A few weeks ago, Jenelle Schmidt announced a Spooky Story Challenge for Halloween. I am the world's biggest wimp when it comes to scary stories, but I thought this sounded like a fun way to stretch some new writing muscles. I've delayed (I wrote one story and hated it, and waited a while for a better idea to come to me), but now, in the last few hours before the deadline, I've come up with this little thing.
This story was partially inspired by Jenelle's prompt of It was under the bed/in the closet. Now that I've written it, part of me thinks it's too silly, and part of me thinks it's too dark, but I'm going to be brave and post it anyway. It's definitely different from anything else I've written.
Enjoy! And be sure to follow the link to read the other spooky stories!
Maddie's bedroom was made of pink and fluff. Her mother had thought Maddie was made of similar materials. Until the November night that the little girl cheerfully announced (as she pulled her head through her fuzzy heart-and-kitten-speckled pajamas), "There's a monster under my bed."
Maddie did not say this the way little girls were supposed to, with wide eyes and a quavering voice and a tear-streaked face. She grinned as she spoke the words that should have struck terror into any six-year-old's soul.
This unsettled Heather--she'd thought Maddie was a much sweeter and more sensitive child--but as she helped her daughter pull her arms into her pajama sleeves, she decided to view this as a positive development. This was much better than a child who ran screaming into her mother's bedroom at four in the morning.
So Heather replied cheerily, "Oh, really, pumpkin?"
Maddie nodded enthusiastically. "He wanted to eat me, but I fed him my Halloween candy, and now we're friends."
Imaginary friends with the monster under the bed. Maddie had always been a creative child, and here was a creative excuse for why her Halloween candy had disappeared so quickly. Heather didn't push for the truth. A child was permitted some post-Halloween indulgence.
Heather held back a smile. "It's nice of you to share with your friends."
"That's what Monster said. He swore fealty to me."
Where did Maddie pick up this vocabulary? At this rate, Maddie would be Ivy League bound.
Maddie explained, "That means he's my special helper."
Heather toweled the last drops of moisture from Maddie's head. "He sounds like a very nice friend. But now it's time for bed."
Maddie scrambled beneath her pink butterfly comforter without complaint. "I get two stories tonight."
Heather chuckled as she turned off the overhead light and turned on the bedside lamp. "All right. But only two."
After Heather's recitations of The Pony Dance and Kittens in the Kitchen, Maddie needed a glass of water. Then she needed three more stuffed animals, and then a trip to the bathroom. By the time Heather tucked Maddie beneath the covers again, it was fifteen minutes past bedtime.
"Now a story," Maddie insisted.
"You already had two."
"I get a story after I get tucked in. I'm tucked in now."
Heather put on her stern face. "No, Maddie. It's bedtime. You had your stories. Now it's time to sleep."
Maddie sat up and displayed her tantrum-preparation face. "I want a story."
"No. Good night."
Heather turned off the bedside lamp. Maddie shrieked in protest.
Something grabbed Heather's ankle. Heather looked down, and saw a thick arm protruding from beneath the bed ruffle. The moonlight glittered on the black scales, and two-inch-long claws scraped Heather's skin.
A deep liquid growl of a voice slithered through the room and soaked into Heather's bones. "Stay..."
A scream stuck in Heather's throat. Her body froze, but her mind raced. Run, run, scream, what is it, beast, danger, monster.
Maddie stopped screaming. She peered over the bed and smiled at the arm. "Thank you, Monster." She looked up at Heather, and the moonlight glittered in her eyes. "Monster wants a story, too."
Slowly, mechanically, Heather turned on the lamp. She chose a picture book from the shelf. The claws remained around her ankle. Blood dripped onto the carpet. Heather read the text of Crazy Cupcake Catastrophe one strangled word at a time, each breath feeling like her last.
She finished the book and did not die. "Is...is Monster happy?" she whispered.
Maddie nodded. "It's our favorite. Good night, Mommy. Love you."
Maddie snuggled into her pillow. The claws unwrapped from Heather's ankle, one onyx tip after another. Heather turned off the lamp, staggered into the hall, and tumbled unconscious onto the carpet.
Heather finished the fifth bedtime story of the night and kissed Maddie's forehead. "Ready for bed, sweetie?"
"I'm hungry," Maddie said. "I want ice cream."
The last six months hadn't destroyed all of Heather's motherly instincts, and her lips began to form the word, "No." Fortunately, before she could speak, her survival instincts froze the words in her throat. Her wounds had only just healed from Monster's last retribution for a refusal.
"What kind?" Heather asked.
Heather raced toward the kitchen.
"With rainbow sprinkles!" Maddie called after her.
Moments later, Heather handed Maddie her bowl of ice cream, then set a second, larger bowl next to the bed for Monster. The claws--so much larger now--pulled the bowl beneath the bed, and gulping, growling, scraping, slurping noises came from behind the pink ruffle.
The sound made Heather want to curl in on herself, and her skin tingled with the memory of those teeth on her flesh. She barely--barely--kept herself from screaming, and with deep, shuddering breaths slowed her racing heart. The monster would spare her. A meal of sugar stilled its hunger for flesh.
But if Maddie found a reason to complain...
No, she wouldn't think about that. She'd done everything right. She wouldn't bleed tonight.
Maddie slurped up the last multicolored scoops of chocolate sludge and placed the bowl next to the lamp. She wiped her face on her fuzzy pink pajama sleeve. Heather squashed her desire to clean the last sticky remnants from Maddie's face. Maddie didn't like her face washed, and so Monster didn't like it either.
"All done?" Heather asked.
Maddie nodded. "Thank you, Mommy. I love you."
The black claws stroked Heather's ankle.
"Monster loves you, too," Maddie said.
Heather kissed Maddie's forehead and turned off the light.