I am the monster hiding under your bed. Personally, I think ‘monster’ is a bit of a harsh word; but that’s what you call me, so that’s what I choose to go by.
To make it clear, though, I go by many names beyond you. Night Stalker is one. The Shadow Man is another. I think I also may have accidentally started a few legends without meaning to—would you believe that Bigfoot may have just been me taking a stroll through the woods? Truly, depending on who sees me, any human can imagine something different. So far, I like your imagination the best.
As I’m writing this, you’re six years old. For all six, I’ve been under your bed. I followed you from the NICU and listened to your crying all the way home from the hospital. I admit that the crib was harder to squeeze myself under, but I managed. I’m grateful you’ve since upgraded to a “big boy bed.” It’s a lot easier on my back.
As you’ve grown, you leave the house more and more. I’d forgotten that children go to school so young until I heard you return, excitedly rambling to your ignorant parents about the things you’d learned. Mrs. Thomas sounds nice, from what you say. I approve of her—for now.
Anyone can sound nice coming from you, though, because you tend to see the best in people. It’s a quality that gives me hope. This world needs more people with infinite optimism like yours; and you can quote the big scary night monster on that. In fact, you even try to find good things in me. When the moon casts a hideous mix of shadows and light into your room and the fear of my very presence makes you tremble, I hear you whisper to me. “I’m scared. Are you scared, too?”
It’s clear that you don’t know who you’re talking to. To you, I am nothing but a nameless creature, with no aim or purpose, just an undetermined maliciousness. You don’t even seem to know what I would hypothetically do to you, should you fall asleep while I’m around. In the daytime, you think you’re safe from me. Do you think shadows simply disappear, little one? If I wanted to hurt you, I would.
You drew me once, when you were four. The crumpled paper ended up under the bed with me. You’ve never truly seen me and your art skills were underdeveloped to say the least, so of course there were a few inconsistencies. Your illustration depicted a haphazard gray scribble, with pointed teeth, and horns, and too many claws to count—almost like a sickly, demonic porcupine. I couldn’t help but be amused when I saw it. I won’t say you were completely wrong.
I suppose I mention all this because I know that you know nothing about me. But I know so, so much about you. In fact, I’d like to think that I know you better than you know yourself.
I know that you don’t like vegetables, but will eat any fruit placed in front of you. I know that your favorite cereal is Reese’s Puffs, even though you rarely get to eat them. I know that you only know one curse word, but you’re afraid to say it out loud. I know that you want to be a firefighter, but two months ago you wanted to be a construction worker, and you will end up being neither. I know the names of all your friends, and which ones will turn out to betray you in the future. I know the names of your first and second girlfriends, and your first and only boyfriend. I know you love your parents, even though they hurt you. I know the age at which you’ll die.
I also know how to stop it.
Though I do know a lot of things, I’m not sure when this letter will reach you. In fact, I’m not sure you will ever read it. I wish I could say that I was positive you’d understand why I’m about to do what I plan to, and that you’d support my decision when you grow older. But the truth is, I don’t know if you ever will.
The only thing I’m 100% clear on is that I won’t regret doing what I’ll do to them. They deserve the punishment they’ll receive. Because, at night, when the tree branches look like giant claws at your window and the darkness seems to be moving in closer, I know it’s not me you’re truly afraid of. Deep inside, in a place your mind cannot yet access, you’re afraid of your parents.
“I’m scared. Are you scared, too?”
You ask the question not over the sounds of me, but over them. They fight and spat like wild animals; a never-ending cyclone of neglect and anger. You have no idea how they act when you’re gone, flourishing in the temporary safety that a classroom brings you. You cannot yet fathom the amount of pain they will bring you, when they realize you’ve become too old to coddle, and just old enough to treat you like they treat each other.
You would be so good without them. Much better off, I assure you. It’ll hurt for a while, but you’re still so young. The pain will fade, and then you’ll be free. Free from their chaos and self-destruction and abuse, you’ll be able to live the life you want, with no one to hold you back.
One day, if you read this, you’ll understand why I took them away from you. And I hope then that you’ll thank me. I hope the nightmares of your parents’ blood will slowly fade into a background hum, replaced by that endless optimism I know you hold so close.
And when that day comes, I hope you realize that I care for you more than they ever did.
The Monster Still Under Your Bed
Written by SpiritVoices