The Monster Under The bed: I think it all started some time after our mother died. No one knows how it happened. The roads were dry, but somehow she skidded off the road into a ditch filled with that filthy water. I can only imagine how she must have felt watching the water rise ever higher as she laid upside down, water that smelled of sewage and the gasoline that was slowly dripping into the car. I know she prayed for us and herself,…. to no avail. I was only nine and Tommy was six. It is now three years later and things have changed, yeah changed alright, and not for the better. Dad is remarried now…. to Lenore the Witch. She acts all nice to us in front of Dad, but when he is working she treats us like dirt. I’ve heard her talking on the phone to her girlfriends about how she hates those “Two Brats” being underfoot all the time, but what can she do? At least her husband has a great job and gives her everything she wants. Tommy and I took to staying in our rooms when Dad was gone, and it seems to suit us all just fine. I don’t know how long we would have gone on like this, uneasily staying out of everyone’s’ way, probably forever, but one night it started. “Frank, are you awake Frank”? “What is it Tommy”? “I’m scared Frank,…. there’s a monster under my bed.” “You told me there are no such things as monsters, Frank, but there is, and he’s staying under my bed,…. except when he stays in the closet.” “Aw Geez Tommy, will you shut up and go to sleep, I’m tired.” In a little, small voice he said, “Ok Frank, I will, but he really is there and he wants to eat me up.” I threw back the covers and jumped out of bed, turning on the lamp. “Now look Tommy, see there is nothing there.” I bent and looked under his bed and swept the blankets aside that hung down over it. For just a split second I imagined I saw something scurrying out of the dark corner of the bed and into the blackness of the closet. Skittering, scrabbling, and scurrying across the linoleum floor at incredible speed. I stayed there on my knees; face at the floor staring intently in the direction it had gone. I looked fixedly that way for a second, but everything was still. In my minds’ eye I saw it- it looked just like one of those monsters in Alien-but in compact size, like the newborn ones. I suddenly realized that face level was not the best vantage point to be kneeling at, especially at the speed that little monster traveled. In a sad little voice Tommy said, “He goes into the closet or just disappears when the lights go on Frank.” “Geez, Tommy, where do you come up with this stuff, now go to sleep or I’m gonna sock you one.” In a still quieter voice he said, “Ok Frank, I’ll try, maybe you scared him away.” I said back to him,”I did see something Tommy, but it was really small,probably a mouse” Tommy said-“I saw his hand Frank, reaching up over the side of the bed, and it was big and hairy with great big claws.” In almost a whisper he added,” He can change his size when he wants to, Frank, that’s how he gets in and out so easy.” Later, just before I dropped off to sleep, I heard him whisper, “Frank, don’t let your feet or arms hang out from the covers, he can grab you then and pull you under the bed.” “But, if you are all covered up he can’t get you. Covers are magic, I think.” Smiling fondly in the dark, I said, “Ok, Tommy, I will.” The night passed with no further disturbance and the next day I forgot all about it. But Tommy didn’t, not for a minute. As bedtime approached that night, he became increasingly agitated and tried his darndest to get Dad to let him stay up or sleep on the couch. Lenore the Witch quickly put that idea to rest. I never could understand what Dad saw in her, she was nothing like Mother was, not the tiniest bit. I was just on the edge of sleep when I heard crying coming from over in the corner. I flipped on the light and there was Tommy, up on the dresser with his blankets bundled around him. “Tommy, what the hell are you doing up there”? With tears streaming down his face, he answered, “He’s back again Frank and he was laughing at me.” With the words almost flying from his lips he said, “He was pulling my blankets off the bed; if he does that I won’t be safe.” I went through the same ritual as the night before, this time even turning on the closet light and, as I suspected, nothing. “Now you get back into bed and stop this nonsense, Tommy.” “I told you there aren’t any such things as monsters and I just proved it. With a soulful look at me he hesitantly crawled back into his bed, tucking the covers so tightly around him that nothing could possibly protrude. I lay back laughing to myself, “Kids.” I thought, though, I was only twelve myself. That was the night the bedwetting started, which caused no end of trouble with the Witch. The next morning she went to change the bedding and, upon picking up Tommy’s bedclothes and getting a whiff of what he had done, she threw them from her in disgust. “I’m not washing these filthy things she yelled, he’s your stinking little brother, and you can do it from now on.” I yelled back just as loud,”Ok I will, we don’t need your help anyway.” “Don’t you talk to me that way, you little bastard,” she hissed. Marveling at my own nerve, I just smiled to myself as she slammed the door. “Geez, Frank, you’re gonna’ get in a lot of trouble when she tells Dad.” “Ah, she won’t say anything, Tommy, she wants Dad to think everything is alright and we all love each other.” With a sad look on his little face, he said,” I miss Mom, Frank, I really miss her.” Blinking back my own tears, I hugged my little brother and said,” I do to, but she’s gone and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.” He looked so downcast and sad I couldn’t help but say, “I know Tommy, how about we move your bed next to mine and it will almost be like when we were little and slept in the same bed.” Lighting up like a x-mas tree he said, “Oh can we Frankie, can we?” He hadn’t called me Frankie since Mom died and it hit me hard. I sure loved the little guy, even if he did make me crazy with this monster stuff. So, that’s what we did and for a few nights everything was fine. Then it started in earnest….. This night Tommy was acting like he had before we pushed our beds together. He was visibly nervous and frightened. I chose not to say anything, even when he asked in a tremulous voice if he couldn’t sleep with me tonight. “Aw Geez Tommy, these beds are hardly big enough for one kid much less two, besides, you are right there beside me” “Please Frankie, just for tonight, I promise I won’t ask again.” With a sigh, I lifted the covers and he was under them like a shot, trembling like it was winter and we had left all the windows open. In a couple minutes he was fast asleep. I smiled fondly at him lying there. It was little enough to ask and I believed he would soon outgrow this phase,… or whatever it was. Sometime later,… hours maybe, I woke up and found myself frozen in fear. I didn’t know what it was all I knew was I could not move. I could not even speak. I tried to, but nothing came out but “ah,uh, ah.” I simply was frozen with fear. I could move my eyes though and something drew them inexorably towards the closet. I saw that it was open just the littlest bit. But, as I watched it, I swore that it was opening inch by interminable inch, right before my terrified eyes. Then, after what seemed like hours of cold anticipation, I saw a shadow flow from the confines of the closet and sweep under the bed with incredible speed. “This can’t be happening I thought, I must be dreaming.” Suddenly I heard Tommy whisper in my ear, in a barely audible voice,” “Tuck the covers around us Frankie, he can’t get us then.” Suddenly my limbs worked again and with a speed I didn’t know I was capable of, I reached down and crammed the blankets around us so tight, it would have taken two strong men to rip them from us. Then, without conscious thought, I pulled them over both our heads and clutched them as tightly as any miser ever clutched a dollar. In a voice that barely disturbed my ears Tommy whispered, “Now do you believe me Frankie?” “Shhh, I said back, quiet Tommy, be quiet and don’t move a muscle, he won’t get us.” “He doesn’t want us Frankie, he said with a sadness and a certainty no nine year old should ever possess,… he wants me.” We held ourselves with such rigidity and stillness that one would think we would never know sleep that night, or any other night. But, we were however, still kids and sometime between night and morning, we did. Although mine was troubled by images of monsters that go bump in the night, and more, much more. I dreamed whatever it was that waited under the bed and in the closet stood suddenly above us. I laid there helplessly as It laughingly tore Tommy from my fevered grasp and devoured him right there in front of me. My cries of fear and sheer terror woke me, to find Tommy trying to comfort me. That was when I became filled with a steely, determined resolve. If no one else would or could help, I’d find a way to destroy this bastard alone. I vowed then and there I’d save my little brother even if it meant my own destruction. The next morning we sat together and began to plot and go over the few options we had in our possession. Tommy came over uncertainly to me with a book clutched tightly in his small hands. “Frankie?” “These guys can help us, can you call them?” I looked at the book he held with such hope and shook my head sadly. “I know you love that book Tommy, but those guys aren’t real and they can’t help us through this one.” “Are you sure, Frankie?” It seemed I was Frankie for good now, but I could stand it if it gave him some comfort. It was the least I could do, yeah, the least. “Are you sure you can’t call these guys, Frankie?” “I’m sure Tommy, I wish I could, but Leep and Slack and Tommy and the rest of them are just stories in a book, no more no less.” “They are just made up.” He shook his head sadly and answered, “Maybe if we wished real hard and prayed too, Frankie, maybe they would come and help us.” “We didn’t even wish for the monster and its here.” “Well, if it makes you feel better, Tommy, go ahead, I suppose it can’t hurt.” “But I have to get serious and find some real help. Hmm, I have an idea.” My first stop was the library and all the references I could find about monsters and things that stalk the innocent in the night. Though, I knew this particular one had much more in mind than simply bumping around the bedroom, scaring little and not so little kids. Tommy trooped right along with me, seemingly content to trust his big brother to fix things. I wished I felt some of the confidence he did. There was the usual motley variety of books describing ghosts and goblins and witches. I thought darkly, I could tell them all a little about witches. But, there was nothing there like I needed, nothing. I sat there miserably for a few minutes reflecting on my failure before I had even started, when suddenly a shadow fell over us both. I had lost all track of time and we were in a remote area of the library, dark, secluded, and lit only by one feeble light bulb hanging from a string. We both jumped to our feet, fear clutching at both our breasts. A quiet, comforting voice spoke from the shadows that had moved all to close to us. “Do not fear, young ones, I mean you no harm. What you seek is not in this place.” If you wish to destroy the monster, you will need my help,… and all your courage to save the little one.” Looking up we beheld a tall, old bent figure. He was wearing an old dark robe that was eerily reminiscent of the books we had read side by side of witches and warlocks and wizards. In his right hand was a long staff of gnarled wood. He said,” look Frankie; look at this paper I have recorded.” I shakily took the paper from his thin, blue veined hand and read an account, a foul account of little children like Tommy that had disappeared over the last thirty years. None were ever heard from again. There were photographs of terrified, sobbing parents that knew somehow that this was no prank or an incidence of a child just losing track of time. They knew instinctively that their children were gone,… forever. “It is the child killer,” the old man said in his creaky voice. The eater of children, and I am the last of the line, and I am too old and feeble to fight and kill it.” “So, Frankie, you must do this thing, it is for you to do----with my help.” I looked at Tommy and saw the fear and confusion that must have been on my own face. “How can I do this thing, I asked, I am only twelve?” “I will show you and teach you what must be done.” You have seen this thing, have you not?” “Yes, he was in our closet and under our bed, the bastard-he wants Tommy.” “Yeah, Tommy said, he wants to eat me up.” I had to smile a little at that even though I understood the gravity of the situation. Even this ancient one had a twinkle in his old eyes at this. “Hey mister, what’s your name?” “Tommy, I admonished, watch your manners.” “Well, he has one don’t he?” The old man straightened at this and said, you may call me Sir Frederick, or in this case, I suppose Frederick will suffice.” Tommy suddenly held up his battered copy of the book he carried always with him now, it seemed. “Sir, do you know these people, and would they help us?” Frederick took the book slowly and carefully read through it. “Ah, you have knowledge of this, then?” I asked, “You mean they really exist?” “Ah, perhaps,.. perhaps once, but that is of little importance now.” Come with me to my home: It is alright, you are safe with me. Together we will defeat this monster once and for all. When we are done, he will kill no more innocents and we will send him back to hell from whence he was spawned.” We walked slowly out away from the library and towards the woods at the edge of the town. I suppose we should have been more afraid or careful, but we both instinctively trusted this old warrior. As we walked on, an old run down farm slowly came into view. The aura of darkness and evil was almost palpable and Tommy and I both shivered as we walked past this. In the one window that was lighted we saw a vague form moving carefully around, and a hulking shape became visible peering intently at us with eyes that glowed green and red in the vague light that backlit it. “Keep walking and look not at it,” the old man whispered. For that is the monster and this is where he stays when he isn’t out hunting the little ones.” “The foul beast, there are the skeletons of over fifty little ones like your brother buried there and not a one of the fools who live here and the surrounding areas ever suspected it.” “It is my belief that he clouds the minds of the adults and that is why he has stayed safe all these years.” “But, that will soon change my son that will soon change. For you are the chosen one, and he senses this, and on some level, if he doesn’t outright fear you, at least you have made him wary.” “I pray to all that’s holy that it will be enough, I would suggest too that you engage in some prayer of your own.” At this Tommy piped up and said, “I pray every night Sir, then with sadness, But, I don’t know if God hears me. I asked him to save my Momma and bring her back to us---but he didn’t, maybe he won’t help us either.” The old man looked shrewdly at Tommy for a second and answered, “Perhaps this time he will listen, at least listen,… and one never knows the mind of God.” Tommy brightened for a second and said, “Well, I’m going to keep on praying and I’ll ask him to send Leep and Slack to help too.” I just smiled affectionately at my little brother and we walked on into the night. Towards what I did not know, hope, help, perhaps salvation, perhaps destruction and devastation. I had always been an avid reader and that is one of the things the witch hated about me the most. I had a vocabulary that was at least twice of what she possessed. Always called me the “Smart Ass” when Dad wasn’t listening The old dwelling where Sir Franklin lived was small and wooden. We walked into the old place and each found chairs in front of the fireplace. It was a comforting place, the sound of the crackling fire soothing and calming.