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To Be a Monster
Author's note: I got the idea while listening to "Monsters" by Matchbook Romance. Enjoy, rate, comment.
I sat, crossed-legged, on the dirt floor, carefully cleaning and sharpening my weapons. They supplied everything I needed to charge headfirst onto that battle field. I absolutely loved how their weaponry consisted of both modern and medieval. Swords and guns, air-crafts and horses, bows and arrows and gas. Suddenly, the tent flap pulled back, causing me to jump. “Nervous, much?” The man asked with a smile. “Uh, no. No, no, no. I’m just going into battle for the first time ever. Typical day here,” I said sarcastically. “Of course I’m nervous. What kind of question is that? For a guy so smart, you can be pretty stupid.” He laughed. We fell into a silence that seemed to be common. I continued my work as quietly as a girl can while sharpening a sword.
Horns suddenly rang out in the distance, the sound like music to my ears. "It's time," he said ominously, turning toward me. Quickly, I slung the quiver on my back, hid a few small throwing knives in my clothes, sheathed my sword, and finished loading my gun. "Ready to, well, die, I guess," I shrugged. He opened the flap wide enough for me to squeeze through. Outside, birds sang merrily and animals scurried along the ground, unaware of the chaos that would be wrecked in just a few short minutes. Above the cliff our base was comfortably settled on, a giant flatland stretched from here to the other side of the valley which was measured to be about four football fields. It was the perfect battlefield. On the horizon, I could see small black dots that formed to one big blob. "There they are. Right on time." I smiled. "Sounds like they're being invited for dinner." But, my humor fell flat with no laughter. The happy mood had been long gone and was replaced by a new one: ultimate doom.
Another man, much larger than my companion, called for attention. "Men," he began before quickly adding, "and women. This will decide the fate of our entire race. Some of you might not come back, but isn't that the right price to stay peaceful among our own kind?" Cheers erupted from the mob of roughly one hundred-thousand in reply. The guy knew just what to say to get this crown riled up. "For the Monsters!" Someone in the crowd called. The rest echoed. We weren't the most organized troop in history of battles, but we had a strong motivation: the protection of humankind. We were marched down the cliff and onto the battlefield. This is it. "Charge!" Our leader called. We charged forward.
Maybe that wasn’t the best way to start off, but it built suspension, right? Okay, okay. We’ll start with the good stuff--the night when everything began to go downhill:
“Night, Mom,” I said softly, pulling the large, black comforter up to my chin. “Goodnight, Marcella,” she replied before pecking my forehead with a kiss. “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” The ceiling fan’s lights flicked off silently, and my door swung shut as Mother swept out to do whatever adults did after all the children were asleep. All of a sudden, the darkness began to close in, suffocating me. My quickened breath slowed considerably as my eyes turned upward to the stars directly above the bed. The glow-in-the-dark stars that were pasted to the ceiling with Scotch tape at a young age provided everything a night light couldn’t. Automatic “off” button that caused the stars to slowly fade as the night wore on, a bright enough glow for me to see, but dim enough for me to fall asleep the moment my head touched the pillow were only a few reasons why I still stuck with the varying-sized stars above my head. But the biggest reasons why a fifteen year-old girl like me still slept with a nightlight was him.
He’d been gone for so long, I had almost forgotten all about him. Almost. A face like that was hard to forget even if I couldn’t see anything but one frightening feature. Bloodshot eyes with a rich black core were forever burned into my memory and haunted me during every waking and sleeping moment. They were all I could remember. Or, at least, all I wanted to.
The first time I saw him in eight years was only a week before our first real conversation. As always, I said my goodnights and dragged myself into bed around 11 o’ clock. At midnight, a small scratching noise began underneath my bed. I ignored it until the sound was deafening in the eerie silence of the night. Only then did I crawl out of bed, leaving the sanctum of my covers behind, to investigate. Foolishly, I believed that it was a rat or other small animal that had crawled through the floorboards. Our house was so old and prone to infestations it seemed like a possibility.
I was wrong.
The moment I lifted the light pink train, I wished I hadn’t. What I saw staring back at me wasn’t the beady black eyes of a rat, but the eyes that wouldn’t leave me alone. His glowed brighter than a flashlight, and yet didn’t actually make the gloom any brighter. If anything, the room felt like it was plunged deeper into the night. The eyes widened—maybe in surprise—but blinked out like a light so quickly it was impossible to tell if I had imagined the whole thing. Shaking slightly, I returned to the mattress, and sleep took over before I could chew on what had just happened. For the first time in a long time, my dream was as black as ink. For the first time, I dreamt in peace.
The second time was worse than the first. The second time we actually talked. A full week after the incident, at midnight, the scuffling noise began anew. This time, I didn’t dare leave the safety of my bed. Instead, I huddled further down and pulled the sheets closer to my head. There was no way I was getting out of bed. I didn’t have to. Seconds felt like minutes as I waited for sleep to overcome me. I waited with my eyes squeezed shut. Opened or closed the depth of the blackness was the same. Eventually, the scratching noise stopped completely, and I ventured to open my eyes a fraction. From the slits, I could see that my stars were only a few minutes from fading off completely. In the dim light, I caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye. Suddenly, the night lifted like a fog as the roaming clouds passed over the moon so that a little bit of its light shone, shifting shadows around my room. My eyes widened in a mixture of fear and shock as the light illuminated a black silhouette. I couldn’t see anything else except the black figure looming over my bed. “Who’s there?” I whispered with as much courage as I could muster. “I-I know you’re in my room.” Okay, maybe that was stating the obvious, but I needed to make sure he knew that I knew that I could see him. And then, I saw them again: the eyes. Like last time, they glowed, but not with enough to use as, say, a flashlight. I sat up in bed and reached for my bedside lamp to turn it on. “Don’t,” he (at least, he sounded like a he) said sharply in a voice barely above my own. It was clear that he didn’t want to wake up my parents as any good housebreaker would. “Why not?” I countered, propping up a pillow to get into a more comfortable position. Alright. So, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t flip out and scream for help because a guy is in my room without invitation. If I did scream, he would disappear as quickly as he came and with the same amount of stealth. Plus, how could I explain a situation I knew nothing about? My game plan was to find out who this guy was, why he was here, how he got into my room. The door didn’t open, the windows were locked, and every possible entrance or exit known couldn’t be accessed without me knowing it. There was also something familiar about him. The tone of his voice, the way he held himself (well, from what I could make out), even the way he worded his sentences had a light feeling of déjà vu. The one feature, the only feature, I was absolutely familiar with was, you guessed it, the monstrous eyes. “Look, Marcella, we need to talk.”
“About what?? How do you know my name, but I don’t know yours?” I practically screamed in a strangely higher voice. Now my guard was raised. He wasn’t looking for any girl–he was looking for me. “You must promise me that you’ll listen and take me seriously no matter how crazed or delusional it sounds.” His tone had gotten urgent and dead serious. Knowing that answers would come, I nodded. “Okay,” he breathed, taking a moment to think about what he needed to say. At last, he sat down on the edge of my bed and began his story, “You know how when you were really little and you’d ask your mom or dad to check under your bed or in your closet for monsters?” Without waiting for a response from me, he rushed on. “Well, they’re real. And-And I’m yours.” Obviously, I was stunned, but I had promised to hear the poor guy out. He was probably a lunatic. He needed help. But, I learned to humor these kinds of people. Don’t ask how. “Hey, I’m not crazy, you know,” he said defensively. “How do you know I’m thinking that?”
“I told you; I am your monster. That gives me access to everything I need to know about you. To, you know, scare you and stuff.”
“You don’t seem scary now,” I replied, even though that wasn’t all that true. Wouldn’t you be scared?
“That’s because I’m not trying.” If he could scare me silly without trying, then I shudder to think about the damage he could do if he did try. “But, that’s not the point,” he continued. There was that urgent tone that made me want to take notes and pay attention eagerly. “I gotta know one thing before I tell you anything else. Do you believe me? Don’t lie.” His eyes seemed to be begging for the answer that wanted to be heard, but I couldn’t say it. “Honestly, not really.” I could almost see his body go limp in disappointment. “But I’d be willing to hear your story—crazy or not.”
“Yeah. Start at the beginning. How did it all begin with you and me and our certain... relationship.”
“Typically, the monster is born before the human. Though the opposite has been known to happen, too,” he began. Movement sliced through the night that made it look like he was running his fingers though hair. Even though I was sure he couldn’t see me, I nodded anyway. “I was born a few months before you were, and I’ve been—” He broke off there as though he wasn’t sure how to continue. “Explaining this is gonna sound really strange, so just don’t comment.” Again, I nodded. Silence followed for the next few minutes as we both got out thoughts together. I mentally prepared myself for anything that he might say. “Okay. I don’t know how it works, but somehow I always end up underneath your bed every night. It’s been like that for forever. When we were babies, I’d disappear from my cradle and would end up under yours at midnight every night. The moment the sun rose, I’d be back in my house as if I never left. My parents always thought I was a quiet baby, but I was never there at night to cry.”
I sat on my bed, legs crossed Indian-style, listening raptly as he explained how his nights were spent as he tried to sleep on the cold, hard floor. Sleepovers and all their “strange girl rituals,” as he said, were overheard. I eyed him suspiciously when the sleepover subject came up. How could I not feel a little angry knowing that he’s practically been spying on me? It is true that he was the “monster under my bed,” then he wouldn’t have been able help it. “You guys were so loud, I couldn’t not overhear your conversations,” he said defensively, as if sensing my thoughts. “I could count on one hand the times I was actually curious as to what you were talking about.” Cautiously, I asked, “How much did you hear?”
“Everything,” he replied. Even in the dark, I could see his white teeth flash in a grin. Color flushed my cheeks, and, again, I silently thanked the cover of night for hiding a potentially embarrassing moment. With the same amount of caution, I asked again, “How much do you remember?” His grin slid down to a smirk. “All of it.” For some reason, I didn’t believe him. It seemed impossible for a human, or anything for that matter, to remember thousands of sleepovers. Then again, he had said that he was a monster, not a human. You also had to consider that most of my sleepovers had been the same content-wise. “So, hypothetically speaking, are you always in this... form?” I asked, shifting on the bed uneasily. “Right now, I’m in this unnatural state, but from daybreak to eleven fifty-nine, I’m completely human.”
“What do you look like now?”
“No duh,” I said, putting on my best “angry” look. “Seriously, I’m really curious.”
“It sounds as though someone believes me.”
“It sounds like you’re straying away from the subject.”
“So are you.” If I had been a decade younger, I would have thrown a tantrum, screaming and kicking to high heaven, until he told me what I wanted to know. But I didn’t since I couldn’t, so the final result was just a really angry teenage girl. Did he really have to be so stubborn, though? Was it imperative that I had to believe him utterly and completely? Did I? Maybe a little. Only one question could decide whether he was lying or not. “When I was six, I had a stuffed pink elephant. What was its name?” Without missing a beat he replied, “Eliza.”
“Who did I name her after?”
“Your maternal grandmother’s dead dog.”
“Try asking another.” If I could see his expression, it would be incredibly cocky with a smirk that defied authority. Now I had to come up with a hard question. Something nobody else in the world knew... At last, I decided on, “Why do I still have stars on my ceiling?” No one could possibly know that answer. None of my friends or family. And yet, how could he have answered it so correctly? “Because it gives you a sense of security.” Honestly, I was blown backwards. A comical spit-take would totally describe the feelings I had then. “How do you know that,” I managed to whisper.
“You told Eliza a few years back,” he replied in the same whispery tone, clearly mocking. Just like a popped balloon, air whooshed out of me. I remembered that night, holding El close and whispering secrets. It had been long past midnight, so neither of my parents could have overheard. He had to be telling the truth. He was a monster, and he was my monster. “I believe you now,” I said in the most serious tone I could muster so that he understood that I really meant it. In the hushed silence of our bubble, I heard a barely audible breath of air that sounded extremely like a sigh. I’d probably be relieved too if someone finally believed me. “I am now an open book,” he said grandly. There was probably a little flourish of movement with the words. “What would you like to know?”
I rolled my eyes. Now he was really avoiding the question. “What you look like. We’ve been over this.”
“Alright, but you absolutely can NOT look at me, got it?”
“There are certain things as a human that you can and cannot do. I’ll explain later.” A quiet pause followed, making the tick-tock of the grandfather clock in the living room sound louder than it really was. “You really want to know?”
“Yeah. Quit stalling.”
“Imagine a boy taller than 5’ 7’’, but shorter than 6’. Give him eyes like mine—the ones you see now. Monster appearances vary from person to person. Usually, it reflects their personality. For example, a cuddly person might be covered in fur. Or, a mean one might have horns. I can get pretty defensive at times and am hard to get along with. Any guesses?”
“Armadillo shell? Armored skin?”
“Porcupine quills,” he supplied. “My skin is covered in quills, face excepting.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad. It could be a whole lot worse.”
“You think so? I did take a creative turn with it by dying the tips red.”
“Really?” Wow. I briefly wondered where he had gotten the dye from. Maybe he took it over from his bedroom. Did it work that way? “Where did you get the dye?” I finally asked. He laughed, “You never questioned why your red paint was always in a low supply? This isn’t my first time out from under your bed.” At my horrified expression, he quickly added, “But I didn’t watch you sleep like that Edward did in Twilight. I only get out to eat food if I was hungry or whatever.” Now it was my turn to laugh. We continued to talk into the wee hours of morning until he crept back underneath the bed and disappeared back to his own home.