Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Creak in the Floorboards by Jon Beight

Jon Beight serves up a slice of creepiness, dictated by a childhood monster.

Hello Princess.

I suppose I should introduce myself, but that may not be necessary. After all, you know who I am. You've known me a long time. You created me. That is, I was always there, but it was that wonderful imagination of yours that allowed me to become whatever you conjured up in the dark. But I'm not here in that capacity. I'm here for another reason. Allow me to refresh your memory.

Before we first met, your life was picture perfect. Remember how you loved your bedroom? How you arranged your dolls on your bed and dresser? They were your smiling, bright-eyed audience while you danced ballet. Remember your paint-by-numbers horse with his head poking out of the barn? Remember how you marveled at how strong he looked? Do you remember the small display case with the miniature glass animals and how magical they looked when your nightlight would strike them just so?

And, of course, you remember how every night Mommy would tuck you in and read you a story. She would kiss you good night before turning out the light, and you would take one last look at all of these things, softly illuminated by the nightlight, before drifting to sleep and dreaming the sweet things children dream of. You were safe and warm.

Then there was that night. That night you couldn't sleep. Mommy tucked you in, read you a story, and kissed you goodnight, just like always. But that night, who knows what it was. Maybe your pillow wouldn't cooperate, or you kept getting twisted in the bed sheet. Perhaps you thought you heard your name whispered amidst the rustle of leaves in the wind.

That night you saw your cozy room a little differently. The nightlight cast hard shadows that made those things you loved take on a different look. Your strong, beautiful horse bared his long, crooked teeth as he turned his head to grin at you. Your dolls stopped smiling and stared at you with dark, vacant eyes. Your glass animals had transparent skin that revealed rib cages and beating hearts.

But somewhere, during that night, you realized this was just your imagination hard at work. You were young, but you had an idea of what was real and what wasn't. You knew that none of these things changed when the lights went out. Your sensibilities grabbed hold and reminded you that glass animals are just that, and dolls and paint-by-numbers horses are just that as well.

But there was still a problem. You couldn't account for what you couldn't see. For what might be lurking in all the shadowy places your nightlight didn't reach. And that was the heart of it. That was the unknown element that stoked your fear, and sent your young imagination burning out of control.

Yes, Princess, at the exact moment you were certain that somewhere in those darkened spaces lived a hideous creature, that was also the moment when I entered the picture. I was there, right down to your finest details. I was there, watching you from those places just beyond your vision. I was there, scratching at the floor, or drifting spider silk across your cheek. I was there to give you starts and fill your nights with dread.

Remember the times in the dark and quiet of the night, when you were certain someone was breathing in rhythm with you? You would suddenly stop, only to hear a breath or two more from somewhere very close by. Don't you remember all the little creaks in the floorboards and the thumps from the walls as you lay awake?

Remember how you would eventually cry out for Mommy to chase me away? Of course, she wouldn't find anything, because I only existed in your imagination. Or did I?

Well, it doesn't matter. You've grown up. You have a small daughter of your own to be brave for, like your mommy was for you. And that's why I'm here, to say goodbye. Soon enough, you and I will be perfect strangers. But your daughter and I will be at the beginning of a long friendship.

So in the meantime, if you're having one of those restless nights and you feel a little tug on the bedspread, or hear a creak in the floorboards, or hear faint breathing that isn't your own, look for me. I'll be there in the shadows, lurking about.

Until then, Princess, sleep well...

5 comments:

  1. very good indeed, brilliantly descriptive. so it was you...

    Michael McCarthy

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  2. Things that go BUMP in the night...
    Nicely done! I like the passing of the torch at the end (or passage of the "creak in the floorboards")

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  3. Shivers! I could hear a voice full of resonance and evil charm. It's that promise/threat of going on to terrorize the daughter that makes the monster especially scary.

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