This story is by Sarah Nelson and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Despite his parents’ reassurance that no such thing existed, Jackson was sure a monster was living under his bed.
One night in late August he lay awake, wondering if his parents had double-checked his closet, when he felt his bed wiggle from side to side.
“It isn’t real,” he could hear his mom say as if she were in the room with him. “It’s just in your head,” his dad would always tell him, peering down through his wire-framed glasses.
But how could it be in his head when he could feel his bed moving? Could he be making the bed move with his mind?
The bed had stopped shaking so Jackson closed his eyes, concentrating hard. He focused all his energy on making the bed move back and forth, but it didn’t budge.
He opened his eyes and sighed. The glow from his nightlight washed over his room, casting an eerie glow on the walls. Jackson pulled his blanket up over his head, leaving his toes cold and vulnerable. Maybe he could just hide from the monster.
After a few minutes he thought about laying back down, but the sound of his bedroom door creaking open froze him to his spot. He held his breath.
Was that in his head, too? Or did his mom accidentally leave his window open, letting a breeze blow in?
Jackson peeked one eye out from under his blanket to glance at the curtains hanging in the window. He urged them to flutter, to give him a reason to believe his mind was just playing tricks on him, but they didn’t even twitch.
Suddenly Jackson’s blanket was snatched off his body, disappearing underneath his bed. He gasped. It couldn’t have been the wind.
Jackson’s hand reached for the Velcro pocket on his pajamas, ripping it open and then fastening it repeatedly as his mind raced. If he stepped off his bed, the monster would surely grab his ankle and pull him under. But if he yelled for his parents, he might scare the monster away before he could give them proof that the monster was real.
In the next minute, a horrible scratching sound came from under Jackson’s bed. Claws, he thought.
He kept opening and closing his Velcro pocket until the tearing noise fell in sync with the monster’s scratching. For a moment, it was as if they were one.
Jackson’s eyelids began to droop. Maybe he could make peace with the monster. Maybe it wasn’t going to hurt him.
His hand had stopped moving and his head fell to one side of his pillow. His breathing slowed. The scratching stopped.
Jackson’s eyes opened again. The scratching stopped.
Maybe the monster was tired too, he thought. Nothing happened for several long minutes. Jackson started to drift back to sleep when he felt his bed jostle and bump again. The monster wouldn’t settle down, and Jackson became annoyed.
“Knock it off, monster,” he said with a surge of bravery. He was in charge. But the monster kept bumping his bed.
“I said quit!” he yelled. The bumping stopped.
Jackson thought he had won, but the next moment his heart dropped. A green-and-black scaled hand reached over the mattress, blindly patting the sheets. Jackson’s heart froze. He remembered his father’s words: It’s just in your head.
The monster’s fingers crawled toward his feet. Jackson’s hands flew to his face, covering his eyes, but his cheeks felt cold and slimy. He drew back his hands and screamed, staring at them in horror. They were covered in green and black scales.
He glanced around frantically, but the monster was gone. Still, Jackson couldn’t relax. He didn’t know what was happening to him. His foot snagged on his mattress and when he looked, he saw that his feet also had scales and were webbed with thick claws sticking out.
He jumped out of bed screaming, “Mom! Dad!”
No one stirred. “Mommm! Daddd!”
This time he heard a door open and feet shuffle down the hall. They rushed into his room and flicked on the light.
“What-?” Jackson’s mom stopped, her mouth frozen in a wide O. His father caught her as she fainted.
“See, it’s real. It’s not all in my head!” Despite himself, Jackson was excited to present his parents with proof. He moved closer, his claws clicking against the floor, but at his advance his father fainted too.