My first thought when I was bounced violently out of my sleep was, “Oh no, did I forget to feed the dog?” Unfortunately, the beast I had forgotten to feed was much bigger, much worse, and much less forgiving.
I crashed into the ceiling, saw stars, and then fell into the calloused green hand of a genuine monster. The rest of the creature glared at me from the gaping hole under my bed, fangs gleaming.
“MMmmMM OKAY,” I told my brain, “it might be good to wake up now.”The thundrous growl that shook my room, uneased my stomach, and rattled pictures off the wall helped to sell that message. I lifted both hands in the air.
“Whoa!” I yelled. “Hey there buddy, Mumb, old friend! Uh, fancy getting to chat with you this time of night?”
That was not what the beast wanted to hear. It janked me forward, and I curled up my knees just in time for them to slam into the bed. Breath seethed through my teeth as I braced myself against the bed and floor, unwilling to let him drag me into his maw.
“Ow,” I said.
The monster’s speech came out in, oddly enough, Pig Latin. “OUYAY OMISEDPRAY EEMAY EASTFAY AWAY EEKWAY AGOWAY!” Mumb rumbled. Pig Latin sounds a lot scarier when whispered menacingly from a mouth that is straining to bite off your toes. For those not familiar with the dialect, he said, “YOU PROMISED ME FEAST A WEEK AGO!” Which was, uh, true.
“There’s been a setback–”
I swallowed the bile of fear that was gathering in my throat. My body shook. The bedframe cracked, and I was worried my knees would follow with the way I had myself braced.
“I will not sleep again until you are fed, Mumb. Mark my words.”
“OURYAY ORDSWAY EANMAY OTHINGNAY.”
“Your words mean nothing.”
“Pinky swear,” I said, holding up one hand.
Mumb hesistated, then dropped me. I didn’t have time to catch my breath. Monsters weren’t that patient. Instead, I spun to my knees and met the creature’s monstrous pinky with my own. “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye,” I said.
“OUYAY ILLWAY IEDAY IFWAY OUYAY EEPSLAY ILEWHAY IWAY UNGERHAY.”
“You will die if you sleep while I hunger.”
“I know,” I said, standing up and putting slippers on my feet. “I’ll get to it.”
The large hand retreated under my bed, and I let out a sigh of relief.
My name is Roger Stevens. I’m… something of a specialist, with an odd occupation. I’m a janitor at a daycare, and I can’t seem to keep up the work without bringing my job home with me. There are complications that arise when dealing with children.
So many TV shows, books, and movies present a child’s innocent imagination as a wonderful, powerful, and precious thing. And that is very true. But the “powerful” part of imagination is the part I deal with. The power inside a child’s innocent mind is easy to exploit or feed off of, and that’s when things get scary.
I talk to the children at my job. For years, I’ve tried to understand them and empathize with them. I told myself I’d believe whatever they told me, so that I could be their honest friend. And it worked. In time, I entered and mastered another world of imagination. And in turn, that world mastered me.
Now I have a monster living under my bed, and I’m bound by a pinky swear to find another monster for him to eat. Mumb and I have agreements. He doesn’t kill me, and I bring in the more rotten monsters that the local kids think up to satiate his appetite. This deal had been working for us all summer.
But now schools were back in session, and the unbridled enthusiasm and long daycare hours of summer were over. And Mumb was getting hungry.
I sighed and descended the stairs of my house. The chirps of my cuckoo clock told me that it was 3 AM. I had only a small amount of time, 2 days at most, before I’d slip. If I even lost consciousness for a moment, Mumb would grab me from underneath the nearest piece of furniture, and I’d be gone for certain.
It was time to gear up.
I stopped by the cabinets in the kitchen, grabbed some crackers, and crunched down on two or three of them as I headed for the closet. Mimic heard me and opened the closet door, then yipped in delight as I tossed him some crackers.
Mimic was Mumb’s brother, a thin, yellow creature who could somehow fade into the shadows of a closet despite its neon skin. Mimic wasn’t too picky about what it ate, so long as it could rearrange the closet at a whim and hide just out of view of visitors.
“Where going?” Mimic asked.
“Out for monsters to feed Mumb,” I said, scratching at my stubble. “Need some standard tools, or he’ll kill me and your cracker supply will dwindle.”
“Dwindle, dwindle,” Mimic muttered as he vanished into the closet. Objects began to move almost of their own accord. A softball rolled out of the closet, some LEGO bricks clattered to the ground, an foam baseball bat tipped out, and then Mimic appeared holding a flashlight.
I set him with a steady glare. “I need the heavy stuff,” I said.
Mimic lifted a wiry eyebrow. “Heavy stuff,” he chirped. “Roger in trouble, yes. Heavy, heavy. That bad?”
“I’m afraid so.”
Mimic vanished again. “The box, the box,” he said. “Leave it.”
I sighed and tossed the box of crackers into the closet, and Mimic cackled. I was a grown adult, and Mimic probably wouldn’t harm me, but the inhuman sound still sent chills down my spine. “The heavy stuff,” I said.
A baby’s mobile popped out of the closet and into my hands, as well as a little angel doll. The doll had a button on it that would sing a lullaby. Dangerous, for someone as tired as I was, but it would serve as bait for any monsters I might find.
“Pleasure doing business with you, Mimic,” I said, and began picking up the items.
“Mimic, mimic,” the monster said, and the closet door shut on me. That was okay. I had everything I needed.
A softball. Good for a distraction, to draw the eye. Ever since E.T. came out, sports balls in odd places had been associated with imaginary monsters.
LEGO bricks. Caltrops. They hurt when you step on them, and as the building blocks of a child’s imagination, they hurt the monsters even more.
A baseball bat. The child’s weapon of choice.
A flashlight. The torch of the child adventurer.
And the mobile and lullaby doll. Monsters most liked to approach children when they were sleeping, or at least trying to rest. The sound of the lullaby with the dangling mobile could swiftly attract a monster, even in the middle of a crowded mall. Only a child would know what to look for to see those monsters.
Well. A child, or me.
Hopefully I could find Mumb his desired feast before sunrise, or I’d be substituting in for it. I armed myself with the imagination of a child and left my house, heading for the local playground.
This was a fun story to play with. I like the idea of a child’s imagination being brought to life, but there’s always a downside to that world and I thought it would be fun to explore that.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed.
See you around,