Marjorie lays in her bed staring at the ceiling. She’s pretending she doesn’t see it writhe in the darkness because her therapist told her it isn’t real. She wants to believe him, but she can’t sleep.
Hours have been spent lying there, waiting for the sunrise to thwart her terror. The only thing Marjorie can do is try her best to pretend it’s all OK. She closes her eyes in the dark. She imagines Benjamin, her ex-boyfriend and a logical man, telling her that she’s worrying about nothing.
A creak in the hallway floor sends her heart pounding, but she hollowly assures herself that it is nothing. Living in the attic of an old Victorian house has its own horrors, but she tries to convince herself there is no burglar lurking in the hall, there are no ghosts out to steal her soul and there are certainly no human sized bugs waiting to devour her alive. There is nothing there.
A loud slam in the apartment – an old shutter perhaps? – and Marjorie’s eyes shoot open. This is worthless. She cannot sleep. Marjorie claps her hands loudly – hoping she’s not alerting any monsters of fresh meat. The lights flicker on and Marjorie sighs. The ceiling is flat and lifeless above her.
She flings herself out of bed and toward the closet, ignoring the space between her bed and the floor and the fresh bruise on her ankle. Where did that come from?
“You probably bumped it. You were always a little clumsy.” Benjamin knew her better than anyone.
A robe and a pair of slippers later, she is heading down the hall with a flashlight, looking for light switches. She knows there is nothing like a little light to chase away the midnight macabre.
Marjorie inspects the living room with her flashlight before flipping the final switch, all too aware that any darkness could be harboring something awful and dangerous. Seeing nothing in the harsh light, she flips on the television to get some noise – anything is better than listening to her own heartbeat.
In the kitchen, Marjorie fixes herself some stale coffee and a few cookies before returning to the life of the TV. In the midst of her sitcom, however, just as she is settling in, she hears something. It might have been a giggle, it might have been a snort – it might have been coming from the television.
“It was just the TV, don’t worry about it.” Her ex-boyfriend was the sane one. Marjorie flips the channel for some early morning infomercials.
The strange sound persists.
He would say it was nothing but ancient plumbing or bad wiring. Marjorie climbs out of her chair to inspect. First, she looks in the kitchen. The sound is louder here and the sink is on – a product of her own absent-mindedness. Sighing her relief, she turns the water off. Muscles she didn’t know were tense begin to relax as she shuffles back into the living room.
She can’t catch a break. The sound – could it be a gurgle? – resumes. The kitchen is empty and the sink is still off. She looks into the bathroom next, but finds only a small puddle on the floor. This is strange – Marjorie hasn’t showered today, let alone left water pooling on the tile.
Before she can consider the water too closely, however, Marjorie is startled by noise behind her. It is the same noise, but louder still. She turns slowly, fighting her own blind fear for every inch. Surely there is nothing behind her. Surely this is all an exaggeration brought on by little sleep and sensitive nerves. Surely it is nothing. The bedroom is behind her. The door is closed. She had not closed the door.
At the knob her hands are shaking, but whether it is the caffeine, the insomnia or the adrenaline Marjorie is not sure. The knob is cool under her sweating palm and she has to grip tightly to turn it. Behind the door is darkness. Benjamin is silent.
Marjorie claps her hands as loud as she can – certain she will have only one chance. As the light flickers on once more, she can see watery footsteps leading to her bed. The blanket overhang near the floor sways slightly.
Marjorie has never been so certain.
There is a monster under her bed.
©2012 Ree Callahan
Ree Callahan is a Creative Writing student at the University of Cincinnati set to graduate next year. She’s excited about writing and the future! She likes teddy bears and drinking copious amounts of tea. Someday she plans to write YA fantasy novels with a social justice twist, but for now practices all sorts of writing.