In the dark, Billy sat in bed, eyes wide, wound up. He listened for the monster, the monster in the closet. The house stayed quiet.
Billy slid out of bed, crept across the room, out to the hall.
No light. He moved slowly, one hand for the wall. No stumbling or bumping or tripping, landing with a thud. No waking the monster.
Billy made it to his father’s room, the door open a crack. Billy pushed it only enough to peer in. He made out shapes in the dark. The bed, his father sleeping. Or was he dead? Had the monster already snuck out and killed him? No, the monster would’ve eaten him whole.
Billy stared through the dark and saw his father breathing steadily. He slid past the door into the room. Quiet, quiet, quiet. This close to his father, Billy couldn’t chance it. Silent to the bed, Billy put a hand on his father’s shoulder and gave a shake.
His father didn’t wake up.
Billy felt cold; his face was covered in sweat. He wiped it with his pajama top and shook his father harder.
His head shot up from the pillow, he said “Huh, wuh,” sort of shivered, found himself and said, “Bill, jeez, what time is it?”
Billy’s father sat up. “What’s wrong?”
“The monster,” Billy whispered. “In the closet. We don’t want to wake it.”
His father collapsed onto the bed. “Bill, c’mon, what are you doing?”
Billy’s father turned his face into the sheets. “What? What do you want me to do?”
“We can leave, go to Mom’s.”
“Well, you and me then. If the monster finds us, we’ll fight it together.”
Billy’s father groaned into his pillow. He got out of bed, took Billy by the hand and led him back to his room. When he turned the light on, Billy said, “Dad, no.”
Billy’s father dropped his hand. “There isn’t any monster. Get back in bed.”
Billy felt the heat of his father’s eyes; he climbed into bed and threw the covers over his body.
His father said, “Bill look at me.”
Billy knew he shouldn’t raise his voice, but was desperate for his father to hear him. “We can stay together. Please.”
Billy stuck his head out from the covers, but kept them at his chin, ready to hide again.
“Listen, son, I know you’re not thrilled about this weekend, but this monster nonsense won’t fly. I’m going back to bed, and you’re going to sleep. There’s no monster. Clear?”
“But Dad, it’ll eat us.”
His father’s voice got mean. “You want me to show you? Look in the closet and show you?”
“Right. You know I won’t find anything because monsters don’t exist. Now go to sleep.”
“No, you won’t see it because it’s invisible until it leaves the closet.”
His father’s body sagged. He sighed and shook his head. “OK, OK. Listen, don’t move.” He put his hands up. “Stay here. I’ll be right back.” He turned and left.
Should Billy follow? No. More noise, more chance to wake the monster. Billy listened. His father was going downstairs. What if the monster came now? Would his father hear him scream? Maybe he should follow. No, Billy heard his father coming back. A moment later, he reappeared, holding a wooden baseball bat.
He said, “You don’t need to stay with me.” He waved the bat at Billy. “The monster comes out of the closet, you whack him, OK? Then whack him again, until he leaves you alone. OK?” He swung the bat like he was hitting something over the head before tossing it on the bed next to Billy.
Billy wanted to ask his father if he had a plan to protect himself, but he was already turning off the light and leaving. “I’ll see you in the morning,” he said on the way out.
Billy snatched the bat, held it close. His father should’ve listened. Billy was sure. He sat up, laying the bat in his lap. What could’ve he said different to make his father listen? He thought about going back to his father’s room, begging, crying. But it wouldn’t work. His father would get angrier.
Billy sat, waiting, certain the monster would come, but the hours passed, the house stayed quiet, and Billy began to wonder if maybe he’d been wrong. At the very least, the sun would be up soon; they’d have the whole day to plan for the next night.
Billy’s eyes became heavy, his chin sank toward his chest; he began to drift. The screaming brought Billy back.
His father’s room. His father’s screams, cut off by a crushing, cracking, snapping, crunching. A wet slapping. Grunting. Snorting.
Billy peed his pajamas, but didn’t move from the bed. He squeezed the bat, couldn’t hold it steady. Maybe the monster was full from its meal. Maybe it would go back to its closet. Maybe a neighbor heard the screams and called the police. Police have guns. Maybe the monster couldn’t stray too far from its home. Maybe the baseball bat would be enough to fight it off. Maybe it only liked the taste of adults.
So many maybes. In the dark, Billy sat in bed, eyes wide, wound up, waiting for the monster from his father’s closet.
Ben’s stories have been published in Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Devolution Z, and Every Day Fiction. His poetry has appeared in sPARKLE & bLINK, the 2014 Poets 11 Anthology, and Clockwise Cat. Ben also reads his work throughout the Bay Area. When he’s not reading or writing, he teaches ESL at City College of San Francisco. Visit him at benfinateri.com