Long, dark fingers crept across the moonlit wall, stretching closer, reaching, grasping toward me. I pulled the blanket up around my neck. Bumps popped up on my arms, even though it wasn’t cold. Something rustled the hair on the back of my neck.
I couldn’t help it. I screamed.
The door to my room slammed open. Bright light from the hallway almost blinded me. A shadow stood in the doorway, strong, unafraid.
I breathed a sigh of relief. “There was a monster in here. It touched my neck.”
Mommy came in and sat on the edge of my bed. “Where was the monster?”
I pointed to the wall. “I think it was coming in through the window. It had long, sharp claws. It was trying to grab me.”
Mommy stood and shut the door, so it was dark. “I don’t see a monster, Becca. Just the shadow of the tree branches.”
“It wasn’t a shadow—I’m sure of it!”
“Well, it’s gone now. Go to sleep.” She went out and shut the door. Her footsteps echoed down the hall.
I lay back down and closed my eyes.
Something moved in my closet, making the clothes swish. I told myself it was my imagination, nothing was there. It almost worked, until I heard a sound like a low, angry growl.
“Mommy!” The door opened.
“There’s a monster in my closet. I heard it growling at me.”
Mommy turned on the light in the closet. My clothes hung undisturbed. My shoes were still packed in boxes, except for my favorite pair of light-up princess sneakers, which sat on the top box. “I don’t see a monster.”
“But it growled at me! This house is haunted.”
Mommy stood still and cocked her head to one side. “That’s the air conditioner. It sounds different than the one at our old house, but it’s nothing to worry about. Please go to sleep.”
I lay back down. She left, and I examined my room. The shadow on the wall was still just a tree branch. The growling sound was still just the air conditioner. But what was that crawling on the walls?
Spiders! Thousands of them, crawling out of the polka dots on the wallpaper. Mommy said we could paint my room, but we hadn’t had time yet. I wished we had. Maybe then the spiders couldn’t get out.
I ducked my head under my blanket and whimpered. Mommy would be upset if I made her come in again. She always told me don’t bother her, she has so much to do before she starts her new job, and why was I still awake?
I poked my head out from under my blanket. The spiders had formed a long line and were coming straight toward me.
I kept it in as long as I could, but as the trail of spiders drew closer, I started to cry. Big, wet tears got my fairy jammies and my fuzzy pink blanket all wet. I stuffed the blanket in my mouth to quiet my sobs, so I wouldn’t disturb Mommy.
It didn’t work. The door opened again. “What is it now?” Mommy sounded tired. “Spiders.” I looked at the walls, but the spiders had all scurried back into their polka dots. Mommy sat down beside me and wrapped her arms around me. “There are no monster claws trying to grab you. There’s nothing growling in your closet. There are no spiders on your walls. This house is not haunted.”
“I miss my old room.”
“You’ll get used to this one soon.”
“Daddy never let monsters in.”
“I won’t let monsters in, either.”
“Daddy would protect me.”
Mommy hugged me tight. “I’ll protect you, too.”
“I miss him.”
“I miss him, too.”
“He was my hero.”
“Mine, too. But we have to be each other’s heroes now. Can you do that for me? Can you be brave, like Daddy, and be my hero?”
I hadn’t really thought about how hard it was for Mommy. Daddy took care of her, too. Now that he was gone, she needed me.
I nodded. “I’ll be your hero, Mommy.”
She squeezed me tightly. “Thank you, Becca. Now, please try to sleep.”
Something thumped under my bed. Once.
Twice. Three times. Each louder than the time before. I buried my head under my pillow. I would not scream. I would not cry. I would not call out. Mommy needed me to be her hero.
My whole body shook as the monster bumped and scratched underneath my bed, but still I remained silent.
Any minute, it would devour me, but I had to be brave for Mommy.
The door to my room burst open. I popped my head out.
Mommy stood in the doorway, holding Daddy’s golf club. “Where is it?”
“Under the bed,” I whispered.
Mommy started swinging wildly with the golf club, thrashing it around under the bed and thumping it against whatever terror lurked under there.
She yelled so loud it made me jump. “No monsters allowed! This is a monster-free zone. All beasts, ghosts, spiders, and other creepy things are hereby banned. Nothing is going to get my little girl. Got it?”
Then, something shot out from under the bed. It looked like a giant cat, but its head wasn’t right. More like two red eyes pasted onto the top of a mangled pile of teeth. It flashed its eyes at me just once before squeezing through the cracked window.
Mommy slammed the window and set the golf club against the wall by the head of my bed. I scooted over as she crawled in under my fuzzy pink blanket and kissed the tip of my nose.
“Good night, Becca.” She pressed her head into my pillow and closed her eyes.
I snuggled up next to her, but I stayed awake, just in case. No monsters allowed, no matter what they looked like.
Avily writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers. When she’s not writing or parenting, she loves to read, go hiking with friends, and crochet baby blankets. She blogs weekly at newauthors.wordpress.com and can be found on Facebook as well.
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