Every night, after Jane’s parents lay her down to sleep, the noises would start. Banging and clanking in the wall near her bed. Scratching beneath it.
Jane was certain there was something under there. Something that would reach out to grab her if she left the safety of her bed or allowed even the smallest part of her limbs to dangle over its edge.
Sometimes, when she was at the edge of her sanity, she screamed for her parents. Mom or Dad would come to her, slowly, and never together. They would turn on the light, assure her there was nothing under the bed, peek beneath to confirm, and then tell her to go back to sleep. As soon as the door shut the noises would begin again.
Eventually, she gave up trying to convince them.
Now she lay in bed, alert, listening to the things in the wall and beneath her bed, wondering when the day would come that whatever was under there would find its way up to her. She pictured a red-eyed, scaly thing with claws and sharp fangs slowly rising up and then reaching for her so fast she wouldn’t have time to scream.
She gasped. Pulled the sheets up over her head. This was a new noise. Louder. And came from further beneath the bed. Past the floor. Downstairs.
Whispered voices. Another new noise—a creak—that was much more familiar to her as the loose floorboard in the living room. Jane sat up just a little bit, careful not to lean over the edge of the bed. Her Princess Anna clock glowed 2:36am.
Someone was walking past her bedroom. No, two people. With heavy footsteps. Heavier than she knew her parents’ footsteps to be.
Was it a monster? Had it found its way from under the bed and was now stalking the hallway?
“Check what’s in there,” she heard a man say from outside her door. Not a voice she recognized. A scream rose in her throat but she suppressed it. There was still time to hide.
Jane swung her feet to the floor and paused. A tingle skittered its way from her ankles to her thighs, like a finger testing her leg to know how easily it could be grabbed. She fell to the floor and kicked at it, pushing herself backward toward the doorway.
The door handle turned.
There’s nothing under the bed, her parents’ voices repeated in her head. She looked toward the bed, but the darkness and the bed skirt obscured anything that may be hiding under there, ready to eat her or take her to its lair or whatever it was monsters did.
The door slowly opened. A sliver of light broke through the dark.
She crawled on her hands and knees as quickly as she could. Away from the threat and into the unknown and, perhaps, greater danger. Glancing backward, she saw a stream of yellow-orange light spread across her light pink wall.
Diving, she parted the bed skirt and disappeared beneath the bed, hoping that whatever she had to face under here was better than what waited for her in the bedroom.
She was right. Face to face with her were glowing red eyes, scaly skin, and long fangs. She tried to scream, but the thing’s claws covered her mouth before she could suck in any air. It stared into her eyes and she felt it trying to communicate something to her.
It spun her around so they could watch the light playing around her room together. Slowly, gently, it released its grip around her face and pushed her behind it. The light bounced closer to the bed, punctuated with a heavy footstep each time. A pair of boots appeared in the quarter-inch between the bed skirt and the floor. There was a rustling above them.
Someone checking the bed for a little girl.
Finding her missing, the intruder knelt down next to the bed. The light turned toward the space underneath. The intruder’s hand pulled up on the bed skirt and the flashlight he held filled the space beneath, blinding Jane.
She didn’t need to see to know what happened next. There was a growl. A gasp. A struggle. The light went out and all was dark. She felt something brush past her and disappear somewhere. Her eyes adjusted to the night and she was alone.
Carefully crawling from beneath the bed, she checked the room for signs of other monsters. All was clear.
The sound of sirens coming nearer broke through the quiet.
“Paul? Where are you? We gotta go!” a man’s voice called out from the hallway. Then his footsteps ran from the upstairs to the downstairs and then out the front door. Jane turned back toward her bed. The bed skirt hung limp, a pair of glowing red eyes watching her through them. They disappeared as whatever lived beneath her bed turned away.
For insight into the writing of this story, check out the Behind the Vignette blog post.