When the clock strikes two, and the house is dark and silent; when both Mother and Father have gone to bed and locked the door; when every sound has fallen into the solace of slumber, that’s when It wakes.
It slithers and crawls through the house, finally abandoning the sanctuary of shadows. Nobody sees it, nobody hears it, nobody even knows it’s there. But It likes things that way.
With the as much as noise as a soft breeze, the creature stalks towards the bedroom at the end of the corridor, guided on by the soft, warm glow of the night light.
It slips through the crack of the doorway, ignoring the logic of physics, and appears inside the room, looming at the end of the bed.
The child is asleep, as she should be. The duvet is pulled up to her chin, and her mouth dangles open, a trap for all flies. Tucked in beside her, staring at the beast with unblinking eyes, is the child’s constant companion, Gerald the bear. But Gerald can’t help her tonight; tonight, he’s scared stiff by the sight of night-time visitor.
With saliva dripping off its fangs, and its razor-sharp claws glinting, the monster squares its broad shoulders; ready to terrify the child into reality.
Suddenly the child’s tiny green eyes burst open, and like prison searchlights seeking an escaped inmate, they gravitate towards the figure at the end of her bed.
For several tense seconds the two figures stare at one another; and then, with an intake of breath, the little girl opens her mouth, and completely fails to scream.
“What are you doing?” she asks, staring critically at the monster.
“Erm . . . I’m – I’m sorry?” he asks, his gruff voice echoing through the bedroom like a thunder storm.
“You had better be,” the little girl said. “I was having quite a good dream!”
The monster was lost; he had found himself in the middle of the ocean without a boat. This sort of thing had never happened before; it had never happened to any monster he had have ever known!
There was only one thing that should be happening right now, and that was having the entire house filled with this child’s terrified screams! Instead, she was sitting up in bed and staring at him with the attitude of a 1940’s headmistress. And, frankly, the monster was beginning to feel like a schoolboy; he even found himself shuffling his feet awkwardly.
“I’m – I’m a monster,” he mumbled, hoping that this would remind the small child of her duties.
“And I’m a six-year old little girl trying to get to sleep. What’s your point?”
The pair continued to stare at one another. Both waiting for an explanation.
“Why aren’t you screaming?” the monster asked anxiously.
“Why would I?” the girl asked, glaring the abomination stood before her. The creature stood at seven-foot-tall, with his curled horns grazing the ceiling. Thick patches of green fur were splattered across its body, and where there was no fur, there was instead a thick yellowish hide of reptilian scales. Two pairs of eyes blinked in confusion and a forked tongue ran anxiously across his flaking lips.
For most of his life he had been described as one of the most horrifying creatures in existence. Bogeymen, with centuries worth of experience, retired after watching him in action, knowing they’d never match his skill.
Children, after taking a peek at his monstrous visage, grew up to be bed-wetters at the age of twenty-four. He was a master of terror, or at least he had been, until this tiny little human child had decided to cast her chilling eyes onto him.
“Because . . . I’m . . . I’m scary . . .” the monster said lamely; all faith he had in his abilities had swiftly sprinted out of the backdoor, and he was suddenly realising that he had not entered the bedroom of an innocent little girl that was afraid of the dark, oh no, he had in fact entered the lion’s den, and the lion was awake and hungry.
“Says who?” the child demanded.
“Erm . . . says every child I’ve ever made wet themselves.”
“I don’t wet myself.” the young girl said, “I have complete control of my bladder.”
“I’ll bet you do,” the monster murmured.
The child cocked her head, as if examining the creature from a new, yet equally critical angle. “What exactly is it about you that’s supposed to be scary?”
A cold sweat began to tap-dance across the monster’s dome-shaped forehead. “Err . . . I have big teeth,” he stated, widening his jaw to display the accurately described fangs.
“They’re not clean,” the girl stated, suddenly jumping to her feet and grabbing hold of the beast’s lower jaw in one single movement. She began inspecting each tooth in turn, tutting occasionally. “The only thing scary about this is your distinct lack of dental hygiene.”
“So, come on, what else is supposed to be so terrifying?” the girl asked, slapping his jaw closed again.
“M-my horns . . .” the monster mumbled, shuffling awkwardly on the spot.
“Rhinos have horns, and they’re not scary.”
“I – I dribble a lot?”
“Yeah? My grandad does that too.”
Losing all patience, and suddenly remembering just who he was, the creature growled sinisterly. “I’m a monster!” he roared. “I’m here to realise all your worst nightmares! I’m here to make you fear the night and ensure that, before you go to sleep, you always check under the bed just in case I’m there, waiting!”
“You’re too big to fit under my bed.”
“I can be any size I want to be!” And, with that, the monster suddenly expanded, filling the room with his hideous, furred body. His horns dug deeper into the ceiling, sending a flurry of plaster raining down onto the precocious child’s head. His blood-shot eyes flared and his teeth grew to the size of butcher’s knives.
But the girl simply stuck a finger up her nose and shrugged. “You’re gonna have to pay for that,” she declared, pointing to the marks in the ceiling.
The monster deflated instantly. His body began to tremble and his fur stood up like soldiers on parade. He couldn’t believe it, but this little six-year-old, with her matted bed-hair and her sequined pyjamas was . . . scaring him!
“You’re . . . you’re really not frightened?” he asked, taking step back.
“No one would find you scary anymore.”
“They wouldn’t?” Tears began to well-up around the creature’s eyes as his knees sagged onto the end of the bed, lifting the other end off the floor. “But – but I’m a monster! Being scary is what I do!”
The infant took a step towards the lumbering beast and patted him on the head. “There, there,” she said. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Molly,” the girl declared, taking one of Eugene’s scaly fingers and giving it a formal shake. “It seems to me that you haven’t been keeping up with the times; a dangerous move for any small businessman. How about I give you a hand reinventing your brand?”
Molly fixed Eugene with a smile better-suited for a forty-five-year-old. “I’m going to make you scary again!”
Seventy-five minutes later found both Molly and Eugene the monster sat at the head of the bed; Molly sat staring at an iPad nestled on her lap, a broad grin on her face, whilst Eugene sat quivering behind a pillow, only one eye daring to peer out at the screen.
So far, the pair had watched clips from The Exorcist, Friday the 13th, Jaws, Nightmare on Elm Street, Insidious and now Molly was showing the monster her favourite parts of A Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Moments later saw Eugene running towards the bathroom, one clawed hand covering his mouth.
When he returned, wiping some steaming spittle from his lips, Molly was putting the tablet away. The monster couldn’t help but notice a satisfied smirk painted on the child’s face.
“You mean . . . people actually watch that sort of stuff?” Eugene asked, climbing back into the bed, desperate to seek out the comfort of the blankets.
“’Course,” Molly said with a shrug. “They’re fun.”
Eugene’s eyes boggled at this revelation. “Fun?!”
“Yeah, people enjoy the thrill of being scared.”
“E-enjoy it? B-but people aren’t supposed to enjoy being scared!” The monster could feel the world slipping out from beneath him. Everything he knew, or thought he knew, was changing. If what this girl was saying was true, then Eugene’s entire reason for being was in jeopardy. At this rate, rather than continue to be a force of unimaginable horror that was feared by every child, he would soon become a trivial commodity that was welcomed every night with open-arms.
He shuddered at the miserable thought.
“What am I going to do?” he asked, pitifully shrinking until he became no taller than the six-year-old beside him.
“There, there,” Molly said, once more taking on the role of consoling matron. “I never said people always enjoy the thrill of being scared. It’s just, all the old stuff, that doesn’t frighten anyone anymore.”
“Well, what does frighten people then?” Eugene asked, wiping the tears from his eyes with Molly’s teddy-bear.
For the first time that night, the little girl looked stumped. She tapped her chin thoughtfully as her eyes scrolled around the room, searching for inspiration. And then a smile crawled across her lips. A devious, almost malicious smile. It would had made even the most courageous pee a little. Eugene began to tremble.
“I think I may have just the thing,” Molly announced.
Four o’clock and the house was steeped in silence. Not even the snoring of the cat could be heard. It was the very picture of tranquillity.
But something was creeping and crawling through the darkness, softly stalking its way across the upstairs landing. Its vast form melting into the shadows of the night, the creature paused in front of the bedroom door. No locked door could keep this beast out. Sliding through the cracks, the monster appeared in the parent’s bedroom.
Mother and Father, both snoring away, looked so peaceful wrapped in their blankets. This would be good, the monster thought.
He ran through his lessons, remembered what he had been taught, and prepared to put them into practice.
He took a deep breath and then threw the bedroom lights on. The sudden explosion of light dragged the Mother and Father out of their sleep; they sat up startled, weakly asking one another what time it was.
What they saw standing at the foot of the bed sent a shiver of terror running through both parents. The cold, reptilian eyes staring out at the pair, the concrete grey suit, the pallid colour of the skin, all of these traits immediately identified what the abomination before them truly was.
“There are discrepancies on your last tax form!”
“Wh-wha-what discrepancies?” The Father asked, the sweat already pouring down his face.
The Taxman thrust a piece of paper in front of the pair. The page was covered in numbers and figures, all crammed in close enough to merge into one incoherent blob of ink. The parents desperately tried to make sense of it all.
“This month’s mortgage repayment is overdue!” The flabby and unmistakably smug form of a bank manager suddenly loomed over the tax form.
The mother released a small shriek of terror before turning on her husband. “You said you’d paid it!”
“I did! I did!” the father wailed.
“I knew he wouldn’t be right for you, sweetie,” the mother’s own father said, puffing on his pipe and glaring down at his child with intense disappointment.
“I’m sorry to say that you are now officially bald,” the doctor said, staring critically at the father’s rapidly receding hairline.
“You’re just like your mother,” a hideous voice whispered in the wife’s ear.
“You’re just like your mother,” the same voice murmured into the man’s ear.
The pair shrieked and wailed with abject terror, they clung to one another and babbled incoherently, each one trying to hide behind the other.
With a victorious smile hanging on his lips, Eugene slithered unseen from the room. The sounds of the parents’ fear followed the monster as he wafted through the corridor and down the stairs. The creature then vanished into the realm of nightmares and mystery, once more content with being the scariest being in the business.
Molly had listened with silent glee as Eugene had put all she’d taught him into practice. And, not three minutes later, she heard her door creak open.
She turned over and saw her father, his face pale and drawn, peering at her. He smiled weakly when he saw her turn. “Err . . . Hi, sweetie,” he murmured, the sweat dripping off his nose. “Mummy and – err – I were – um – just wondering, would – would you perhaps like to – to spend the rest of the night with us? Hmm?”
Thankfully, due to the low lighting, her father couldn’t see the small smirk playing on Molly’s lips.
Slowly, feigning lethargy, the little girl sat up and rubbed her eyes. “Okay,” she mumbled.
A look of pure relief radiated off the middle-aged man’s face. “Oh good,” he murmured. He opened the door wider and let Molly pass through. Again, she couldn’t help but smile as the man glanced fearfully up and down the corridor. She silently took hold of his hand and led him back to his bedroom.
“Don’t worry,” she said soothingly, “it was only a dream.”
And thus, tucked in together, the family drifted off into the sanctuary of sleep, the fear of monsters and ghouls and taxmen, once more abated. Well, at least for one night.