The Monster ‘Neath His Bed
** I **
“Mom, mom, he’s here again. Hurry up, wake up!”
Soaked with sweat, the little boy cowered under his blankets, frightened by the scratching of the monster dwelling beneath his bed.
He had never seen the creature but its presence was as real to him as the goose bumps bubbling on his skin.
It was several heartbeats past midnight and the boy was alone in his world of torment. An only child, his parents worked the graveyard shift: his father, a custodian at the local high school, his mother, a substitute receptionist at an area hospital. His babysitter, an aunt devastated by a wrecked marriage, was incommunicado, resting comfortably on the kitchen floor after a spirited bout with a bottle of apricot brandy.
Gripping his blankets, he was too afraid to open his eyes.
Eventually, exhaustion conquered his fear and he drifted to a dreamland of toys and candy, emperor of a kingdom where grown-ups and monsters were banished to an invisible world beyond his castle walls.
As night melted into day and the whistling of an autumn wind mingled with the baying of a distant hound, the boy slept fitfully, oblivious to the rasping breath of the beast whose grin he had not yet seen.
** II **
“She could’ve been mine. Too damn hard to compete against those young bucks.” Eddie Flick sneezed, wiping his nose with the back of his right hand.
Too often in his fifty-three years, hardship had been his companion. The salve of booze and broads couldn’t heal the open sores of divorce, unemployment and dead-end jobs. Dizzy, he tumbled into the dust of a mattress whose bedclothes had not been changed in months. Counting the cracks in the ceiling, his mind was haunted by the echoes of the past inhabiting the house he inherited from his parents.
“Fifty damn years and I’m sleeping in the same room when I was a kid.”
Feeling faint, he closed his eyes, embracing a drunken slumber.
It was a moonless October night, so murky and quiet a man would swear he could hear the spirits and the other dark things creeping from their hideaways to dance before him and mock him until escaping before the light of dawn.
Then it happened again.
At first, Flick paid little heed. It was barely perceptible, like a kitten pawing an invisible toy. With each heartbeat it became louder. With every gulp of the sour saliva defiling his mouth, he journeyed to those terrible nights of childhood, frightened he might be smothered by the blanket of madness floating above him until he realized he must stop the scratching of the monster dwelling beneath his bed.
He reached for the lamp …
“Eddie … Eddie Flick.”
Thunderstruck, Flick beheld a man, surrounded by a pale aura, standing at the foot of his bed. He was tall, well beyond six feet, handsome with chiseled features, his finely tailored cream-colored suit accented with a crimson necktie and matching handkerchief.
“Who … who are you? It’s gotta be the booze. I’m dreaming.”
“It’s not a dream, Eddie. My name is Frederic and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Eddie gulped. “Who the hell are you … ?”
“Perhaps you should ask what I am”, Frederic interrupted.
“Ok, I’ll play along … what are you?”
“I’m your guardian …”
“My guardian? A guardian angel. You mean that crap is true?”
“Of course, it’s true. You should have paid better attention in Sunday school.”
“An angel. Are you here to stop the scratching?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes, I am.”
“Then stop it and then go away, I wanna sleep.”
“I can’t do that. I’m here for you … to take you home to the Boss.”
“The Boss … you mean, God. That’s a good one, since I’m not dead.”
“You are dead, Eddie. You died in your sleep. The long nights and heavy drinking took their toll, didn’t they?”
“How can I be … I’m talking to you.”
“It’s your second life, Eddie. You were only dead for a moment. And now …”
Bolting from his bed, Flick ripped aside the curtains from his bedroom window. The ancient graveyard bordering his property, the names of the interred on the weathered tombstones lost for all time, was washed away by a black void though he noticed a distant glow drifting closer to him.
“Be calm, Eddie, the light approaches.”
Flick heard a gurgle and turned to Frederic. “Who are you?”
“I told you, I’m your guardian.” Frederic’s voice transmogrified into a fierce and guttural growl … “your guardian demon”.
His face erupted in mockery, mimicking the maniacal laughter of a thousand fiends.
“I’ve been with you since birth, tempting you every second. Every human has one of us. Some have many. Hitler had thousands. Stalin and Mao, too. We serve every pornographer and rapist, pedophile and drug dealer and every slickster on Wall Street. You can even find us in the hallowed halls of every government that ever defecated misery, deprivation and want on its subservient fools.”
Flick collapsed onto his bed.
“But you only needed me, Eddie, You were so easy. You served me well and the Master is pleased.”
“Now I must go.” Frederic licked his lips. “We’ll have plenty of time to talk later, plenty of time.” A savage grin seized his face, his mouth spewing hisses until he disappeared.
Surrounded by a disquieting silence, Flick covered himself, convinced his nightmare had ended.
Then he heard them again.
He heard scratching from beneath his bed and inside his bedroom closet. He recoiled from scratching behind his bedroom walls and above the ceiling and below the floor. He gagged at the sound of scratching on his window, a cacophony worse than a legion of fingernails scraping across a blackboard. With each moment they intensified until his screams burst his eardrums.
Cowering under his blanket, his eyeballs about to burst, Eddie felt the clammy grip of the monster crawling from beneath his bed and wished he could die once again.