Twenty-six years ago…
Lying in my bed and unable to sleep, I try to imagine what roller skating would be like. My friend, Autumn, is having a birthday party at the roller rink, tomorrow, and it will be the first time I’ve ever been able to skate. My brother said that it was hard and that I won’t be able to do it because I’m clumsy but I don’t believe him. My mother had told Autumn’s mother that I wouldn’t be able to go unless my brother could come, too. At first, I was upset because I didn’t want him to be there but, now, I’m glad he’ll be there because I can show him that I’m not too clumsy and that I can skate.
In fact, I think to myself, I won’t fall down but he’ll fall down and then me and my friends will laugh at him. That’ll show him that I’m not so little. With this thought, I happily settle down further into my blankets and imagine the party. There will be balloons, a giant cake with lots of candles, a pile of presents, and the invitation said that there would even be pizza and soda. The thought of varieties of soda makes my mouth water and I want to convince myself to pick whatever kind I want, even though my mother said we could only have 7Up. With a sigh, I realize that I won’t venture to try any of the other kinds of soda because I know that my mother will find out, somehow, and I really don’t want to get in trouble again.
Opening my eyes, I stare at the ceiling and wish that I could just go to sleep like my brother can. I also wish that I hadn’t broken my clock so that I’d know what time it is. It seems like I’ve been lying here all night and I’m pretty sure the sun has to come up soon. Squeezing my eyes shut, as tight as I can, I tell myself, “Go to sleep! Go to sleep! Go to sleep!” In response to my voice, a scratching sound comes from the bottom of the wall, where the corner at the end of the bed, meets it. I open my eyes wide, as a shiver runs through my body, and I listen.
I sit up straight and peer into the half-lit darkness of my room. Someone has turned off the bathroom light that is supposed to stay on and the only light I have is coming from my little 1’x2’ window behind me. Tingling butterflies of panic begin to unfold and flutter in my abdomen as the sound comes again. I feel the bed vibrate slightly with each noise, –Skerch, skerch, skerch-. I suck in air, in one big gulp, and prepare my lungs to scream for help but a vision of my mother’s face, in my mind, stops me. She doesn’t want to be woken up. She’s tired. Don’t be afraid anymore, toughen up, stop being a baby, there’s nothing there, stop waking her up, it’s all in your head, change the channel, think of something else, your monsters aren’t REAL!
The scratching sound comes again and something, under the end of the bed, moves upward, lurching the bed upwards and slightly sideways. I fall toward the wall and hit my shoulder against it; wanting to scream but now too afraid. A growling sound comes up, through the mattress, under my feet and I yank my knees up to my chin, gripping my shins as tightly as I can. Hushed whispers rise out of the crevice between my blankets and the wall. I can’t understand them but I can tell that they’re angry. They want to hurt me; to take me. Desperately, I look around the room and try to find a way off of the bed without having to touch the floor but the only hope I see is jumping as far as I can.
Slowly, I release the breath that I’ve held in my lungs and prepare to take in another, fresher, deeper breath, as I prepare for my launch. Looking over the edge of my bed, at the carpet, I don’t see anything but I hear the carpet moving. A soft swishing, as something slowly moves over the bristles, toward the uncovered area below me. Panic stops my lungs from filling and my eyes widen further. The thing under the bed raises it up again, jolting from the wall side, trying to tip me out and onto the floor in front of the opening.
I hear a low hissing sound as I scramble to hold onto the blankets and keep from falling. My pillow slides off the side of the bed and lands on its edge, on the floor. In slow motion, it folds in half and softly plops to the carpet with half of it hidden under, and by, the edge of the bed, within reach of the monster. My bed shimmies slightly and I’m afraid the monster is going to tip it again so I stand up, facing the room, with the palms of my hands pressed flat against the wall behind me. I know I’m not supposed to wake anybody up but, as tears begin to form in my eyes, I try to make my throat work but it comes out in a small, pathetic, half-spoken whisper, “Mommy?!”
The growling sound, louder this time, startles me so much that I let out a shriek and press my back up against the wall. I try to force myself to be louder but can only half yell, “Mom!” I can feel the bed moving below me and my palms are inexplicably starting to slide up the wall behind me. Looking around, I realize that the bed is inching, straight up, off of the ground, as I can see more and more of my half-hidden pillow, coming into view. Silvery wisps of a smoke-like substance are beginning to weave their way down from the ceiling. An icy wave of dread overtakes me as I realize that I’m trapped. The monster is coming out from under me and the slowly-sinking wisps are closing the gap between me and freedom; cutting off the room from any escape.
Just the thought of touching these malevolent, silver spirals causes goose-bumps to race across my arms and the hair on the back of my neck stands up. A deep, growling voice erupts from somewhere beneath me but I can’t make out the words. All my brain can process is ‘I am- Ter – Ker’. I spin around, on the bed, but find that I’m facing wooden boards instead of the wall. In the now dimmed light, the points of nails are softly shining against the wood and I find that I’m lying on my back.
I begin to scream; not caring anymore about the silvery smoke, heedless of the monster under the bed. I slam my fists against the boards that are in front of my face and feel the sting and clunk of my elbows against more wooden boards at my sides. Panic takes over, fear evaporates thoughts from my mind, and I scream with everything I have, hoping to be heard by someone, anyone, outside this wooden prison.
“Somebody! Somebody get me out! Mommy?! Mommy, please! Mommy, please help me! Brother! Daddy?! Somebody please help me! I don’t want to…” My voice fades as the realization of the next words sink in. I don’t want to die; I don’t want to be buried alive. Wholly understanding what these thoughts mean, I realize that I KNOW that I’m going to die if I can’t get out. Wooden boxes are for dead people but I’m not dead. People in wooden boxes get buried in the ground whether they’re dead or not. They’re going to bury me alive!
With the shrillest pitch and the most intense force of air that I can manage, my very surroundings, and even my body, are shaken with my scream, “MOMMY!!!”