The room is dark and chilled. Scotty lies in bed, wide awake. His digital alarm clock displays big red numbers: 3:28 AM. Scotty’s breath comes in short dry gasps that catch in his chest as if his lungs were lined with cotton. He fixes his eyes on the ceiling: glow-in-the-dark stars and planets dot a flat white sky, forever frozen in orbit. Scotty decides to count them. Twenty-two. The same number he counted an hour or so before. A ceiling fan wobbles around and around, sprinkling cold air down on him like dry rain; clouds of dust float in the darkness, balancing on thin beams of moonlight.
Scotty looks to his closet door—closed. Good, he thinks to himself. Stay that way.
He tucks his blankets up under his chin. A large quilt drapes over him and the bed frame; its weight anchors him to the bed, his body sinking into the springs. But the quilt’s weight does not keep Scotty from trembling: his whole body convulses, from his head to his toes to his fingertips. His flesh quivers like that of a horse pestered by fleas; goosebumps cover his skin as his hair prickles on end.
Scotty checks his closet door again. He knew what was coming. It was the same thing that came every night: the monster in his closet.
When the slivered moon reached its peak in the blackest part of the sky, Scotty’s closet door creaked open. It thunked against the wall, reverberating as it bounced off the old plaster. The open door exposed the closet’s intestines to the room, but nothing distinct could be seen inside. Only darkness. The crescent moon’s faint light peered into the window, but was quickly absorbed into the porous wooden floorboards, unable to penetrate the closet’s gaping mouth.
Scotty’s heart panicked; it beat in his chest as if it wanted to break through his bones and run away into the night. Scotty clapped his hands over his eyes as hot tears began to dribble onto his cheeks. Scotty did his best to sob silently.
From inside the closet, a deep growl rumbled through the dusty darkness. Scotty heard something soft and heavy hit the floor, slithering against the boards. He peered through his fingers, his vision blurry with moisture.
A heap of foreign flesh had flopped out of his closet. The heap hissed as it morphed between ambiguous shapes, never fully forming into anything before it changed its mind and shifted again. The mass pulsated on the ground like a sick heart. It writhed and writhed as Scotty watched.
The monster had come.
Another rumbling growl invaded the silence, piercing through the dust clouds and the cold air. Scotty’s tears flowed down his face and in-between his fingers; a small whimper escaped his lips. The heap continued to pulse in the doorway, either unaware of or disregarding Scotty’s presence.
The ceiling fan wriggled from side to side, groaning from its efforts. The phosphorescent galaxy smiled down on Scotty from its two-dimensional prison. The moon outside reached out to Scotty with fading fingers and only half a heart.
The heap hissed and sputtered from the closet. Scotty shivered under his bedsheets, waiting for the heap to grow bored and retreat back into the closet.
Scotty waited for the sun to rise.
Of course, the sun did rise. It lifted its glowing head over the horizon, awakening itself and the world from deep slumber. Birds chirped outside Scotty's window, startling him awake. Just before the sun peered into the sky, frightening the stars away, the monster had skittered back into the closet. Exhaustion overcame Scotty's nervous young body as soon as the monster left... as soon as Scotty was safe.
But now the birds chirped and sang on Scotty's windowsill, preventing him from falling back asleep. Scotty got up out of bed and went to the bathroom.
In the closet, a thick film coated the floor. It was brown and had begun to stain the polished floorboards his mother waxed often. She asked him about the filthy film at breakfast.
"It wasn't me, it was the monster," he said.
His mother rubbed her temple and sighed. She looked exhausted.
"Scotty, you're too old to use monsters as an excuse for making a mess. Whatever mess you made in there, you're going to help me mop and polish your floor."
Scotty's eyes drifted down to his cereal, his spoon floating through his milk with no direction.
He finished the rest of his breakfast in silence.
Later that night, the monster came. The flesh pulsed in the doorway, hissing its usual greeting.
Hello, Scotty. It's me.
Scotty cried underneath his quilt, the fabric pulled up over his head. He wanted to call out to his parents but feared they wouldn't come in time before he was gobbled up. He wanted to run down the hallway and leap into their bed where he would be safe... but he'd have to pass by the closet door to get out of his room.
The heap gurgled and sloshed around the floor. Tiny whimpers escaped through Scotty's lips, splicing through the mass's gargles and the darkness's silence.
The hisses stopped; Scotty could no longer hear the flesh slapping against the floor. It was quiet, ear splittingly quiet. Scotty hoped the heap had vanished. He hoped it had slipped back into the closet, ending its nightly visits.
You've been awfully hospitable, Scott Junior, but it's time I headed out and invaded some other kid's closet. Bye-bye now.
Scotty lifted his blankets up from the side of the bed, allowing him to peek at the closet. Scotty's heart sank when he saw the heap still in the doorway, but his brain was puzzled. The heap had stopped moving and shifting shapes. Instead, it rested on the floor, silent.
The heap remained still and silent for a moment longer; but only a moment. It soon resumed its slithering movement, coughing and choking on its own skin. But this time the motion had more haste—and a definite purpose.
It began to fold, flipping its mass up on top of itself, stacking. Scotty watched as the heap stacked and coughed and choked as it took shape. He watched until it resembled a human being; human, but slightly wrong. Scotty could see the edges of the silhouette, fuzzy and bumpy as if someone had started to erase it with a pencil.
The newly created figure stood in the doorway, all motion calmed once again. It was tall, so tall that its head (or at least what resembled a head) almost brushed the ceiling of Scotty’s room. The figure was also thin, very thin, its spindly limbs dangling off its body at weird angles.
The flesh continued to pulse and bubble across the figure’s body. Its skin looked melted.
Scotty’s body froze under his blankets, his heart beating with new enthusiasm. The monster had never formed into anything before; it always seemed content to bubble in the doorway as a pile of unstructured nothingness. Or at least as long as Scotty was quiet.
On previous nights, Scotty had done well to muffle his fear. The monster had seemed unaware that Scotty was even in the room. But tonight, it had heard Scotty’s squeals from under his quilt. Now it knew.
Scotty’s trembling stopped, replaced with total paralysis. His face was wet and cold from crying. A scream erupted in his body, deep in his chest, but caught in his throat.
As the figure stood in the doorway, its branch-like limbs sprouting tiny tendrils from the ends. Long thin limbs with longer thinner fingers creaked like an old tree tipping in the wind as they grew.
Once its limbs had fully formed, the creature crouched to the ground. It began to crawl across the floor—crawl towards the bed.
Scotty cried out and ducked back under his blankets, fresh tears flooding his eyes. He hid his face in his pillow, forcing fluff and fabric behind his teeth to quiet his crying. He hoped, he prayed, that he would wake up from a bad dream at any moment. But Scotty did not wake up. Scotty was not dreaming.
Scotty felt his bed shift as the monster slithered underneath. He could hear the thing hissing and its flesh bubbling like hot water. He could smell it too: the scent of rotten tissue wafted through the air as if the creature’s body had been born out of a ripe corpse. The bed shifted again, and Scotty tried to listen, trying to pinpoint where the creature was. But Scotty couldn’t stifle his noisy sobs long enough.
The monster shuffled underneath Scotty’s bed frame for a while, situating itself into its new home. But soon enough, the bed stilled; the monster had left the bed’s underside. Scotty pulled himself out from under his covers to see where it had gone.
He discovered it glaring at him from the end of the bed, its head peering over the edge. Scotty pushed away from the monster, smacking into the headboard behind him. He yanked his blankets up to his chin and bit the quilt. A tiny squeal seeped from his throat and tears rushed out of his eyes. He couldn’t control his sobs any longer. His body shivered.
The monster didn’t seem to notice or care. Instead, it eyed Scotty, crawling up onto the bed, its body and limbs folding upon each other reminding Scotty of a broken plastic doll. It lowered its body delicately onto the bed, its weight sinking into the mattress. Scotty felt one of its long fingers brush against his foot; he recoiled, but the monster seemed not to mind. It settled at the end of the bed. Motion stopped. The smell of its gurgling flesh burned Scotty’s throat.
Scotty cowered under his blankets. Moonlight trickled in from the window, but the monster was untouched by it. The creature perched at the end of the bed, hunched over like a vulture, moonlight spilling around it, but still keeping a safe distance.
And it had eyes now. Huge pools of molten copper stared at him from the darkness. Scotty wanted to hide under blankets, but he couldn’t move his body. He couldn’t look away from the eyes.
They were the strangest pair of eyes Scotty had ever seen: they swirled and twisted the same fluid way the monster’s flesh did. Melting... melting. But unlike the flesh, the eyes glowed like liquid light. All of Scotty’s fear flowed out of him, oozing out of his pores. His body relaxed, his muscles fading under the creature’s gaze. He grew warm—comfortably feverish. And the longer he stared into those glowing eye-sockets, the harder it became to look away.
But Scotty didn’t mind, at least not at the moment. At the moment, Scotty wanted to melt.
His skin swelled with sticky sweat as the eyes gleamed like car headlights down an abandoned highway. And the light was growing brighter and brighter. After a while, the glow started to burn.
Scotty’s eyes itched with dryness, crackling from a sudden lack of moisture. His heated body began to roast. All of Scotty’s fear suddenly flooded back to him; panic leaked into his heart and into his pulse. His hot blood rushed through him, squeezing him, drowning him.
The eyes glimmered, and the copper swirled like a storm. Scotty grasped for air, his breath dry and quick. Scotty feared he might explode into a splatter of hot human-cream, like a ruptured shaving cream canister.
Scotty passed out.
In the morning, Scotty woke up cold and exhausted. He couldn't get warm; nothing staved off the chills. His mother fretted over him saying he had a fever. She was also concerned by his sudden weight loss. She confined Scotty to bed and didn't speak anymore about the filthy film in the closet.
Scotty didn't want the monster to visit him again. Not anymore. That night, he would let Zachary sleep in his room. Surely, the monster in his closet would fear a great big Rottweiler like Zachary.
Bubbling, bubbling. A vile soup of saliva and blood murmured in the back of the throat. The soup coated the yellow-white fangs. Whines echoed through the darkness.
The sounds woke Scotty from his sleep. Whimpers and croaks echoed softly from the floor. Scotty turned towards his closet, towards the sounds. His heart beat painfully in his chest.
On the floor, swimming in a lake of blood and intestines, gurgling, choking on his own mess, was Scotty's gutted pet. Zachary had a single deep slash across his belly.
At the end of Scotty's bed, the monster perched, its eyes of liquid light glowing. They glowed brightly, brighter than the night before. A low thunderous growl met Scotty's ears.
The monster inched its way across the bed and towards him, its eyes and flesh boiling. Scotty's eyes blurred with tears, his breath coming in small whispers.
The creature seemed more determined than the night before; and it smelled much worse. It smelled like a hot corpse fermenting in a stuffy room in summertime. The stench burned Scotty's face like fire.
The monster stared into Scotty's eyes, burrowing into them. Scotty couldn't look away.
The creature stopped moving towards him once it was within a few centimeters of his face. Scotty felt his body heat up much faster than the gradual simmer of last night. Sweat streamed down his forehead and his cheeks; it pooled around his neck, staining his pajamas. His trembling frame shook the entire bed, monster included.
The glow continued to grow brighter and brighter and brighter. Scotty's whole body burned and burned. He felt weak, so weak. He couldn't move any part of his body; he felt himself fall limp against the headboard. His heart beat maniacally, begging him to try and escape.
But there was nothing Scotty could do. All he could do was melt.