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The Teddy Bear

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Johnny’s bed moved. He immediately froze, scrunching down even farther under his blankets until they were just touching under his eyes. He slowly peered over the edge, trying to see under the bed. There wasn’t any shadow of a monster, or glowing red eyes staring at him, or green slime bubbling up through the floorboards. Just his floor. He slowly sat back up again, now looking straight ahead. His closet door was opened a crack, with a slight shadow spilling out. He knew it was just because of the night light in the hallway, but he still couldn’t help but wonder if it was a nine foot tall monster with scales on its back, horns on its head, and eyes like coals.
But still no red eyes, or scales, or huge creature climbing out and stalking toward his bed. He rolled back, and stared at his ceiling. Maybe he should listen to his mother. Maybe there aren’t any monsters in his room at night. But that still doesn’t explain why his bed kept shaking at night. And that wasn’t his imagination; it jolted him awake once. So, what was happening? Trying to keep his mind off of it, he dozed off, then fell into a deep sleep. His bed did not shake again that night.

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The next day when Johnny woke up, he had three more teddy bears in his bed than usual. Hmm, he thought, mother must’ve put them there while I was sleeping. He put them back into his closet and left for the bus.
He went to school as usual, and his day was average. But the whole day, last night kept coming back to him like a recurring dream.
When he got home, he went up to his bedroom to do some homework. He sat down at his desk chair and glanced towards his bed briefly, then did a double-take. There were five bears on his bed. Each one had brown fur curling all across its body, meeting up at a seam between the bears eyes and stretching down his back. Their black eyes reflected the light coming from the window, making it seem as though there was something intelligent in there besides polyester fluff. If Johnny looked too long, he could even see them thinking, the gears turning and bright ideas swirling inside those black abysses.
He looked away, snapping out of it. Why would his mother come up during school and put four more bears on his bed? He wasn’t even sleeping there; there was no point. He walked over and stared at them. They stared back. He felt their beady little eyes were looking straight through him, up at his ceiling. He carefully put them into his closet one by one, as if he was afraid of hurting them. He laid them out on the floor so none of them were touching, then laid a blanket on top. Now they couldn’t stare at him all night. Watching. Waiting. Johnny shuddered and closed the closet door. He grabbed his homework, brought it downstairs, and did it at the kitchen table. He wasn’t concentrating enough; he knew he’d get an F on it. But he didn’t care. All he could think about was the bears eyes, staring at him. No, staring into him. He stopped doing it after problem five, and put it in his backpack. Johnny never went back up until later, not wanting to go back in. He stared, stiff as a board, at his closet door while the sheets felt cold as ice.

He never fell asleep that night.

---

When Johnny got out of bed the next day, he immediately searched his bed. No bears. He had put his usual one in the closet last night, too, just in case it tried to kill him in its sleep, so there wasn’t a single one out. He looked at his closet. The door was open a crack, and a furry brown paw hung out, the leather pads on the bottom cracked and slightly torn, some of the filling spilling out.

He just stared.
Johnny grabbed his titanium baseball bat out of the corner, the one his mother got him for christmas last year. He walked over and nudged the bears paw with it. Nothing. A beady eye glared out from the closet at him. He gave a high pitched shriek, shoved the paw in with the bat, and slammed the door. He ran out of the room and slammed the door. The teacher later reprimanded him for not having his homework, but all he was think throughout the whole thing was “At least I didn’t have to go into my bedroom that morning. That’s the important stuff.”
That night, he waited outside his bedroom door until his mother went to bed, then he went downstairs and slept on the couch. His arms felt loose to him, because his teddy bear wasn’t there for him to put his face up against and breath in the smell of being home in bed. Nothing would be there to comfort him when he had a nightmare and woke up drenched in sweat, breathing as if he’d just run three miles. It was probably for the better, though, since the only nightmares he was expecting to have was about the very thing that could comfort him.

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“Johnny, can you go upstairs to your room and bring down the bat I got you? A friend of mine would like the model number for her son.”
Johnny froze. He had been sitting on the couch, eating potato chips and watching Cartoon Network. He had been concentrating on Scooby Doo the way only younger kids can do, as if he had drifted off to his own world. That was shattered by his mother yelling for him.
He had slept on the couch for the past three nights in a row, always waiting outside his bedroom until his mother fell asleep. This is the moment he had been dreading. Going back to his room.
“Sure,” he said. He slowly got up, and walked up the stairs. He stood outside the room, staring at the doorway. “Oh please, please don’t be different, please just be my room, nothing changed or shifted, just please...” he thought.
He put his hand on the brass knob and pushed.
Waiting for him at the door was a teddy bear. It had a slash on its side and its stuffing was spilling out. There was a bear on the nightstand, with a missing eye, and half the fur torn out of the right side of his face. There was seven bears on his bed, all with multiple wounds. There was one staring out his window, its the reflection of its contorted, injured face watching Johnny. There was three more spilling out of the closet. One with his paw on the bat. One under the bed. There was three sitting on the middle of the floor, watching. All of them were watching. Eighteen separate bears, all with multiple wounds and injuries. They weren’t just regular marks from being used a lot by a rambunctious five year old. They were war wounds, scars from battles.
He had only owned five, and they just had slight marks, like a small tear under an armpit, or the seaming starting to fall apart.
Bloodcurdling screams echoed throughout the entire household, making the neighbors son wake up and squeeze his teddy bear.

---

His mother had come up immediately when she heard the screaming, to find her son in front of his room, the tendons on his neck stretching out. His ordinary looking room. She asked him what happened, but all he could do was shake his head, point at his room, and sob. He sobbed for six hours straight. It was 9:32 pm, and he was still sobbing. She had comforted him in every way, but to no avail. She finally gave up, and for the past hour and a half she had just sat on the couch with him and stroked his hair, singingly softly to him. It was all very weird for her. He hadn’t cried for three years, since he was five. He rarely got upset about things. If he was crying, something must be very, very wrong. She now wanted to cry hard herself, but she knew that if she lost it, it wouldn’t make it any better for him. “Oh honey, what’s happening to you... ” she practically breathed to herself, her face so full of worry it seemed it might just explode. Why had he been so terrified of his room? Except for his furniture, it had been completely empty.

---

Ever since he opened the door, Johnny hasn’t really been conscious. The whole time his body was crying, on the inside he had crawled into the deepest parts of his mind. He was sitting on a spotlight, surrounded completely by blackness. Teddy bears were all around him. Some of them actually seemed quite pleasant; they were cheerful and clean looking, with bows around their necks. The blackness in their eyes glimmered with joy, instead of hatred. But there were others, too. Like the ones in his bedroom. They were torn in various places, they were filthy, and the blackness in their eyes wasn’t joy. It was a pure, endless hate, a deep rage for everything and everyone that opposed them. Every time Johnny looked up into one of their eyes, he would shrivel away, filled with terror. From all the emotions swirling around in the room, he gathered some information. The ones with the bows and the joy in their eyes were all good, and they lived inside everyone; they were the good in people. But the other ones were all the bad feelings and emotions in every person. These were the ones that hated. The ones with rage. The ones that wanted to get inside Johnny, dead or alive, and make him normal. Make him have hate inside him. Restore the balance, and keep the world full of good and bad.

---

At 10:47 pm, Johnny stopped crying. There wasn’t any of it slowly waning away; he just stopped. He stood up, and stared at his shocked mother. “Oh thank God, baby boy, I was so wo-” Johnny walked out of the room. He walked to his bedroom, arms hanging straight down. He stepped in, and stared at the bears, a blank expression on his face. He was terrified on the inside, but he knew it was the right thing to do. He knew it would cure the world of hate, so he had to do it. “I love you, mama. See you in a couple years. ” he whispered under his breath.
He found one with a bow, and squeezed it. Hugged it. “C’mon bear,” he said, “let’s fix the world. Let’s recreate it.” A single tear ran down his cheek and dropped onto the bear’s eye, welling up on the bottom and soaking the fur. It was as if the bear was crying, too. Johnny smiled, a red line spreading slowly up his pale face, getting closer to his ice blue eyes.
He walked to closet with the bear wrapped up into his arms, its flawless paws sticking out, as if it was reaching toward the closet door. Johnny opened it and walked in, the paws brushing the frame as they slowly slid into the dark rectangle. Slowly, all parts of him disappeared into the blackness as if he was being swallowed by the monster he had been scared of for years, until only the bear’s right leg was left, standing out in the darkness like a sore thumb. Then that disappeared, too.

---

His mother ran up the stairs after ten minutes, waiting for him to heal himself before she comforted him. She stepped into his room, and looked around. All she saw was a bear with a bow sitting on the bed, staring at the closet door. She walked over and opened it, the knob turning slowly in her hand, only to find it was empty. Must not have hidden up here, she thought. She walked out, going to see if he was hiding in the shower.
He wasn’t. Nor was he in her bedroom, or the downstairs bathroom. She figured he must be hiding, and wanted to be alone. She went down and made dinner, knowing he would come down for his favorite, mac n’ cheese.
He didn’t.
She called the police, crying frantically as she did so. They searched the whole house and everywhere within a 10 mile radius.
They put a front page story on it in the town newspaper, saying that “if anybody sees this boy, call the following number...” It reached news worldwide with headlines such as “Disappearing Boy” and “Boy From US Goes Missing In His Own Home”.
But Johnny was never found.

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27 years later, Johnny’s mother died of a stroke at age 59. As she soared into the light, she was greeted by a young boy of about eight, clutching a teddy bear close to his chest with one hand, the thumb of his other hand instinctively between his lips. The teddy bear had a bow on it.


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