Most 7-year old’s will tell you that there is a monster under their bed. They’ll cry and beg to sleep by you and swear they heard it, but they didn’t. There’s nothing there. My monster is real. I can hear it panting and I quiver under the covers. It calls to me in its tinny, otherworldly voice. And I’m completely petrified. I can’t scream, I can’t move.
When we first moved into the house and I got my own room – life was complete. Before, Doug, my older brother often farted in my bed, shoving my head under the covers he’d sit on me chanting “Breathe deeply Billy and it’ll go quickly!’ He thought it hysterical and I hated it. If I made my bed, he would jump on it. If I put my washing in the basket, he would tip it out, leaving his inside. He made my life a misery.
And I would trade the monster under my bed for his bullying, in a heartbeat.
Staring at the door, I wondered if I would make it out before the monster got me. I counted the steps, 6 to the door, 4 to the window. My heart drummed in my ears, “thump-thump, thump-thump” and my mouth was dry. I tried to call my mother, knowing that Doug would laugh and call me a baby. I didn’t care.
‘Mom?’ tentative. Croaky.
‘MOM?’ Louder. The panting stopped. Then a scratching sound, it was scratching under my bed. It moved the wooden slats apart. I was frozen in fear. How long would it take to work its way through the mattress? Silently begging my mother to come in, I tried calling again and again but she never came. The louder I called, the more frantic the scratching. I could feel my mattress moving as it tore. How long did I have? Minutes. 6 steps to the door, 4 to the window.
Slowly I lifted my feet out from under the covers, I stopped but the scratching continued. Gently rolling onto my knees I was careful not to make a sound. 6 steps to the door, 4 to the window. It had to be the window. My bedroom window led out onto the veranda roof. It was high but there was a lattice down the side, covered in jasmine. I couldn’t enjoy the sweet smell tonight in my state of absolute fear.
Taking a ragged, quiet breath, I lifted one foot then the other. Now crouched on the bed, facing the window, my bravery ran low and I froze. I HAD to touch the floor to get out and knew that it would grab me. I had to be too fast for it. Maybe if it was distracted with ripping the mattress I could make it.
I waited. My tensed knees began to shake and cramp but I couldn’t go yet. The scratching got closer, closer. It was about to break through. I could feel fingernails tickling under my knees, I had to go! I jumped.
1…2…3…4 I dived through the open window onto my face, leaving chin skin behind. I slid a bit, grabbed hold, turned and started down the lattice, I dared not look up. 3 feet from the ground it gave way and I fell, landing on my right ankle. The pain was immediate, explosive and turned everything white.
I woke up as Dr Bennet was securing the bandage on my ankle. Waves of pain floated up my body, settling in my fuzzy head, I felt sick.
‘You fell off the veranda roof, what were you doing up there?’ mom asked. Dad looked troubled and pale, he always battled when his children were hurt.
‘There’s something under my bed’ I whispered. They exchanged a look and I knew they didn’t believe me.
‘Billy…’ mom started to say. ‘Its there! It tried to get me and I ran away’. My parents shared another look and my dad said ‘Billy there’s nothing under your bed. Stop this now you are 7 years old not 2!’ Anger gave his words a hard edge and I knew better than to argue. I closed my eyes against the pain and shame.
A sting in my left arm stopped me thinking briefly about the pain in my ankle.
‘What’s that?’ I demanded, feeling terrified all over again.
‘Its just a sedative son. It’ll help with the pain until your ankle settles down and you can sleep peacefully.’
‘No! No I don’t want to sleep.’ My eyes begged but my parents were adamant. I gave up, there was no more fight left in me. On our drive home I tried my best to stay awake but the powerful sedative lured me into a deep, dark sleep. As my father gently put me to bed, I surfaced enough to try one last time ‘please dad just look under my bed.’ He said he would and I drifted back to the dark.
It’s a nightmare I thought to myself. I was lying on a thorn bush, the wind was blowing and the thorns tore at my back. It burnt like fire and I screamed at myself ‘Wake up Billy. WAKE UP! WAKE UUUUUUUP.’ I couldn’t. I guess my dad hadn’t looked under the bed. I felt warm blood flow over the burning scratches, soothing it a little and I willingly walked back into the darkness so I couldn’t feel the pain.
The next morning Billy’s mom checked on her son. He was fast asleep, flat on his back. Its only when she got closer that she saw he was very pale. And very still. ‘Billy? Billy are you OK?’ her eyes widened in horror, there was something wrong. She screamed and rushed to pick him up. Her hands came up wet from his back and she couldn’t believe the amount of blood pooled in and under his bed. Her mind struggled with the fact that she could see right to the floor, to the pool of blood.
She screamed and screamed. Somewhere in the back of her traumatized mind, she realized he was telling the truth. There was a monster under his bed.