He lay in his small bed, staring out the window of his little room, into
the void above. It was late, he knew-very late for him, even if it was only
ten or eleven. But for a boy of seven, as was he, it seemed like an
endless stretch after his ordered bedtime. He usually had no trouble
getting to sleep, but things had changed in the last two months. Things
had changed in the worst way...
"...Now I lay me down to..." he began, the prayer weak like wet paper
behind his tongue. He had began the prayer several times, never completing
it. Every time, he would hear it shuffle--or hear it sigh--in anticipation
of his descent into slumber. He knew it was there, behind his little red
bed, like a cat ready to pounce unsuspecting prey. He had never seen it,
no, but its presence was as clear as day to him nonetheless.
"It's all in your head, Stuart," he heard his mom say in his mind, just
as she had the previous night, "it's just that you're upset because of
daddy moving out. I know, I'm sad too, but it was the best thing for all
He had been saddened by his father's departure, true, but that had
absolutely nothing to do with the thing that awaited his sleep. Had it
been smart enough to come at a time when his mother would be blind to its
means? Was the devil that cunning? He didn't like thinking like that,
though. It made his head hurt.
"Mommyyyy!" he had wailed in a way he would never want his school-yard
friends to hear, "pleease! Just one night! I promise!" he had begged her.
"Ohhh...alright. But listen--one night only. This isn't a hotel, o.k.?"
she had joked. His mommy could always make him laugh.
And so, he had slept with his mother, away from the thing that had made
its home beneath the old red frame and the dusty mattress of his bed. He
had gotten up that morning and checked underneath his bed, an action that
made him feel good about himself, a strong man like his daddy, but had been
both disappointed and relieved to find nothing but the half-eaten cake he
had left there a week ago.
So here he was, once again alone in his room with the hungry thing that
would surely devour him if he fell out of consciousness and into the sweet
world of sleep, without his mother to guide him out of danger.
"Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to..." he began
again. He paused, to both listen for a definitive clue of his unwelcome
guest's presence and to calm his jumping nerves. "...take..." he continued.
However, he couldn't push the rest of the prayer from his small, trembling
lips. He WOULD go to sleep. He WOULD deal with it, because he was strong,
just like daddy. Yes, just like his...
...And then he heard it. He heard a rustle...perhaps it was the leaves,
perhaps it was an animal outside, maybe the air rustling something in his
room...but what if it was the thing waiting to eat him? He pulled the
covers up to his nose, and was suddenly back in the mindset of a toddler.
He wanted his mommy bad. He wanted the thing to go away. But he wanted to
be strong like daddy, who he loved with all his...
...And then he heard the sound again. And this time, before he could
dismiss it as his overworked imagination, his lips were pushed back by
powerful force, as one word slammed its way out of him like a bat out of
"Mooommmyy!" he shrieked. He slapped his hand to his mouth as if to
catch the horrible word before it left his room and entered his mother's
ears, but to no avail. Tears began to roll down his face, tears of both
fear and embarassment. His door was thrown open, and his mother, naturally
fearing the worst by the sound of his cry, rushed into his room. She
glanced at him, immediately recognizing the problem, and left her panic
"Jake, what's wrong, baby?" she asked him. He pulled the sheet down from
under his nose and cried harder. She sat down on the bed beside him and
hugged him. His head rested firmly on her shoulder and his sobbing grew
"Mommy...I'm sorry...I wanna be strong like daddy, but...that thing is
still there and its waiting for me to go to sleep!" he sobbed.
"Jake...do you want me to check for you? To prove there is no monster
under your bed?" she asked him softly.
"...Yes," he said simply. She let him go and bent down on the floor.
Before she could pull away the sheet blocking view of the underside of the
bed, though, he grabbed her arm.
"No, Mommy! It'll get you!" he pleaded. She held back a grin and lifted
"JAKE!" she suddenly cried in disbelief. His body shot up against the
wall, and his eyes squenched halfway closed. He still watched the side of
the bed, expecting his mommy to be suddenly consumed by his fiendish
companion. She did rise, though, and in her hand she held something that
was very familiar to him.
"Jake, what did I tell you about leaving food under your bed?!?" she
snapped. Despite his edginess, he gave a grin.
"I'm sorry, Mommy. I won't do it again. I promise," he told her, his
teary eyes finally clearing up.
"Well, no monster under your bed, little man. But if you keep it up,
there's gonna be a whole army of little monsters--I call them roaches--
giving you grief. Ready to go to sleep now?" she asked him.
"O.k. Mommy. Thank you!" he whispered, "Love you. G'night."
"G'night," she replied, happy to have this problem behind her. She
left the room and closed the door, and her son was fast asleep in moments.
She returned to her bedroom to resume reading before turning in for the
night, her sheets folded down, waiting for her. She situated herself
under the covers, backed up against her pillows...but where was her book?
"Dammit," she cursed softly. Hadn't she sat it on the nightstand?
She turned and glanced at the nightstand. No book.
"Dammit!" she cursed a little louder. She flipped her comfortable
sheets off of her and leaned over the side of the bed. Sure enough, there
it was, sticking halfway out from under the bed. How had it gotten there?
She thought. She reached her hand out to retrieve it, but stopped. She
thought of Jake's monster under the bed...and scolded herself for having
such a stupid thought. She reached down and her hand caught the book...
and she pulled it up. She got back under the sheets and sighed in
exhaustion. She pulled the book up to her face and began to read. And
then, as she came closer and closer to sleep, her eyes beginning to close
themselves, a hand yanked her from her bed and pulled her underneath. Her
head slammed against the floor, breaking her neck.
Her son akoke to the sound of the thump. As he ran to his mother's
room, the sounds of tearing meat brought him closer. He threw open his
mother's door and saw his mother's body on the bed with a knife in her
stomach. And the man standing above her, with crimson decorating his
"Don't worry, son. Daddy's here to take care of you now."