This story is by Erik Porter and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“I caught a monster,” Benny whispered across the aisle.
Ellie leaned over. “Yeah, right,” and rolled her eyes. She had fallen for his jokes before.
Oliver leaned in too. “How? Where is it now?”
The room mother, Ms. Gunter, stood at the head of the class. “Ahem,” she said waiting for the class to settle. “Your teacher is out sick today, so you will have a substitute. Please read quietly until he arrives. If you do not have a book, I can help you find one.”
Ellie pulled out The Sorcerer’s Stone from her overstuffed pink backpack. She had read the first Harry Potter book 100 times and knew if a boy from London could discover the magical world, this book would show how a girl from Michigan could find it, too.
Other kids pulled out their own books. Most pretended to read since they knew Ms. Gunter would get bored pacing the room and return to flipping through her home decorating magazines. Soon they could start gabbing with their friends again.
Ms. Gunter reached the front of the class and turned to make another pass. Ellie shot her hand in the air waving it vigorously.
Ms. Gunter sighed, “Yes, Ellie, what can I help you with?”
“Can I go to the bathroom?”
The room mother’s smile disappeared and she rested one hand on her hip. “Already, dear?”
Ellie squirmed in her seat.
“Well, if it’s urgent.” Ellie hopped up. “Don’t forget to take a bathroom pass,” Ms. Gunter said.
Dashing to the door, Ellie snagged a pass from the corner of her teacher’s desk.
As Ellie entered the girl’s bathroom a towering, oddly dressed man exited the school office across the hall. The man looked down at the slip of paper in his gloved hands. She let the door close most of the way so she could observe the stranger.
The man paused in the center of the hallway. He wore a formal three-piece suit and what looked like an Amish farmer’s hat with an extra wide brim. He dusted his shoulders before his eyes darted toward the bathroom.
Ellie’s eyes widened as she beheld the man’s face. Pointed, furry ears pressed flat against the brim of his hat. The man trained his greenish-yellow eyes on the bathroom door for a moment before continuing toward Ellie’s classroom. She gasped. Throwing a hand to her mouth to muffle the sound, she lost hold on the door and it shut with a thud. Fearing she would draw the man’s attention, she didn’t dare open it again.
Ellie splashed water on her face and stared at her reflection. Benny’s got me all riled up. There’s no way… She dried her hands and face pondering what she thought she saw.
Outside her classroom, Ellie took two deep breaths and entered. She placed the bathroom pass back on the desk and nodded to the stranger standing in front of the class.
“Welcome young lady,” the substitute said, returning her nod.
Ellie scanned the class. Only Benny and Oliver stared at the substitute with bulging eyes and mouths agape.
”I am Mr. Rapscallion and will be your substitute.” He removed his gloves revealing a pair of furry claws. “Please continue reading while I review today’s lesson plan.”
Ellie leaned toward Benny. Not wanting to miss out, Oliver did the same.
“Now do you believe me?” Benny asked before Ellie opened her mouth.
“Is that the one you caught?” Ellie asked.
“No, mine is bald and twice his size.”
“How did you catch him?” Oliver asked.
“Mom thought the dog was getting into something so she sent me to check it out. I turned on the light in the laundry room and it collapsed in the corner. I think the lights made it fall asleep so I covered him with dirty clothes, left the light on and shut the door.”
Oliver spoke up. “What if your mom shuts off the light?”
“She only does laundry on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so we’re good.”
“Today’s Wednesday,” Ellie whispered louder.
Benny’s jaw dropped.
“Oh, crap,” Oliver said. “You’re gonna get it.”
“Yeah, or she will,” Ellie added.
Benny started to raise his hand, but Ellie smacked it down. She saw the substitute peering at the three of them over his papers.
“He’ll never let us all leave,” Oliver whined. “I’ve got to see that monster.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan,” Ellie said then whispered in each of their ears.
Mr. Rapscallion rose and strolled toward them. “May I help the three of you?”
“I’ve gotta go,” Benny started before adding, “to the bathroom.”
“Absolutely, I wouldn’t want to restrain you from your important task.”
Once Benny left, Oliver emitted a guttural groan from deep inside then collapsed on the floor in a fetal position. Ellie burst from her seat and placed her hand on his forehead. “Mr. Rapscallion, he’s burning up.”
“I should take him to the nurse,” Mr. Rapscallion reached with his furry claw but when Oliver groaned again he withdrew it.
“I can take him,” Ellie said.
The substitute stroked his scaly chin. “Yes, good idea. I should stay. I am here for the children.” His squinty eyes looked deep into Ellie’s before returning to his desk.
Ellie helped Oliver to his feet. “I think he’s onto us,” she whispered.
Oliver groaned again before they were safely in the hallway.
Benny waited near the doors to the playground. “How many more do you think there are?” Oliver asked as they neared the exit.
“Who knows, but maybe we can get Benny’s monster to talk,” Ellie said.
Outside they broke into a sprint toward Benny’s house.
In the kitchen Benny’s mom lay sprawled on the floor in a pool of red liquid. Benny fell to his knees sobbing. Oliver sniffled back a tear, then leaned into the red liquid. He dipped two fingers in and stuck them in his mouth.
Benny stopped sobbing and Ellie gagged.
“It’s just raspberry sauce.”
Benny leapt to his feet and tore down the basement stairs with Ellie and Oliver on his heels. The laundry room lights were off and clothes scattered everywhere.
“He’s gotta still be here.” Benny yelled, “Check every closet!”
Ellie and Oliver followed Benny through the house. “The coat closet,” Benny pointed as they sped through the living room.
“I’m on it.” Oliver skidded to a stop on the entryway tiles and threw the door open. Ellie followed Benny upstairs.
“You check my sister’s room, I’ll look in mine.” Benny’s room was still “no girls allowed” even for his friend Ellie.
Benny’s sister had decorated her closet door with hearts, bunnies and unicorns. An enormous bare foot prevented the door from closing. Through the opening she could see a hairy calf and a bare, knobby knee but darkness hid the rest of the creature.
“It’s here,” Ellie screamed.
Benny burst into the room and put his hand on the light switch.
“Not, yet,” she commanded.
Ellie threw open the closet door. The hulking monster ducked out of the closet, one hand holding an extra large ten-gallon hat atop his head. His eyes drooped and lower lip quivered.
“What do you want?” Ellie asked.
The monster swallowed hard before emitting an echoing roar.
“Do it NOW!” Ellie screamed.
Benny flipped the switch. The overhead light brightened the room, but the monster lumbered forward. Ellie and Benny backed into the hallway as the beast’s head smashed the ceiling light to pieces.
Benny and Ellie bolted toward the stairs, their only means of escape.
Mr. Rapscallion, now double in size, climbed the stairs. In his furry claw he clutched Oliver, chin against his chest, arms limp at his sides and legs swaying in midair.
“I’d tip my hat in appreciation, but you know, it is daytime,” Mr. Rapscallion said. He swung Oliver like a rag doll as he bowed. “Some children think they are so clever. And, adults,” he finished this thought with a laugh. “You led me right to our missing scout.”
Benny and Ellie turned toward the monster hunkering down behind them, blocking the bedroom doors.
“Get out of here!” Ellie screamed. “Or else!”
Mr. Rapscallion cackled, “Or else what?” He tossed Oliver against the wall. Both monsters trudged toward Ellie and Benny who stood back to back watching their fate close in.
The monsters’ hats almost scraped the ceiling. Their shoulders knocked family pictures from the walls. When they were close enough to grab their prey, Ellie whispered to Benny. They each dove between a monster’s legs, scampering down the hall. Each monster ducked forward following the kids’ paths through their legs, knocking heads with a crack. Their hats flew from their heads and each monster rubbed what would become red lumps on their foreheads.
Mr. Rapscallion roared and charged Ellie who lay at the top of the stairs. Ceiling lights shined and both monster’s crumpled to the floor asleep.
“Now that’s how you catch monsters,” Oliver beamed. “So what time does your dad get home?”