Beneath

They didn’t believe me when I told them there were monsters under my bed.

When I would scream for them, pleading, tears streaming down my face, they would shake their heads, my Mother and Father. Check under the bed, was Mother’s soft suggestion to my tired Father, whose eyes, red with need for sleep, would roll when he thought I wouldn’t catch him. To his knees he would go, and I would watch frightfully the curve of my father’s broad back as he craned and looked beneath my bed.

Nothing here, he would say, but dust bunnies and my lack of patience. You’re too old for this. Go to sleep, Cara.

But I never could.

Countless times They would come. When the house was still and calm with sleep, I would lay in my bed with covers to my chin and my eyes closed tight, though no rest would come to me. It always started with the scratching – the screech, screech, screech of talons clawing merciless against the floor beneath my bed. Visions of my flesh giving way to those talons would find a place in my mind, and more often than not, my thighs would wet with a release of urine I could not control.

My Father would blame these nightly accidents on medical problems. My mother insisted perhaps I should be allowed a nightlight – a notion my father refused. She’s thirteen, she needs to grow up.

What I needed was their belief, but at night I received nothing but a closed door and darkness. From the darkness, They would creep, slinking from beneath my bed, and I could hear them slither and slink across the floor. When my bed dipped with their weight, I would tug my covers futilely over my eyes – They would always snatch them away.

Rancid was the air around them, hot and muggy. It scented of vomit and rotted meats, and the scent was stronger when thick, molten-hot tongues barbed in spines slunk out and traced their way across my flesh. It burned, singing my skin, and where their talon-sharp fingers probed and poked at my body, the tender flesh split and tore in bloody lines.

I would try to keep in the screams, hope that They would leave me alone – but They, and Their many tongues and fingers would make their way to my eyes to try and pry them open, and I would refuse to look at them. In turn, I’d scream, and the sounds would summon Mother and Father, though when they came to door, frantic, no monsters would be there.

The trails of scrapes and burns left over my face and body from Their exploring tongues and creeping appendages were explained away as self-inflicted. Sharp nails scratched into skin. Lighter burns – from a lighter they could never seem to find. Attention seeking came up. Disappointment was habitual. Mother wanted to call the doctor, and Father refused steadfast.

The monsters always returned, night after night. Their curious explorations were terrifying, and when They would urge me to look at them, I would scream – I had to feel Them, smell Them. I couldn’t bear to look at Them, too.

Resistance to Their persistence failed, one night. Tendrils had crept into my mouth, sliding sticky and tar-like between my lips. I choked on my sobs and the obstruction in my mouth. The rotted scent forced vomit to my throat, and the day’s meal sputtered from between my lips. My struggle had me flailing, screaming against the intrusion – distracted.

Talons pried open my eyes, and I screamed for my Salvation at the monstrosity in my midst.

I remember little of what followed. What I can recall is everything dripping in red. The red, I would learn, from within the walls of a padded cell, was Mother and Father, spattered over every surface of my room.

It was like they were stuffed in a blender and painted on the walls – the Doctor’s words.

I say nothing but the truth, about the monsters under my bed. About the talons and the tendrils, and the hot stink of Death. I show them my scars, the welts across my body, but my cell becomes smaller, and the ears become deafened.

They don’t believe me when I tell them there are monsters under my bed.

They are wrong.

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