Why Not You? 3: Honorable Mention, Brianna Krueger



What’s Really Under Your Bed


By Brianna Krueger



This story begins with a little girl awakening with a piercing scream escaping from her small, little mouth. Nothing that small should be allowed to create such a large noise, all because she didn't like a little, "wooOoOoOoO," and "I'm going to eat your soul for breakfast," while I hovered over her, with my long, dark hair looking like dancing snakes dangling from the ceiling.


The pounding of parental footsteps sounded outside the room, echoing down the hall as each pound, pound, pound got closer.


Reluctant that I wasn't getting my soul to eat (because everyone knows eating a soul with an adult audience isn't as satisfying) I slithered back under the girl's bed to my home. You wouldn't expect it, but I've got a whole mansion down here overlooking the Grand Traverse Bay on one side, and because I'm mystical like that, downtown Detroit on the other. If I pass through eight bedrooms, four full baths, a library, a conservatory, a kitchen, a bowling alley, and an in-home brewery, I can cross through Michigan, all in my own mansion.


The pound, pound, pound ceased when the door swung open and into a dresser, creating a whacking sound. A large male's hand pattered against the wall in search of the light switch. It was rather painful to watch him flail. A robed lady appeared behind him and switched the light on, casting long slivers of light into my mansion and down its many halls. Who needed electric bills when you could steal the light shining from above the bed?


A deep, alert voice stammered, "What is it, baby girl?" 'Baby girl' was too hysterical to answer. The robed lady cuddled up to the girl, wrapping her arms around her, while the large man sat at the edge of the bed, his feet dangling down, perfect for nipping at...especially when lights are off. Feet are a monster's weakness.


Oh, how badly I wanted to reach out and eat them, no matter how gross his feet were with their long, curling nails. They were bare and not quite touching the ground. One can never be too sure what's really under your bed.


"Sweetie, what's the matter?" A softer, soothing voice, belonging to the robed lady, asked. She sounded like how her robe felt.


"Ma-ma-ma monster," little girl said, her voice choking on tears, which made me immensely happy. The more scared and fearful, the better the soul. She'd be a perfect after dinner delight.


"There's no such thing as monsters."


Shows what they know.


My hand reached out for that stupid, large man's foot, and I traced a finger down his heel to his toes, boop-ing each one. His toes wiggled in response.


"How do you know that?" Little girl asked, her voice muffled by the soft fabric of the robe.

That time I pinched his toe, and his foot jerked up, a hand grabbing to massage it. He looked down at the floor, trying to see what may have caused the sensation. Nothing. Robed lady gave him a curious look; he shrugged in return.


"Maybe you should look under the bed, make sure no monsters are there," she said. He almost protested when she winked and added, "Just in case." He sighed as he lowered himself to the ground. "Look, daddy isn't scared."


"Because there's nothing under here." He made a show of batting his hands around. He looked right at me, but didn't see me. Oh, the giddiness I felt to spook the ones who didn't believe. Once I had little girl's soul, he'd be next, and he'd be sorry.


His head popped back up at bed level. "See? Monsters aren't real."


"Then why am I scared?"


Because you should be, little girl, because you should be.


"Remember how we talked about dreams? And how sometimes we have bad ones? This was one of those," Robed lady said, stroking her daughter's hair. "And do you know where bad dreams come from?" Cautiously, little girl shook her head no. "From not eating your vegetables or brushing your teeth for a full two minutes."


Little girl's eyes widened, like she knew she'd been caught; meanwhile I slammed my glass of bourbon against my marble island counter. My life's sake, my identity was being compared to that of not eating vegetables?! Making her do good would not scare me away, no. If anything, it'd make the scaring all the more horrifying to prove just how real this monster could be.


As they tucked little girl back into bed, snuggling Mr. Bear up next to her cheek, and assuring her there's no such thing as monsters (hopefully they know what happens when you say that three times in a row), I wandered down to their kitchen and unplugged their refrigerator to make their vegetables rot. And I danced (yes, monsters dance; we don't sulk and scheme all the time) down to their bathrooms, grabbing their toothbrushes and throwing them in the garbage.


Be good or don't be good, but see, I will still be under your bed.


*


One night I was bored out of my mind. Little girl was too scared to sleep in her own bed, so the large man and robed lady let her cuddle between them, despite an argument of he said-she said. "She's too old to be sleeping in bed with us," he said, while she said, "She's only seven years old."


"She needs to learn monsters aren't real," he said, while she said, "Children are allowed to have imaginations. Even scary ones."


"What happened to the vegetable and teeth brushing trick?" He demanded, and she tsked back. "She's scared of carrots now. She's eaten so many they've turned her toes orange."

"What's next? She's going to live with us until she's 50?" He asked, while she replied in an exasperated and sarcastic tone, "Don't be ridiculous. You'll be dead and I'll be living with her."


"She needs to learn to face her fears," He said. In reply, she said, "When are you going to face yours? You seem awfully fearful of her being so scared of what's under her bed."


And so on, they bickered back and forth, quietly over their sleeping daughter's head, leaving me so impossibly, drastically, sadly bored in my mansion.


So, I strolled out from under the bed in the broad darkness. No moon shining in through the curtains, no nightlight plugged into the wall, no light creeping in from under the door. It was rather delightful.


That was when I noticed him, sleeping in the silence, a blanket curled up to his fuzzy chin. Mr. Bear.


He looked awfully lonely, so I decide to join him, levitating over him like a hovercraft. "WooOoOoOoO," I sang. He didn't respond. "I'm going to eat your soul for breakfast." Still nothing.


If Mr. Bear wasn't scared of me, I'd use him to scare little girl.


From his cozy position tucked under the covers, I moved him to the floor, right near the bed's leg post so little girl would wonder how he got there without a blanket to keep him warm – and how he escaped from the depths of my mansion.


*


The next morning, little girl paused in the doorway entry, spotting Mr. Bear on the ground. She'd never leave him there. How had he not made it to bed with her and large man and robed lady last night?


She opened her mouth wide, tilting her head back, to let out a shrill shriek. Ahh, like music to my ears. A sweet symphony. Oh, how I waltzed around my mansion to another number one hit song. All my friends would be jealous of the sound I'd orchestrated.


As I danced and twirled, the robed lady ran down the hall, an unopened toothbrush packet in her hands. "Little girl," (of course, she used her real name, but I couldn't be bothered to), "what's wrong? Are you okay?" Robed lady kneeled before her daughter's pale-as-a-ghost face, and the shrill shriek came to a decrescendo. Damn. Just as I was getting into my groove.


"Ma-ma-ma monster ma-ma-ma moved Ma-ma-ma mister Ba-ba-ba bear."


Robed lady glanced at the stuffed bear, the corners of her mouth tugging downwards. Robed lady knew little girl never slept without Mr. Bear, let alone let him sleep on the ground.


"Are you sure you didn't forget him when you ran into our room last night?" Right after I did a killer round of "wooOoOoOoOs" that echoed throughout the open floor plan and high ceilings of my mansion, and echoed back around like the waves of a Great Lake.


Little girl shook her head no. "Monster moved him."


"Oh, little girl," Robed lady sighed, stroking her daughter's hair. "What have daddy and I told you?"


"There's no such thing as monsters," the two said together, one with gusto and one with reluctance. You can guess who.


"Let me show you." Robed lady lowered herself to the ground and army-crawled to the edge of the bed. Little girl timidly followed. Robed lady grabbed the bottom of the princess-pink duvet, and looked at little girl until she grabbed on as well, and together they lifted it up to see what's really under little girl's bed. "See? Nothing."

Of course there was nothing. Letting robed ladies see my mansion in broad daylight? I think not. Souls need to be scared to be stolen; not filled with warm fuzzies.

And so, robed lady grabbed Mr. Bear and handed him to little girl. She cradled him like a baby and dreamily smiled. "Come, little girl, let's go eat breakfast. Daddy's making avocado toast."

More like, just toast. Those avocados rotted overnight; special thanks to muah.


*

Little girl ran from the hall and made a leap to her bed due to the copious amounts of water she guzzled before bedtime. She bounced on the fluffy pillows, just one too many bounces to see Mr. Bear go flying through the night, looking like an alien across the moon-lit bedroom sky. She peered over the edge of her bed, but Mr. Bear was out of sight. He hadn't bounced towards her closet, or towards her dresser.


It left only one place from him to be. Under the bed. With yours truly.


Little girl had one choice. Save Mr. Bear. Forgetting him to the dust bunnies and monsters under the bed was like sentencing him to a life term for a crime he didn't commit. It was her own silly and stupid fault he tumbled off the bed, bounced gently on the carpet, and got sucked under the bed, like a wave washing him away into the hands of, well, me. A cackle of delight echoed around the room, and little girl bolted to her feet on top of her bed. She surveyed her surroundings, looking for a glimpse of Mr. Bear.


Silly girl. Mr. Bear's soul would soon be mine. And yes, even stuffed animals have souls, given to them from the imagination of their owners.


For little girl, there was no time for a rescue mission involving large man or robed lady when Mr. Bear could not be seen. From the bed, she hopped to the ground and lowered herself to her belly. Far in the dark, in the deepest trenches under her bed, Mr. Bear lay with long, gangly hands wrapped around him and dancing snake-like hair dangling over him. She whimpered on sight of this.


But still, she crawled on, digging her elbows into the carpet till she entered the darkness of my mansion. "Monsters aren't real. Monsters aren't real," she chanted to herself.

Such terrible words, and really rather rude. Monsters are real. Who else would be narrating this story?


Eventually, little girl made it to my mansion's front door. Her head tilted back to take in all its freshly-painted glory and millions of windows overlooking the Grand Traverse Bay. She peered through the glass doors, cupping her hands around her eyes. They rounded even more in surprise when she spotted Mr. Bear at the end of the long hallway, strapped to a chair with arm and feet restraints. With more gusto than she should have had intruding into a monster's house, she swung the door open and stepped into my domain.


"Welcome, little girl, to Hell... Michigan." (The devil always makes me add the disclaimer.)


"I'm going to eat your soul, and I'm not waiting for breakfast."


She nearly jumped out of her skin, letting out a screechy "eeeeeek" before turning to run out, but fell back on her butt upon seeing the door was already shut, locked, and chained for good measure.


I'd been patient. I'd been understanding. I'd been kind. (Kind of.) And time was up. Her soul was mine.


"Let me and Mr. Bear go!"


I swung my hair over my shoulder, letting the snake-y strands hiss at her. "Or what? You'll tell your mommy and daddy? Remember what they told you? 'Monsters aren't real.' Yet here I am." Standing inches from her young, soft skin that would take ages off of me – and put me on the leaderboard for most souls acquired. "'Be a good girl and nothing can scare you.' Yet here are you, quivering with fear. I guess they're liars, huh?"


When the only one being honest wass the monster, something was wrong, yet oh so delightfully right, because that meant they'd trust me. Follow me further into the dark.


Submit to my demands. Lay still as I wooOoOoOoOed the soul out of their mouth through their screams and into my system. Their scream's vibrations make my blood flow harder, better, faster, stronger.


I could smell the fear oozing from her pores. A soul so pure and terrified would be so satisfying.


Her skin was softer than I imagined, more so than a blanket. I couldn't contain myself from spreading my fingers wide and stroking them against her chubby cheeks.


A hand slapped mine away, and I realized it was little girl. "Didn't your parents teach you any manners? Don't hit? Respect thy elders?"


Her baby blue eyes glared up at me. "They also told me to face my fears and stand up to bullies, and never leave friends behind." Her eyes briefly glanced to Mr. Bear before looking back to my pools of black eyes. "So here we are."


Ugh. Parents building up their kids' confidence. Such a shame. Because I was going to have to tear them down.


Little girl struck a fighting pose, her fists up, ready to swing. She punched pathetically, her arm not even reaching halfway to me. Oh, how cute. She thought she could beat a monster. She took another step forward and an even more pathetic swing, letting out a little grunt in the process. Since a century would pass before she'd be able to hit me, I took a step closer, mostly for my own amusement.


My ceiling, with the skylight out to a pure Michigan summer sky, stared back at me. My head ached, feeling like I'd...


Little girl's smug face peered back at me, her golden locks dangling down in tragic knots the robed lady really needed to learn to comb out. She tricked me into thinking she was pathetic! Instead, she'd kicked her leg out behind mine, and flung me to the ground.

"My parents also told me I can be anything I want to be, and I want to be the princess who rescues herself. And Mr. Bear, too."


Despite feeling like my head was spinning in circles, I pushed myself back to my feet and informed the little brat, "This is a scary story, not a fairytale."


Suddenly, spikes began to grow out of the tangles on little girl's head, revealing themselves to be the peaks of a golden crown sitting upon her head. Colorful jewels and beautiful flowers adorned it. It made me sick. "That's where you're wrong. I'm the author of my imagination, and I'm rewriting the story."


Just as quickly, I felt myself shrinking. My bones ached and my skin grew wrinkly and gray, as my body slipped away from me and shriveled into an ugly beast. Why couldn't a villain be pretty for once?


I couldn't go out without a fight. In my decaying state, I shot a punch that would launch a thousand ships. Little girl and her new-found courage hit back. So I struck back, and then so did she.


And so on, we tumbled, knocking over expensive vases and exotic plants, and throwing shoes as bombs.


My savior card sat in a chair, and I ran to my prisoner, wrapping my fingers tenderly around his neck. "Surrender, or the bear gets it."


'Princess' little girl put her dukes down and dropped a super cute pair of stilettos. The fear had returned, all for a stupid bear. In her frozen state, I restored myself to my natural, beautiful monster self with the pale skin, snake-like hair, gangly extremities, and cruel, cruel mouth.


She took timid steps towards me. "It doesn't have to be like this. We can co-exist. We can find a solution." My interest was piqued. For half a second, and then I smelled her fear again.


"We can...."


"No. Remember, I'm a ma-ma-ma monster." I catapulted toward her, arms and hands outstretched to take that soul.


Her mouth opened, ready to scream, and I salivated at the thought.


"I SAID THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS MONTERS!"


My body froze mid-air...and the next thing that happened, I couldn't control.


This story ends with a piercing scream from my mouth before I poofed into smoke and nothingness. Nothing should be allowed to create such a fright, because I wasn't real. And so little girl and Mr. Bear mounted a white stallion, who happily skipped them all out from under the bed once and for all.


Though the next bed the little girl got, and all future ones, she made sure it didn't have space below it for monsters to live. While she conquered her fears of what was under her bed, she didn't want to take any chances.


As for what lives in her closet... Well, that's a different story.


THE END

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