The Monster Under the Bed
Steve Mount

Age Three

I hate bedtime. There's only one good thing about bedtime. Daddy reads me a story. And I get to pick. Tonight I picked Horton Hears a Who. I like that story.

Daddy tucks me in every night after story, and him and me, we say our prayers together. Our God Blesses. God Bless Mommy, God Bless Daddy, God Bless All My Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and Friends. Sometimes I forget something in prayers, but Daddy keeps on talking, and that helps me remember.

Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my sole to keep; and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my sole to take. The words are funny, talking about the soles of your feet, but I know what they mean, pretty much.

Then Daddy kisses me and tells me he'll see me tomorrow. Later, Mommy comes in and she tucks me in, too. Sometimes I'm asleep when she comes in, but usually not. "See you in the morning", she whispers. Sometimes I'm not sure I'll be there for them to see me.

I don't like night. Nighttime is dark. I have a little night light, but it doesn't do much. It's not afraid. I think It likes that little light. When It sees it, then It knows It's in the right place.

I hear It, you know. I do. It doesn't sound like a person. It sounds like a monster. Like what Harry the Monster from Sesame Street would sound like if he was mean. That's what It sounds like. It lives under my bed. I told Daddy once that it was there, but when Daddy looked, It was gone. It likes to fool people. Daddy said it was nothing but as soon as he stopped looking, I knew It came back.

It talked to me once. It told me that It was going to get me one day. It was going to take me away and that I'd never see Mommy or Daddy ever again. But I know that It can't get me if I don't let my arms or legs off of the bed at night. Then It can't get me. Then I'm safe. But It told me that It would get me one day. It promised.

Age Ten

It's still there. I don't think It'll ever be gone. I thought that when we moved that It would be gone just like Mrs. Applebaum, my icky teacher was gone, but It came with us, probably packed up in the box with my comics. It talked to me once a few months ago. It told me that It would never be gone, that It would always be here, even when I went to Junior High School in two years, It would still be with me.

I don't have my night light anymore because It told me one day that It liked that little light just like I thought It did. I hate It. Why doesn't It just leave me alone? What did I ever do?

I'll never give It a chance to get me. Never. I never let my arms hang over the side. And I did something else too. I put a lot of junk under my bed during the day. Now It's all cramped up under there. I thought that maybe It would leave me alone if It didn't have any room to move or nothing, but It's still there. And even though Pop never comes in to say prayers anymore, I still say the I Pray Thee Lord My Soul Do Take prayer. Every night. And I told Steffie, my little brat sister to watch out for the Thing under the bed. I think she already knew about it though.

Age Thirteen

I had a friend over the other night. His name's Jimmy. Me and him talked about stuff like Superman and AquaMan and Dracula and Frankenstein and stuff. And we called each other names using the nasty words we had learned in Junior High, words like the F- word and the S-word and words like that. I said shit one day when I hit my thumb with a hammer and my Mom told me never to say that again or she'd wash out my mouth with soap.

And we talked about grades and how Jimmy needed help in Math and if I could help him since I get 100's that he'd be my best friend. Well, anyway, we started talking about UFO's and real monsters and stuff. I asked him if he believed in real monsters. He said no way and asked me if I did. I kinda didn't say anything, just shrugged, ya know? But he asked me again. "Do you?" he says, and this time there was, like, this look on his face, kinda a....Well, just a real weird look.

I said, "Yeah, Jimmy, I believe in monsters. A little bit."

He asked me why. I told him that there was one living under my bed. Well, Jimmy laughed and laughed. He laughed for a long time until his laugh kinda stopped all at once and he asked me to sort of explain about why I thought there was a monster.

I told him that It talked to me sometimes and that the voice sounded like a tiger talking or something like that. I told him that It told me that It was going to get me one day and that I asked It why once and It said that that was his job. Jimmy was getting a little scared. I could tell.

I told Jimmy that the monster promised, It Promised!, that it would get me. And I told Jimmy that I believed It. Jimmy was real scared now, I could tell. I could tell that he probably had had the same talks with the monster under his bed, but maybe he never really believed. But I did and that made him believe even more. So I told him that it was really OK if you don't let your arms or legs fall off the side of the bed. Jimmy looked a little relieved and said that he didn't want to talk about it anymore. He told me that he didn't believe me and that he thought I was crazy.

But that night, when his arm accidentally fell off the side of the bed, he picked it up faster than a roadrunner. I kinda smiled and didn't say anything.

Age Nineteen

Its really strange. I redecorated my room and in the plan, I had my bed smack-dab in the middle of the room, and it looked really cool. I had my girlfriend paint the room in these really cool colors. And I got this really cool bedspread that was going to match the walls to a tee. The two of us finished doing the place up and then we cleaned up. It looked really nice. My parents and Steph were away that weekend so she spent the weekend with me in my new room. We made love in my new room, under my new bedspread. It was the best.

And when it came time to sleep, we both slept soundly. At least for that weekend. Sunday night, my parents were back, and Heather was gone, and I had to sleep in my bed all alone, in my bed which was like an island in the ocean of my room. It was the worst sleep of my life, I'll tell you.

All my life, my bed has been forced up against two walls, one at my head, one at my left or right. But now, there were none. And I couldn't deal with it. Every time I turned over, even though the bed is a twin, one of my extremities would fall off the side, and I be shaken awake by some strange primordial urge to keep my arms and legs on the bed. Sometime in the middle of the night, it happened to me again and I sat up in my bed and tried to gather my senses together. Then I heard It. It was something I hadn't heard in years. Like a low growl, the low, threatening growl of a tiger on the prowl.

The memory of my childhood haunt came back to me. It was back, and I knew it. It probably had never left, but I had grown out of It, shoving It into the back of my mind. I heard It sniggering. From under my bed which was surrounded on all four sides by spaces, came the low rumble of a monster's laugh. I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming, something that is ingrained into one's head as the dream test. I jumped as I applied the pressure to my skin and I knew I wasn't dreaming as the laugh-growl started again.

Then It started to speak.

"You'd forgotten, hadn't you? I knew you would. They always do. But remember my promise. I never break a promise." It began to laugh again, and I lay down on the pillow again. I don't know how, but I quickly fell back to sleep. And in the morning, I moved my bed back into a corner.

Age Thirty-Eight

Putting the kids to bed, I always make sure that they say that cute little prayer that some people make such a fuss about. You know, the ones who think making children say a prayer about death will just make them have an anxiety about it? Well, anxiety or not, I make them say it. Because of the thing under the bed. It talks to them sometimes. I know it does. Because they make me check under the bed, just like I did when I was their age.

Anyway, It comes every once 'n a while, just like it did that day when I was about eighteen or twenty. Comes, remakes It's promise, and then It's gone for some amount of time. Once I didn't see It for five years. Once It came every night for two weeks. That was when Julie and I got the waterbed. I guess It felt It had to reassure me that It was still there. I kind of knew It would be.

You know, when you think about it, It explains so many things. Take for example crib deaths. It sits there under every crib, under every bed, and waits. It waits for that arm or leg to come over the edge into It's dark domain, and when that extremity is there long enough, It strikes, and the crib death, the death of a child that no one can really explain, occurs. Most kids are lucky and they believe, like I did. I think that the Thing talks to every kid from the minute he or she is placed in his or her first sleeping bed. And those who don't believe when they're young like that, don't bother to pull their legs or arms up, and they're gone. Simple.

But will anyone ever figure this out? Not likely. Monsters have been shunned by people. Officially. Those who are still here believe. But they wouldn't admit it. I know I wouldn't, even though I do believe. I do believe.

So I say the prayer with the kids, and when I'm supposed to tell them that there's no such thing as monsters, I do so half- heartedly. Like my father did.

Age Seventy-two

He almost got me last night. I got too lazy and draped an arm over the bed and It almost got me. But I wasn't ready yet. Not yet. There was still too much to do. I went and put flowers on my wife's grave. Poor Julie. My dear Julie. She gave up before I did. I had to make sure my will was in order. I didn't want the kids to lose anything, so I just made sure the will was OK.

Last year I visited Alex and his family. One night I climbed up the stairs to one of the kid's room just as Alex was tucking Samantha into her bed. They said the prayer, and Sam couldn't remember it all, but what she did say, she seemed to mean. Sam asked her father to look under her bed, and he did. I did too, from where I was standing, but neither of us saw anything.

Alex told her that there was nothing there, but I could tell by Sam's expression that that didn't matter, that she still knew there was something there. Good for you, I thought to myself.

So it continues. It still lives. Even two generations later, It has not died out. It probably has been forever and probably will be forever more. I know that It's still with me. My life has been good, but I feel that I'm losing to It now, and last night's close call proved that to me. So now I've decided not to fight It. I'll just prepare myself and let It take me. I always thought that It would do it one day when I would have regretted going, but now, no. Now, its time.

So now as I lay me down to sleep, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep; and if I should die before I wake, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul do take.

I put my pajamas on and lay down in my bed. Then I called It. "Are you there?" "Are you there?"

It spoke to me. "Yes, I'm here."

"You were right. Its time for you to fulfill your promise."

"I know," It said, the growl unchanged after more than seventy years. "You know what to do."

"Yes, I do. Will it hurt?"

"No, it won't hurt."

"Good," I said as I picked my arm up from beside my body and hung it over the side of the bed. It was my time.

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Last Modified: 22 Mar 1998

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