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As I Lay Me Down To Sleep.

For RM Stockton's Monster Under Your Bed Prompt

By Hannah MoorePublished 3 months ago 6 min read
15

Let me start by telling you that this is a true story. Reading it might make you rethink your life, as it has me, telling it to you now. Certainly, it might account for the bad dreams and fitful sleep which had plagued me since we moved into this house some fourteen years ago. Or maybe its all a coincidence. Each of us must decide for ourselves where the line between things happening to happen, and Happenings must be drawn.

Let me start there then, fourteen years ago. My partner and I were expecting our first child together. I do not know whether my burgeoning belly, our baby curled and wriggling inside in spite of never having said our wedding vows had anything to do with what was to be, but perhaps had we married… No. It is no use wondering, the past cannot be changed in this lifetime. When we came upon the house, the For Sale sign standing like a beacon at the kerb, we were wearied from looking, keen to find our nest before the baby arrived, but wondering if it was not to be. We knew we should ring the agent, arrange a viewing, but as we eyed the peeling blue double doors, inlaid and flanked with stained glass in floral twists, something pulled us to step onto the russet tiled porch and lift the lion headed knocker.

Twenty minutes. The owner, small, fair haired and looking as tired as I felt, asked us to return in twenty minutes, and then we could see the house. We wondered what she might be hiding, but on admittance, our worries were swept aside. The house was commodious, with rooms of gracious proportions, high ceilings and a homely feel, and more, it was within our budget. We moved in just two months later, fitting the contents of our meagre rental into two car loads. Without furniture, we bought an inflatable mattress and sat on two garden chairs while we made hurried and poorly considered forays to out of town retail parks, ordering sofas, beds, table and chairs which could be delivered before the baby, due within the month.

Our bed was pale oak. Queen sized, with a curved headboard perfect for my pregnancy aches and pains. Four freestanding drawers on smooth castors were added underneath, and a soft mattress, divine after the spring jutting decrepitude of the one at the rental. Either side, we added a matching bedside cabinet with three drawers each, into which we poured a litter of sundries with no other obvious home. Storage, we knew, was everything.

The years passed, and it was easy to dismiss my poor sleep. My son cried and fussed through the night not for the first three or four months, but for the first three or four years, struggling to stay asleep in the cot beside our bed and settling only in my arms, his tiny body finally surrendering to sleep as mine thirsted for it. Things improved a little when he moved into his own room, but my daughter’s arrival, born in that very bed shouting her anger at the indignity of it, began the whole process again. We stopped at two children, recognising the limits of our capacity, but with love still to give, adopted two cats, young sisters rescued from a thirty cat household. Unsocialised and timid, they were adept hiders, but gradually took their places on cushions and bedspreads at least when the house was at peace. The house was rarely at peace.

Things go unnoticed in a house that is rarely at peace.

It was five or six years ago now, or thereabouts, when I first began to notice the noises. Awake, as I so often am in the dark, the rustlings began in short clusters. There was a familiarity to them, a sense that perhaps they had always been there, under my radar, like a ticking clock gradually jostling its auditory presence to the front of the cacophony of daily noises it is more accustomed to melting into. At first, my mind dismissed them, disinterested, complacent that all was as all had been. But over time, the scrabblings began to permeate my consciousness, the stirrings to seep through the barrier of acquaintance. My mind began to query. What lay below me at night? Was there here an explanation for the bad dreams and fitful sleep that plagued even daylight naps? Perhaps this was not an answer I was yet willing to seek, as I let the noises persist for many months more before I faced the monster beneath the bed.

It was not a peaceful evening, the evening I finally cracked. The children fussed in their beds, each disturbing the other, as I shuffled between them offering reassurance segueing to cajoling and on to exasperation. Acutely attuned to their wriggles and whines, the shudder of the washing machine, the gurgle of the heating, I was unable to ignore the creaks and shuffles from beneath my bed any longer.

Snapping at the children to stay where they were, I made for my room, a grim determination etched across my shuttered mouth. Had I not been already angry, perhaps I would have armoured myself with goggles or gloves before diving in, but my blood was high and my caution had been exhausted already, and so I lunged to me knees in only pyjamas and a ragged dressing gown, peering into the gap between the drawer and the bed frame.

Nothing but darkness greeted me there.

Undeterred, I pulled out the first drawer, jerking it into the room, hoping to surprise whatever creature lurked behind. There, exposed to the electric glare, lay all the presents Father Christmas had bought, stocking fillers slithering into crevices between plastic monstrosities and boxes of hollow entertainment, the five minute wonders bought and paid for whoring myself at my work, made cheap by inequality and destined to gather dust, but never become dust, on overcrowded shelves, spilling into overcrowded landfills, brittle, faded brights a flag raised to bad decisions. But no living beast sat among them.

I moved quickly, no time to lose, to the next drawer, exposing dusty boxes of barely worn boots, vanities too rarely trusted to be paraded any more, their clean soles a leather slab across which my younger self clung, emaciated and never as vital as hoped. Beside them, transparent recycling bags of baby clothes, stained and crumpled, lay awaiting new lives as keepsakes, stymied by the paucity of creativity or skill I made so few overtures to enrich. Yet nothing to scuffle and scratch amidst the tired fabric and over-new leather.

I moved around the bed. Surely there would be no place to hide now. Some modicum of caution bade me ease the next drawer out gently, bracing myself to be pounced upon, some small claws or teeth reaching for my eyes, but no pounce came. Instead, a chaos of feminine hygiene products crinkled in plastic wrappers coloured in the hot pinks and strong purples and warm oranges of bold femininity. Beside them, empty packaging boxes, receipts for gifts made long ago, and, made dirge-like with dust and flecks of card, the portable SAD lamp I had basked before each winter morning for a year or two, back when I thought the cause lay outside myself. And still no fanged creature awaiting its unmasking.

All rested, then, on the final drawer. Still on my knees, I took a breath, hearing my heart, fast and steady in my chest as I turned to face my fears. I eased it out slowly, that final drawer, inching smoothly, braced for the attack, face half turned away but eyes intent, scanning the unused, yellowed net curtains as they emerged from beneath the bed, the opened box I knew contained two positive pregnancy tests, decade old pee made treasure between a garland of plastic flowers, failed aspirations of endless summer, and the thicker curtains that I never returned, a drawer of window dressing, hiding the magic of life. And there, at last, lay the source of the noise, the monstrosity of my nightly disturbance, her slit eyes fixed on mine, claws extended and clasping, serpentine tail twitching, betraying her anger.

Her hidden nest desecrated, the cat scarpered, vanishing into the gloom beneath the window seat, leaving me in silence amidst the scourges of my dreams, a ruminant’s hoard atop which I nightly lay in restless fretting.

I face a dilemma now, as you might too. Do I banish these vestigial leviathans from my resting place, or do I keep them close, where I can know them better? It is for each of us to look upon our monsters and decide, for until we can see what hides beneath our pillowed heads, we cannot know which path to take. I wish you luck, lifting the valance and peeping into the dark.

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Written for RM Stockton's February Writing prompt below:

Secrets
15

About the Creator

Hannah Moore

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (10)

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  • Pamela Walsh-Holte14 days ago

    You had me from the start. I love your style and how you are able to keep me on edge till the end. Great job!

  • Mackenzie Davis3 months ago

    Wow, your writing is sublime! The voice was Poe-like, deliberate in its build-up of tension and crafting of a thick atmosphere. This sneaky line held a world of stories for me, my favorite bit: "the portable SAD lamp I had basked before each winter morning for a year or two, back when I thought the cause lay outside myself." Ha! I wondered if it might be a cat. What was the answer to your dilemma? Also the house sounds absolutely gorgeous.

  • Lamar Wiggins3 months ago

    The suspense was already killing me right before you opened the last drawer. Your decision to linger on a bit longer added to the dread of not knowing what it was, lol. Nice effect you created because it made me read faster to find out, haha. Loved your entry.

  • What marvelous writing! I was hanging onto every word, expecting a monster to emerge at any moment. I had a similar discovery at an old house I rented and discovered opossums in the basement. Great story, Hannah!

  • ROCK 3 months ago

    May I ask how old your house is? In my interview I wasn't allowed ( for legal reasons) to mention I have had foster children, also who did wild, unimaginable things in the night. I remember living in the far north of Sweden on yet another old farm and it was just my daughter of 8 and her guinea pigs, rabbit and a Vietnamese blow fish. She slept with me and right through the screaking at 4 a.m. of her guinea pig Molly birthing 7 little rodents. What was I thinking? Getting homes for them was no easy task. You are such a well versed writer. I am learning a lot from you. Thank you, ROCK

  • I value my sleep too much and that's one of the reasons I don't wanna have children. I admire people like you, who don't mind losing sleep. But lack of sleep paired with that stupid noise under the bed, I would have snapped wayyyy earlier than you, lol

  • The beast! Right up there with the night one of our cats gave birth atop my younger brother as he slept.

  • L.C. Schäfer3 months ago

    Valance is a word not used often enough. I like it!

  • Rachel Deeming3 months ago

    Ha ha! I was not expecting that. I love the fact you kept your pregnancy test? Great tone to this. Mystery at the start, mixed with the storyteller's voice like a fairytale, and a sprinkling of humour throughout.

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