14 The Monster Under the Bed

The Monster Under the Bed

By Sophia Acord

They say first impressions are everything. Maybe that has some truth because even now I could still vividly imagine the wave of bitter-smelling disinfectant that had washed over me upon entry to the waiting room. While sitting there, my feet swinging slightly, I had taken to staring at the coffee stain in the cheap, thinly padded carpet. It looked oddly like a dog, if you tilted your head. And squinted. And had a good imagination.

So maybe I just had too much time on my hands.

I couldn’t remember how long I had been sitting there, despite the incessant ticking of the clock hanging on the wall straight across from me that begged me to count each meticulous second as it ground by. My chair was stiff and uncomfortable against my back as I shifted through a few sitting positions, struggling to settle in. The walls were a nondescript shade of beige, and the only decoration on them was a picture of the ocean that looked like it had been copy-and-pasted into every 3-star hotel room in America. All things considered, I could think of several better places to spend my Saturday afternoon. The silence was suffocating- the only sounds were that dreaded clock and the occasional rustle of a magazine page from one of the few other people in the room.

Well, apart from the sharp hissing coming from underneath my chair. I didn’t give it the satisfaction of peering down at it, as I knew I would see nothing there, but that didn’t make the gnashing of teeth and soft scratching of claws any easier to ignore.

“Emilia Benelli?” a soft-spoken woman called from the doorway. Exhaling, I got to my feet, getting into a minor struggle as one of the beast’s furry tentacles wrapped around my ankle. With a sharp yank, I was free and hurried out of the room to where my name had been called, slightly out of breath and trying to collect myself to look like I hadn’t gotten in a fierce tussle with a monster just trying to get out of my chair.

Judging by the not-so-subtle glances I was getting over the tops of magazines, I wasn’t particularly successful.


Thunder shook the frame of the house, and I trembled, pulling my blanket closer to my face and whispering louder. “Cece!

The figure in the bed shifted, groaning, but she lifted the blankets just high enough for a six-year-old girl to fit under. “Come on, Emi, hurry up.”

I wasted no time, scrambling under her arm as she tucked the blankets tightly around us. There was another rumble, but this one sounded… different. Closer. I pushed closer against my sister.

“What was that?”

“Just the monster.”

What monster?”

“The monster under the bed.”

“There’s a monster under your bed?”

“Well, of course. Every kid has a monster under their bed.”

“I don’t!”

“Well, I’m sure you just haven’t seen it yet.”

I buried my face deeper in the blanket. The idea of something lurking in the shadows as I slept was horrifying. “What does it look like?”

“Well, everyone’s looks different, but mine is quick and flexible with a dozen legs and long, tangled blue fur. It has long antennae, dark, angry eyes, and big, pointy teeth.”

“…Is it friendly?”

“Definitely not. It wants to chomp off your toes.” I quickly tucked my feet closer to myself. “But Mama says as long as we keep the blankets tucked tight, the monster can’t get us.”

“Okay.” We laid in silence for a while, and I tried my hardest not to think about what was squirming around less than a foot below us. I had never been so scared of going back to my own room in case I found the same thing.

“Cece? Are you sure there’s a monster under my bed?”

“It’s your monster, not mine. Why don’t you go look for yourself? Now go to sleep.”

She rolled over. Minutes later, she was asleep, leaving only me awake.

Me… and the monster.

“So, Emilia… you’re having a pest problem?”

The woman who greeted me had dyed platinum blonde hair with clearly visible brown roots and a bright red shade of lipstick that subconsciously drew my gaze to her mouth as she spoke.

“Uh… yeah, it’s… a monster. The monster under my bed.”

“Right.” She scribbled something down on her clipboard. “It’s fairly unusual for them to stick around this late in life. Do you have any idea what might be causing it to linger?”

“If I knew, I’d have done it already,” I said. “I’ve tried many people, but none of them have been able to help me.”

“Well, I’m sure you just need to find an exterminator to get rid of it for you.” She was already turning away from me, her mind clearly on other things.

“No!” I cried. Her eyes snapped to me, her lips pressing into a thin line. “I’ve tried that already! I’ve tried every exterminator I can find, and nothing works.”

She narrowed her eyes. I could tell she was getting annoyed, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t sit here and get the same damn answers I got every other time.

“I’m sure you just need the right one. I can get you a list-“

“Listen to me! That’s not going to work! It won’t work! I’m not going to just sit here as you make me deal with another five exterminators when I’m telling you. This isn’t working. Give me another solution or I’m leaving.”

She stared at me for a solid twenty seconds.

“Look, please.” I fought back the tears- I hated feeling like I was begging, but I didn’t have much other choice. “This thing is following me everywhere. I can’t get any reprieve- I just want to be able to live normally! So if there’s anything else you can do that hasn’t already been done- please.

The woman’s eyes sharpened with interest. “It’s following you?”

My voice came out raspy. “Everywhere.”

“Where is it now?”

I sighed as the creature chittered again- never letting me forget. “Here.”

“…There’s nothing here.”

“It’s invisible. I’m the only one who can sense it.”

The woman made the guise of scribbling down furiously on her clipboard, but I saw the way she shied away from me. She wouldn’t be the first to think I was crazy.

“Does it… tell you things?”

“I mean… not with words, no. But I can’t- I don’t feel normal with it around. It saps me of emotion, of energy, I just- it’s like a parasite on my whole life.”

“Have you tried getting an exorcist?”

A chill ran down my spine. “I really don’t think I need an exorcist.”

“But have you tried it?”


“Okay, then do it.”

I gave her a skeptical look, and she shrugged. “You asked for a solution, I gave one. Now, go. I have other clients waiting. I’ll have my secretary refer an exorcist to you by tomorrow.”

As I walked out of the office, the monster scrambled out the door after me, snapping and biting at the leg of my jeans again. I sighed deeply, running my hands through my hair.

I couldn’t help but feel even more hopeless than when I had come in.

I’m not scared of you.

My room was dark. I blinked hard, trying to clear the blurring of my vision as I stared into nothing.

Muffled shouts sounded from the other side of my bedroom door, and I tucked myself further beneath the covers.

Something hissed under my bed, sounding almost gleeful. I squeezed my eyes shut. “Go away. I’m not scared of you.”

There was a thump and a sharp yell- I slammed my pillow down over my ears, softly humming some random tune I had heard in school to listen to something- anything- that wasn’t them.

The gurgling sound only grew closer, though, even as the shouts faded. Hot, stale breaths tickled my feet, the claws hovering only inches away, milliseconds from tearing gashes through my flesh-

“I’m not scared of you,” I whispered. “I’m not scared of you, I’m not scared-” I swallowed back a squeal as there was a breath right in my face, letting the tears leak out of the corners of my eyes. It was so close that my ragged breaths ruffled its fur, no matter how hard I tried to stifle them. The next time I dared to speak, I could barely hear myself.

“I’m not scared of you.”

My feet were practically wearing a hole in the carpet as I paced back and forth in the cramped space of my dorm. My half-packed suitcase laid on the bed, various articles of clothing spread across the bed. The few things actually in the suitcase were folded halfheartedly. I paused in my pacing, contemplating over the gray top with the little pink hearts.

Why is this so complicated?

A beat later I was tossing the top back into an open drawer. It hit the edge, though, and tumbled onto the floor. In the blink of an eye, it was swiped under the dresser. A sharp bark sounded from the gap in which it had vanished.

“Shut up!” I cried, balling my hands into fists at my sides and whirling around, pointedly not facing the noise. “I don’t want you here! For once in my life, can you just leave me alone?

There was a sharp tearing of fabric, and I pressed my eyes shut, exhaling slowly as I tried to slow the accelerating tempo of my heartbeat. Cracking open an eyelid, I glanced behind me and watched helplessly as scraps of what used to be my top were tossed across the floor.

“Please, please, please don’t do this…” To my horror, tears blurred my vision. The monster churred in delight. “Not today, I can’t do this today-” I slumped down onto the bed, suddenly breathless. “Stop being a coward, Emi, you’re better than this-”

A loud snarl rang out and I shrieked when something suddenly lunged at me, grabbing onto my pant leg. I jerked away, but it didn’t let go, and I almost fell flat on my face.

You’re such an idiot, there’s nothing there!

But there was. I couldn’t see anything but the monster was no illusion- the way it sucked the breath out of my chest, leaving a gaping, bottomless black hole of despair and panic, was very much real.

The monster’s fangs ripped through the cuff of my pants and I stumbled away, trying to bolt, but ran smack into my desk chair. Muttering curses under my breath, I grabbed my foot where it had slammed into the chair and was quickly turning an angry red.

The room was too tiny. There was nowhere to go. Nowhere to escape.

The creature let out another vicious growl and I blindly lunged away, not knowing where I was going. My vision began to blur. I felt dangerously close to passing out.

“Leave me alone, you freak! I don’t, I’m not- you don’t control me.” The words fizzled off my tongue, and I choked on a sob, sinking to the floor and pressing my back against my bed. Black spread across the edges of my vision and my heart raced as if I had just been running for my life, but my chest only rose shallowly before falling back down again, desperately fighting to get enough air.

Pinpricks of pain shot through my ankle, and I could picture the razor-sharp teeth and blood trickling into the rug as the monster bit down harder. It felt like I was floating, untethered to reality and desperately trying to land my feet back on solid ground.

Please, I sobbed silently, my growing headache throbbing in tandem with my heart. I’m not strong enough to do this anymore.

I didn’t know how long I had been laying there when the monster finally got bored with its prey and that phantom weight of despair lifted off my chest at last. I blinked around the room, trying to clear my vision, and inhaling deeply to chase away the shadows lurking in the corners of my eyes. If I had thought my room had been messy before, it was in shambles now. Clothes were strewn everywhere- on the floor, across my desk, and, of course, under the bed- and many of them were ripped up. My suitcase had fallen to the floor, leaving a pile of possessions that felt like a stranger’s- a pink Minnie Mouse t-shirt, a button-down corduroy, a portable coffee mug that had shattered- and I quickly looked away, feeling sick.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so pathetic.

“It’s finally the first day of middle school, Emi! Aren’t you excited?”

The girl’s long black ponytail swished as she pulled me along with her, her grip around my wrist. She paused, frowning, as I hesitated, turning back to look at me.

“What’s wrong? You’ve been so quiet. Well, more quiet than usual, I mean.”

I shrugged. “I… I’m just worried that my monster will follow me around today.”

Her eyes dropped and she released my wrist. “Your monster?”

“…The monster under my bed? Don’t you have one?”

“When I was seven, maybe. But we’re in middle school now, Emi! We’re basically adults! You’re too old to have a monster under the bed.”

My eyebrows furrowed. “How can I be too old?”

“I don’t know. They move out eventually, don’t they? It’s a children’s tale! No one can know you still have a monster in middle school or they’ll tear you to shreds! Don’t talk about it again, okay?”

“O-okay, I just-”


I wilted under her glare. “Nothing. I’m just worried it’ll be hard to ignore all the time.”

“What are you talking about? It’s not like it’s going to be at school with you or anything. Everyone knows monsters don’t leave their beds.”

“…Um. Yeah. Of course.”

“Now come on, let’s go! Middle school is waiting for us!”

As I was pulled along again, I couldn’t ignore the gaping hole in my chest and got the distinct feeling that something was watching me. I glanced over my shoulder, but nothing was there.

The feeling of a burning gaze didn’t fade for the rest of the day.

I exhaled slowly from where I sat on the barstool, stirring my glass of water mindlessly with my straw. Every so often the bartender would come over and try to sell me some drink or another, but eventually he got tired of my dismissals and drifted off to the more willing customers.

I tried to ignore the burning anger in my chest. Nothing was even wrong. Why did I have to be so damn unhappy all the time?

There was suddenly a loud hiss and a skittering of claws, and I nearly jumped out of my skin as not one, but two fluffy tails brushed past my ankles. I stood up abruptly and stumbled back, but the monster- monsters?!– didn’t come any closer to me. An angry growl was followed by a high-pitched yip and the thump of something against the floor, so I could only assume they were fighting.

“H-hi, uh I’m really sorry about this, I just, um-”

I jerked my head up at the sound of the voice and found myself staring into the dark eyes of a stranger. He was scratching the back of his neck, an uneasy smile on his face as he shot not-so-subtle glances down at the tussling monsters. “I just needed to grab, um…” His voice trailed off as the sounds of fighting continued.

I only realized that I was staring at the monsters when he cleared his throat. My face went beet red and I stumbled back- only to catch his eye. We both froze.

He was looking, too. He senses them.

“Hi…” I whispered, breathless. The pounding of my heart filled my ears but, for once, it didn’t feel like a bad thing.

“Hi.” He swallowed, his wide eyes not leaving mine. “I, um. I’m Akio. And this… this is the monster under my bed.”

His words took a moment to register and, when they did, I let out a small gasp, feeling dizzy. Is this a dream?

“I’m not crazy,” I whispered, blinking back tears. In a flash, I could sense monsters everywhere- one lurking under the bartender’s stool, one peering down from the rafters at a middle-aged woman with eyes glowing like moons, one sitting on top of a man’s head, its claws kneading his hair. The next time I blinked, they were gone- but their presence still hung heavy in the air.

“No,” Akio whispered, and when I looked back, he was also tearing up. “You’re not.”

My mouth felt dry. “What happens now?”

He shrugged. “Life goes on. Like it always does.”

I realized both our monsters had gone quiet, like they, too, were waiting for whatever was to come as time suspended around us.

“…I’m Emi.”

“Nice to meet you, Emi,” Akio smiled. “Would you like to get a drink with me sometime?”

“I’d love to.”

Despite the fact that it was right at my feet, my monster had never felt so far away.


Anoka County Library Write On! 2023 Short Story Contest Winners Copyright © 2023 by Avrie Siedschlag; Ella Howard; Greta Graham; Renad Taher; Rachel Mueller; Daniel Gbati; Julia McBride; Audrey High; Lucia Floan; Rhett LeBeau; Anna Moline; Hannah Jemming; Valomi Lewis; Fen Hendren; Kathryn Downs; Megan Nguyen; Lizzie Elsenpeter; Sophia Accord; and Sophia Acord. All Rights Reserved.

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