Don’t leave an ankle dangling over. Not even a toe. That was the rule. If you did, the monster under the bed would seize you as you slept. Ragged, blackened fingernails would trace their way up your calf before digging cruelly into your flesh. Veins would pop out from the unforgiving muscles of the creature’s forearm as his hand crushed ligament and bone. You would be dragged underneath your bed and down into the depths.
Of course, we grow up. We begin to replace our childhood fears underneath the wooden slats with the detritus of adulthood – photo albums, self-help books, abandoned fitness equipment. I have grown up. I really have.
The problem is that the monsters underneath my bed have grown alongside me. They are no longer primitive. No longer do they seek to pull me down to some opaque, dank pit. They have become more sophisticated. They can think. They can reason. They can whisper. The creature is comprised differently now. Once there was lank hair, corpse-pale skin, livid bloodshot eyes. Now it is made of guilt and worry about jobs and kids and alcohol and a mortgage that cripples me. It threads its way over the shag carpet and through the cardboard boxes underneath my slumbering form. I can hear it rustling.
I sleep in a king-size now. My duvet covers are floral rather than decorated with space rockets. Nevertheless, as I curl into a foetal position to sleep, I can still feel fingers threading their way through the sheets.
***Thanks for reading folks. Painting is ‘The Nightmare’ by Henry Fuseli***
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter magazine. He is an absentee member of the Glasgow Writers Group, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.
Not necessarily in that order