The Monster Under The Bed
Horatio listened quietly in the darkness. He stretched himself as flat as he could possibly get, on the hard dusty floor, under the bed. He saw bits and pieces of childhood detritus under there with him; random LEGO pieces, a marble, and a sock that had been missing for two years. He was content to wait though....it was his specialty.
His name wasn't really Horatio, but he liked the name after seeing a book by the same name, Horatio Hornblower, lying on the floor by the bed. His real name had no English equivalent; no, make that no human equivalent. Horatio would suffice.
Horatio was a Monster Under The Bed, sent here through a portal to keep watch on human children. The Monsters of his world had different purposes here: some were here to scare children senseless, some were here to kidnap them outright, and some were sent here to act sort of like guardian angels. The Angel Monsters were the elite; only the Lesser Monsters were sent to scare and maim. Once the children grew up, the Monsters returned to their world to be assessed, and assigned to a new child. Sometimes, the Monsters were recruited to return to the adult children in their dreams, lest they forget their erstwhile childhood nightmares.
Horatio was one of the Lesser Monsters, assigned to Peter for the duration of his childhood. Lesser Monsters were thought to be incapable of feeling emotions, were considered more crude and unintelligent, and so got the less savory jobs of creating fear and mayhem. He scoffed at that thought....they really don't know that it takes intelligence to create fear. One must know their subject, learn the unique individual fears, and prey on them. Really, he thought, they should consider US the elite; but no matter. Horatio was content in his job, and knew he did it well.
He laid there under the bed, smiling to himself, thinking back to the first time Peter suspected that there was a Monster Under The Bed. Little Peter's head kept lowering down to look under the bed, only to whisk up again by the mere suggestion that something might be under there. Horatio fed off that fear and it made him stronger. For an added touch, he allowed his growl to be vaguely discerned by the tiny ears above the bedspread....just a whisper of a growl....no need to go all out like some of his coworkers did. They had no subtlety about their work, just barged in and started gesticulating with their fangs. No, his approach created a much more deeper fear in the child, that lasted longer.
Peter had grown up a little, now nine years old, and already was beginning to show signs of no longer believing in The Monster Under The Bed. Horatio had had to up his game, match wits with a boy approaching adolescence and more interested in football and cars than monsters and fairytales. Peter still had a wariness about fetching items that had been kicked under the bed and would only do it in full daylight, and he still had the long habit of jumping into bed instead of sitting down first then swinging his legs into it, lest something grab his ankle. Horatio beamed at the thought that the sway still held. Still though, he new he had to stay on his toes, so to speak.
One thing did irritate Horatio's thoughts though....he had come to like Peter. When Peter would have his young friends over to play in his bedroom, Horatio eagerly listened in on their games and talk. He learned what was going on in school that day when his parents came to tuck him in and would talk about things before turning out the light. He had the ability to peek in on Peter's dreams (in order to break in to create a nightmare), but he found himself holding back on the nightmares and simply watching Peter's own dreams unfold. They were unlike anything he had ever beheld before, dreams of innocence and purity, light and laughter. Horatio was mesmerized.
Monsters, unless they were of the upper elite Angel type, were not supposed to like their charges. They were not supposed to harbor feelings of affection for them. They were not supposed to protect them from harm, but to create harm. Horatio was confused by his feelings and scowled to himself whenever he found himself waiting to hear Peter's news of his day. Once or twice he even broke Monster rules and came out from under the bed and stood in the hallway, wanting to hear Peter practice his piano lesson. After these bouts of emotions he felt ashamed, and vowed to be extra scary that night to make up for it.
That night Peter came to bed, his mother behind him, asking him to repeat his music theory lesson one more time.
"And what are the sharp notes again?" his mother asked.
"Fat Charlie Goes Down And Eats Breakfast, F-C-G-D-A-E-B," Peter said, rolling his eyes. "Don't worry Mom, I know it!"
"Ok, Ok, just checking. Now hop in, we have an early day tomorrow," his mother said while straightening the sheets around him. Do you want me to check.....?" she asked Peter, hinting at their old ritual of checking under the bed for monsters.
"Mom, there's no such thing as monsters, you know that," Peter said. Horatio, listening, was cut to the quick. He felt a tear well up in his eye.
"Alright alright, just thought I'd ask. You know, I looked under there the other day searching for something and could have sworn I saw something move...."
"Mom, you're just doing that to scare me," Peter said, rolling his eyes again. "But if you wanna look, go ahead."
Both Mom and Horatio smiled at this, but Peter was unaware, having closed his eyes. He's just faking, Horatio thought. Oh well played Peter, well played.
After his Mom turned out the light, Peter turned onto his side and fell fast asleep. Horatio considered giving him a good old fashioned nightmare just for the fun of it, he was so overjoyed that Peter still believed in him. But he let him rest, and settled down to sleep himself, under the bed among the dust bunnies.
A few hours later Horatio woke up, knowing it was far too early. He smelled smoke. He wondered if the portal door was ajar allowing smoke and brimstone to waft up (it had happened before, it was an HR nightmare to cover that up) but no, that wasn't it. No, this smoke was inside the house. He tensed, waiting to hear the smoke alarms go off to alert the family to safety. They weren't going off! Horatio knew the rules, he was absolutely forbidden to interfere with the activity of the family or to approach them in any way, even in an emergency such as this. But.....this was Peter. Peter! His Peter. He had to do something.
He now heard sounds out in the hallway, and determined that Peter's parents were unable to get to his room. Horatio broke every single rule in the Monster Manual in one second. He came out from under the bed, gently shook Peter by the shoulder, and said in as gentle a voice as he could muster, "Peter, wake up Peter. You need to get out of the house, now. I'll help you. Peter, Wake UP," he added a bit of the old growl in his urgency.
Peter woke up, frightened, and looked around. He thought he saw a shape by the bed but couldn't make it out. He smelled smoke and started coughing. "Mom, Dad! Help!" he shouted, and he could hear their screams down the hallway.
Horatio used his ability to peek into dreams to speak to Peter's conscious mind now. If he showed his corporeal form to Peter and talked out loud to him while awake it would do more harm than good, so he kept himself hidden in the shadows and let his voice penetrate Peter's mind. "Peter, go over to the window, open it, and jump to the ground. NOW."
"But what about my parents!" Peter screamed.
"They are already outside, you need to go to them. NOW."
Peter hesitated one last second, looked around him for the voice, then went to the window. He opened it, had the presence of mind to grab whatever books and toys were nearest to him and threw them out ahead, and then followed, jumping to the dew-wet grass in his bare feet.
Horatio risked a look out the window to make sure that Peter was safe, that his parents were indeed outside, and then skulked back to his portal door under the bed. He knew he was going to be in big trouble.
Back in the Monster world, Horatio was approached immediately by his supervisor. "Just what do you think you were doing? Revealing yourself to the child? Saving the child? Oh my, there is going to be A LOT of paperwork on this. You are temporarily relieved of duty until we can investigate this further. Turn in your portal key."
Horatio turned in his portal key and walked away, shoulders slumped.
A few days later Horatio was summoned by his supervisor and the rest of upper management. He stood nervously in the middle of the room, lined on all sides with various Monsters in whispered conversation.
"You have hereby been summoned to a hearing concerning your post. Please explain to us, what happened that made you reveal yourself to your charge," a deep voice said.
Horatio took a deep breath and said, "Well, the house....it burned down. It was burning down all around them and I had to keep Peter safe. He is my charge and I just had to.....keep him safe," he finished, hanging his head.
The Monsters whispered fervently to each other all around him. Finally, the deep voice asked him, "But why did you want to keep him safe?"
"I have grown to like the child...no, love the child," Horatio answered.
"But you are a Lesser Monster, how is it that you know love?" the deep voice asked.
"I do not know, I only know what it is that I feel. I care about the boy, his family, and his world." Horatio looked up, then, defiant. No longer would he hang his head in shame. He was sure of himself and would suffer the consequences without fear.
More whispers. Then the deep voice said, "You may go. We will call you when we have made our decision." Horatio walked out of the room.
Days later, Horatio was summoned back. He had feelings of misgivings, and wondered if he had been too brash. He certainly didn't want to be demoted. No, those that were under the Lesser Monsters were truly depraved. His newly awakened emotions caused him to balk at what his future might hold.
Standing in the middle of the room again, Horatio waited for his sentence to be given. The deep voice said, "You have shown extraordinary qualities that we did not know Lesser Monsters were capable of. The ability to love, the need to protect. This is unlike anything we have ever seen before. We did not know what to do with you."
Horatio cowered, sure he was going to be demoted.
"However, we have come to decide that we would like to give you a chance at the elite front. Angel Monster, 3rd class. We want to study you, see if you really have what it takes to be an Angel Monster. Really, it's unheard of, a Lesser Monster exhibiting these levels of depth within himself. You are hereby sentenced to one year probation to the Elite Squad. And, I think you will like knowing you will be going back to Peter's house. Or rather, his new house."
Horatio was so overcome with gratitude he was unable to speak. He realized what had just been said and blurted, "I'm going back to Peter? I'm to look after him as an Angel?" He quivered with joy at the thought.
"No, you are not being reassigned to Peter. You are being assigned to his little brother."
"But Peter doesn't have a little brother!" Horatio said, confused.
"He will in about two months," said the deep voice, smiling.
Horatio walked out of the room, smiling as well.
Posted for Blogophilia 21.5
Topic: It Burned Down
hard, 2 pts: Include a childhood monster (like the monster under the bed)
easy, 1 pt: Include a mnenomic device