Tuesday, November 22, 2016

#FreeWriteChallenge Days 6 and 7: The Monster Under My Bed



The Monster Under My Bed

A True Story … Mostly


Something brought me up from a deep sleep. A noise of some sort. Not loud, just pronounced enough to catch my attention.

I lie still, my body relaxed and tired.

Then the noise came again. Scuffling.

I wasn’t afraid. I knew exactly what the source of the disturbance was. Be still, I told myself, silently. Maybe he’ll go back to sleep.

My bed was warm and the day had been long. I wasn’t sure how many hours I’d slept, but I knew I needed a few more before I was ready to face the day ahead.

I’d just managed to doze off again when I felt an abrupt shove from beneath and I was bounced off my mattress. My eyes popped open and a sound of surprise escaped my throat. There would be no going back to sleep now.

“Sorry.”

The voice came from under the bed. It was deep and rumbly. And incredibly sad.

“What’s up, big guy?” I asked.

I heard a sigh and more movement beneath the box springs.

“Neither one of us will rest until you tell me what’s wrong. Come on,” I urged.

It took him a few moments to climb from his spot, but once he was out, he was surprisingly light on his sized fourteen feet. He stood, rectangular-shaped head drooping from a neck that sported silver bolts on each side.

I reached over and patted the bed. I’d known him for a long time. More than forty years, in fact, and I could tell when he had something on his mind. “Sit.”

He did as I asked, the mattress bowing beneath his weight. It was hard to see him in the dark. I knew he wore black pants, the cuffs of which didn’t quite reach the tops of his boots. His jacket was also black, the sleeves sitting high upon his long forearms, and his shirt, once white, had been in serious need of a washing for some time. I’d offered on several occasions, but he was reluctant to part with it. It was hard to figure a monster out sometimes.

“Mind if I turn the light on?” I asked.

“Nope.”

I reached over and clicked on the bedside lamp. The room was filled with a buttery yellow light and I fluffed up my pillows before resting against them. “Was I being restless?”

He looked up at me, his black hair mussed and a trickle of blood that never dried coloring his left temple. He gave me a nod.

“Mark,” he said.

The sound of the name startled me. “Where did you find that?” I exclaimed.

“In here,” he answered, reaching over to tap the top of my head with his long index finger. “I tried to keep it away.”

“You did,” I assured him. “Thank you.”

“That one is stubborn.”

I sighed, feeling badly that he’d had another tussle with a memory that should have given up and vacated its space in my head years ago.  

I studied my monster’s face. I didn’t much like calling him a monster, but he and I had been over that time and time again. He’d made it clear back when I was young that this was one argument I wasn’t likely to win.

The two of us met when I was five. I’d been in California, on a trip with my family at the time. I’d always been a timid little girl, one who was easily frightened. We were in line, waiting to buy admission tickets for Universal Studios. The Jaws ride had just debuted that year, and, although I was young, I remember people being excited about it.

My dad was carrying me. That in itself is an uncomfortable recollection. I don’t have many memories of an affectionate nature when it comes to my father. I saw the monster from across the way. He was mingling with those who were waiting to purchase tickets, trying, I suppose, to help them pass the time. He’s a very large monster, and easy to spot. 


He turned and caught my wide-eyed gaze, and suddenly, I was staring up into a green face, put together much like a patchwork quilt with dark, stitched lines of blood and a strange mop of black hair stuck on top of his irregularly shaped head. My five-year-old self went into panic mode and I nearly climbed myself right out of my father’s arms.

There was an exchange of words between my dad and the monster, the latter curious about what they called me and how old I was. I remember my dad telling him my name was Jennifer. When the monster spoke to me, however, that’s not the name he used.

“Hello, Jenny,” the monster rumbled in a deep and quiet voice. “Don’t be afraid.”

It was way too late for that. I’d hit afraid and run full throttle to terrified by that point. He continued to talk to me, but I refused to turn and look at him again. I was sobbing and well beyond consolation.

The monster haunted me for years after that. Literally, for since that day, he’s been with me. As a child, I would lie in my bed, straight as a board, afraid that he would grab a wayward limb should I be careless enough to let one dangle over the mattress. I knew he was there, camped out beneath me. I could hear him breathing. If I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I would take a flying leap from my bed and land with a thump several feet toward the center of my room so that he couldn’t reach out and grab one of my ankles. The return trip was a little more difficult, but at least my bladder wasn’t full. He never got me. Not once.

On several occasions, I’d gather up enough courage to peek over the edge of my bed. Sometimes I couldn’t see him. Other times he’d be lying there in the space between the wall and the bedframe. Like I said, his size is noteworthy, and he didn’t fit beneath my twin bed all that well. He would look up at me, but he didn’t speak. In my young, child-sized heart, I just knew this beast meant to do me harm, and the thought of him frightened me for years.

That is until one night when a particularly nasty nightmare came to visit.

Fear overwhelmed me. I cried, tears streaming down my face to plaster long strands of hair to my cheeks. My heart was racing and I thrashed beneath the covers. The details of my night terrors were so clear and so real to me on that night that I was without doubt that they were real. I don’t recall any of them now. What I will never forget, however, is what chased those shadowy demons away.

The monster under my bed.

You may know him as Frankenstein. That’s not entirely accurate. Anyone who’s read Mary Shelley’s book will tell you that he’s not Frankenstein, but Frankenstein’s monster. That name is not one he’s terribly fond of, though. Early on in our relationship he asked me to call him Eli. I think it suits him quite nicely. Besides, he’s my monster now.

It took me a long time to realize, years in fact, that Eli wasn’t there to scare me, and he certainly wasn’t there to do me harm. Quite the opposite, really. He was there to keep the bad stuff away, kind of like a dreamcatcher—if dreamcatchers were almost seven feet tall and grumbly with green skin and bolts keeping their heads on. It was his job to filter out as much of the scary, as much of the unpleasant as he could, and to soothe me when any of it got past him.

He explained to me that almost everyone has a monster that lives under their bed. Those who don’t just haven’t come across the right monster yet. That day in California, that day Eli spotted me waiting in line at Universal Studios, that was the day he knew he’d found his person. He’d meant what he’d said. He didn’t want me to be afraid.

I reached out and touched his arm. Eli blinked at me and gave me a closed-mouth smile.

“Feel better now?” I asked.

He nodded his large head. “I do.” I reached up and wrapped my arms around his broad and uneven shoulders. I felt him pat me on the back with one of his large hands.

“Thanks for keeping me safe, Eli,” I told him.

I heard him sniff. He’s always been the sentimental kind.

He pulled away from my hug and gave me a wink as he climbed back to the dark den below my mattress. Just like on many other occasions, I thought to offer him the couch before I stopped myself. He’d just tell me no. After all, where do monsters belong if not under the bed?