’re dead you have to tell me.”
“I’m alive,” he croaked and she burst into tears. He sat up, looking pale and dazed, and pulled her into a hug.
“Is it dead?” she mumbled into his shirt.
“No, I don’t think so.”
Jamie sat back, wiping at her eyes. She noticed the darkness under his skin was receding, which she hoped was a good sign. They sat there on the floor for a while, the only sound the crackling of the fire.
“I’m sorry I didn’t believe you,” Jamie said finally.
“I didn’t really expect you to. Who could believe something like that?”
“It’s going to hunt us now, isn’t it?”
Tom glanced at her, the dazed look replaced now with solemnity. “I don’t know for sure, Jaybird, but it seems possible.”
Jamie’s gaze moved upward, picturing that thing lurking beneath her bed. Screw the nightlight. She’d set up a floodlight in the backyard. Maybe sleep with a flamethrower, too.
“I know it’s late, but do you think we could make some spaghetti?”
Tom’s face broke into a smile and he ruffled her hair, like he had when she was a kid. She knew that eventually, the creature would come back for them. She’d be checking for it every night for the rest of her life. But as she helped her dad dispose of the burned couch cushion and start a pot of spaghetti, she thought that maybe monsters under the bed weren’t so bad, as long as you had someone willing to fight them with you.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
L! O! V! E! LOVE!!!!!! Just amazing!
Best story i've ever read frfr
Thank you 🥲
Good descriptions of the Shadow Eater and the fear of Darkness. I like the last line too 'maybe monsters under the bed weren’t so bad, as long as you had someone willing to fight them with you.'
nice comment btw!