Joey cringed when he looked at the closet door and noticed it was slightly open. Any other night he kept it open, a proven method to ward off any monsters that might be lurking inside, but not this time. This time he deliberately closed it, he was sure of it. He had closed it right after brushing his teeth and before turning out the lights. But there it was as plain as the nose on his face a mere ten feet from his bed and threatening to unleash a truckload of nightmares. He pulled his thick, white cotton blanket up to his chin, comforted by its warmth. Caressing the long thin tear along the silk trim, a result of one night when it got caught on one of his toys, he felt relief. Sometimes even small things can mean a lot.
The night light sprayed its glow across the room. But did he really need it? He didn’t know anybody else his age that used one and felt guilty for even having one. But he had to admit it did serve a purpose. It made it very difficult for any monsters to hide anywhere. There were so few spots that managed to avoid the light. Satisfaction filled his mind. He’d done a fine job placing the night light in just the right location. He’d even maneuvered some of his stuff so that the light got pretty much everywhere.
His attention swung back to the closet. Maybe he only thought he had closed it.
The movement on the floor near his dresser caught his eye. Was it a monster? Some multi-legged creature roaming around for little boys under their covers? No, it was just a spider; a big one but harmless nonetheless.
Joey sighed in relief and gripped his blanket a little tighter.
The scraping sound filled the room. It was sporadic but unnerving just the same. Joey’s eyes darted to the source of the noise…the window. There, just outside, were long deformed fingers, grazing the glass in a frantic effort to get in. He watched in horror as they increased their movements, violently smacking against the thin pane of glass.
Would the window hold? He could only hope and pray that it would.
But wait! It wasn’t a hungry monster trying to break in; it was only a tree swaying in the wind outside of the window. Relief washed over him as he hugged his blanket even tighter. He wanted to call out to Dana, his babysitter, to rescue him or to at least to make sure there wasn’t anything there. Then he could finally get some sleep. And then almost as if she had heard him Dana pushed the door open.
“You all right?” she asked lazily, a bright pink cell phone wedged between her shoulder and her ear.
Joey peeked out from under his blanket. “I’m…I’m fine,” he mumbled.
“Good, now get to sleep,” Dana snapped back and promptly shut the door behind her.
Joey had never liked her. She was strict and demanding, a strong contrast to the previous babysitter. He sat up in bed and pushed his blanket off. “Jenny was a better sitter,” he thought out loud. She would let him stay up late.
And then he noticed the red eyes in the far corner of the room looking at him. They moved from side to side as if whatever it was was making its way towards the bed. Panic seized him and held his body in its paralyzing grip. He couldn’t move, a sitting duck in a pond rimmed with hunters.
It was coming closer now, although slowly, and it was becoming painfully obvious that the bed was its destination. He held his breath and sat perfectly still, hoping that the thing on the floor would not see him.
And then the night-light cast its glow upon it.
It was only one of his toy robots. Somehow he must have left it switched on. He leaped from the bed still clutching his blanket and snatched the toy from the floor. He looked at the blank expression on its face as he switched it off. Now he would feel safe and secure at last.
He turned and faced his bed. It was the same as it had always been but for some reason it frightened him. Maybe because he’d heard too many stories about monsters hiding underneath beds, lurking in the darkness until some kid came too near and then…bam! Yanked to their death.
But what choice did he have? He didn’t Dana to know he was scared, not that she would do anything about it, and the thought that he was scared of his own bed frustrated him as well. He knew he had to climb into the bed.
A quick scan underneath it revealed nothing but pitch darkness so he wrapped himself up tight in his blanket and in one swift motion leaped up into his bed.
His attention immediately focused on his closet door again; it was still cracked open. Terrible, far- fetched explanations for the door being open ran through his mind. Was a killer hiding inside the closet and he simply forgot to shut the door behind him? Or maybe some alien monster slithered out of the closet and into the room not caring if the door was left open. He pulled the covers up to his eyes and watched the door for any sign of movement.
After ten minutes had passed with nothing happening he decided it would be best to completely open the closet door, just to make sure nothing was hiding inside. He jumped out of bed, ran to the closet, swung the door wide open and leaped back into bed with the covers over his head. It took him a few minutes to work up the courage to look but eventually he lowered his blanket. Fortunately, the night-light provided enough light for him to see inside the closet.
On one side hung his clothes. Various sweaters, jerseys and t-shirts were lined up in somewhat neat rows. On the other side boxes which contained his baseball cards and other sports memorabilia were stacked on top of one another. A few jackets and baseball caps were scattered on the top shelves along with various toys and other odds and ends. Nothing appeared to be out of place and most importantly, there were no monsters hiding inside. Finally feeling relaxed enough to go to sleep he took a deep breath and sunk back into his bed.
But before he closed his eyes something caught his attention. A small otherwise common detail that normally would not merit a second thought. He sat upright and rubbed his eyes as if to verify what he saw was really there.
There, lying on the floor of the closet partially hidden by shadows, was a white cotton blanket. He began to wonder if he owned two such blankets, hoping to find an explanation. But that thought was dismissed when he noticed the blanket in the closet had a long, thin tear along the silk trim…just like his blanket had. He sat in bed, too stunned to move and growing increasingly aware of his situation.
The thing on his bed began to creep up towards his face, paralyzing as it went, preparing its prey for the kill. He opened his mouth to scream but it covered him in an instant.
* * * *
Dana opened the bedroom door slowly. Not because she didn’t want to disturb the little brat but because one of her favorite shows was coming on and she didn’t want to be bothered.
The hallway light spilled into the room. Dana tucked her pink cell phone into her pocket and looked over at the bed. A small lump lay under the blanket and shifted slightly as she watched.
“Good, he’s asleep,” she mumbled to herself. “Now I can watch my show in peace.” But then as she was closing the door something caught her eye.
That’s strange, she thought. I thought his blanket was white, not red.
Rick McQuiston is a 39 year-old father of two who loves to read,write and play drums. He has had 87 publications so far and is currently working on his second horror novella.