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The Boy Who Was

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We stopped checking for monsters under our bed once we realised they were inside us.”
– Unknown

“Don’t turn the light off please, mommy,” he said timidly, fear resonating in his voice. His mother laughed lovingly and assured him the night light would provide sufficient lighting from whatever he feared would come forth from the darkness once she had left.

“Okay, but please check in my closet before you go?” he asked his mother meekly. She decided to humour him and did as he asked. Once satisfied nothing was in there, he seemed a little more at ease and laid down, his young head against the soft pillow. She passed by his bed and kissed his forehead lovingly.

“Goodnight my sweet boy,” she whispered as she stood upright.

“I love you, mommy,” he chimed in as she left, just before she shut the door.

“I love you too, Aaron,” she said, with a smile on her face, as the door sealed him in from the rest of the house.

Once she had left, the room immediately became tenfold scarier. The pale night light, rather than being reassuring, cast an eerie glow across the room, prompting shadows to dance in the darkness to some unheard tune. Aaron lay in bed, gripping the covers tightly at his chin. His mother had left the closet door ajar. If he but even closed his eyes he would be vulnerable to whatever he was sure resided in that closet, hidden in that eerie glow. He had to close it if he hoped to get any sleep.

He looked around the room for some sort of defence against the creatures that might attack him once he tried to disrupt their plan of escaping. His eyes fell upon the baseball bat, propped up against the wall near the door. He scrambled out of bed, disrupting the dance of the shadows as his colossal shadow flickered across the room as he passed through the pale glow of the light on his way to his weapon. Holding the bat in trembling hands, he scanned the room for any possible assailants. There were none he could see, but by now Aaron had broken out into a cold sweat.

He could feel the shirt of his pyjamas sticking tightly to his torso as his brow accumulated sweat. He wondered if the monsters could smell fear. If they could, he was in for it. He probably reeked of fear, and sweat, of course. He held the bat tight and took a step forward; he was going to shut the closet door. Each step felt as though he was wearing leaden boots. It was almost painful walking towards what you think might very well be your death. “Dead man walking,” as they would say.

The shadows had begun to dance again. Perhaps it was a dance of death. Aaron began to wonder what the monster would do to him if the bat could not protect him. He could almost see it slowly stretching out to its full size, towering above him. Picking him up and bringing him closer to it, its horribly scarred face, full of blisters and warts, pouring out a gooey slime. The dead look in its eyes, and row upon row of razor sharp teeth. Would it bite his head clean off or simply devour him whole?

Aaron came back to reality as he was now at the closet door. He turned back to check the room once more to see if perhaps one of them had found a way around him. There was nothing. Thankfully. He could see his room almost perfectly. His creased sheet lay half on the floor, half on the bed – probably from when he had scrambled out of it. The various toys scattered around the room seemed to have gathered as to bear witness to the grand event that was about to unfold. The curtains rustled lightly. He had probably just forgotten to close the window properly. Aaron took a deep breath and decided he would face the monster rather than simply shutting the closet door. He exhaled quickly and swung the closet door wide open, bat high above his head and ready to face his doom.

Clothes. That's all he found in the closet. Maybe his mother was right and there really was no such thing as monsters. He breathed yet another deep breath, but the exhalation was more a sigh of relief than anything. There was no monster. He felt emboldened by the fact he would have taken any monster head on. He was a warrior, at least in his own eyes he was. He could take on anything. At the back of his mind he was almost disappointed now. His adrenaline was rushing – he could feel the blood in his cheeks and hear it in his ears. He was ready to fight a monster.

He made his way back to his bed, but with his newfound bravery decided to close the window first. Usually Aaron would be too scared to open the curtain in the dark out of fear of what would be behind the curtain, or worse yet – what might be looking in on him from the outside. But he was brave now. He was a “would-be-monster-killer”. He could close a window and bear looking out the dark window. He approached the curtain and flung the curtain back, bat prepped to swing at any monsters hiding behind it. Nothing.

“Dang monsters are scared now,” he thought, with a smile on his face. “They know I’m not scared and I’ve got a bat,” he told himself. Reaching for the window he saw it was closed.

Realising his eyes must have played a trick on him in the dark with nothing but the pale light to provide for his sight, he returned to his bed and threw the bat at the foot of his bed before jumping on it. The adrenaline had washed over him and he now felt ready for bed, confident that there were no monsters, as well as the fact that he had conquered his fear by means of facing that which could have possibly been lurking in the closet. He reached over the edge of his bed to pull up the cover that had been a casualty of his fear and excitement: it had fallen to the ground. Groping for the covers, his heart skipped a beat as he felt not only the cover, but something much softer beneath the covers. He had probably dropped the covers on one of his many stuffed animals. He slung himself over the bed to retrieve not only the cover, but the stuffed animal too – as some company in bed would be very welcome after his ordeal and excitement.

The smell washed over him first as his head neared the edge of the bed. The smell had no description, but if one had to put a name to it, it smelled of death. It penetrated his nostrils as it grew worse once he raised the covers, beneath which was not a stuffed animal.

The decayed face, yellow of decomposition and filled with holes and scraps of skin falling off, stared at him. It tried to smile, but the skin around its face was nonexistent; its attempt to smile only laid bare its few rotten teeth in its mouth.

“Why don’t you come play down here with me? Where it’s nice and dark,” it said, as its bony, fleshless hand pulled Aaron up by the throat and into the darkness.

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