Dark Corner Closet
Sometimes, things do more than just bump in the night.
Shadows crawled across the walls, the safety of the streetlight mingling with the trees to cast warnings on the floor of what will come to get Johnny in the middle of the night. The claws and teeth of unknown beasts and monsters cast through the window crept along the floor, faded before they slid to the middle of the room. The only other source of light was the narrow sliver cast by the open bedroom door. Johnny tried to focus on the light, his rebellious eyes drawn back, past the scratching claws of the beasts and monsters, into the dark corner of the room.
To Johnny’s dismay, the dark bided its time until it succumbed to the one thing that ironically gave it life: the light. Devoured by the dark, the light could only wait until it found life again when nature took its course (either at dawn or the filling of someone’s bladder). The dark would skitter like a startled spider across the narrow bar of light if it could, but as much as it desired, it could not harm the light. It played the long game. Many a sleepless night had been spent with Johnny knowing it would get him, not knowing what it would do, or how it would do it. But what else could it do with those long, dark claws?
Suddenly, the darkness scattered. Johnny gasped for breath, as the light blinded him and his eyes went instantly to the dark corner as if what was in there would take that last-ditch chance, a dying effort to lunge at the bed and grab his foot and…
Even knowing what was in the room with him (the window in the middle of the wall, the vent in the floor, all between him and the dark corner) he still did not believe mommy, as awesome as she was, that whatever was there in the dark was there in the light. It was so difficult to believe, especially trying to see through the fading flash of light. He started breathing faster. He closed his eyes as the shapes followed him into his own darkness. He hunkered down and threw his blanket over his head
The only thing…person…PERSON that chased the dark away, was mommy. Johnny remembered mommy saying, ‘mommies are people too, even though some mean daddies don’t think so and run away with “hoo-ers” half their age.’ Johnny was not sure what gardeners and their hoes—and not the shovels—had to do with making mommy so angry, but mommy was the only person who chased the dark away.
Mommy sat down on the side of his bed and began tucking him in. As soon as she sat, what little light he could see under his blanket dimmed considerably.
Mommy said, “Funny…huh…” She lifted the corner of the covers and looked at the sheets beneath. “Could’ve sworn there was a kid in here. Oh, well. Guess I should make the bed in case he comes back.”
She tucked the covers underneath and around Johnny, tickling him in the process. Johnny’s uproarious giggling made mommy laugh too, making him forget about the dark closet in the corner.
Johnny pulled the covers down past his chin and forced his eyes open, instantly focused into the corner and retreated again under the covers, only up to his nose this time.
Johnny opened his eyes. Through the momentarily blinding light appeared…
His eyes darted again to the dark corner closet. Had it become even darker? he thought. He looked away.
“What’s wrong Johnny?” Mommy said inquisitively. “Johnny?” Johnny dug himself deeper into the thick and warm sanctuary of the covers, scurrying away from mommy’s question as much as from the intentions of the dark. Mommy looked behind her and said in her ‘oh, you silly child’ voice. “The dark?”
Not wanting to worry his mom, because she was sad a lot since daddy left with his gardener and her hoes. Not knowing what to say, Johnny lied and shook his head. “The floor tics,” Johnny said. It wasn’t a total lie, he thought.
The house they lived in was older, so it had old heating vents, not the thinner, inconspicuous kind along the baseboards or the ceiling, but larger and in the floor. When the heating vent blew air, the ductwork clanked and clinked and was more noticeable at night, especially to the anxious ears of a seven-year-old. The vent was conveniently located a couple feet away from the closet in the dark corner of the room. Johnny and mommy sat for a moment as if the vent had somehow missed its cue.
When the noise did not come, mommy giggled and tousled Johnny’s hair.
“I`ll talk to Jimmy,” mom said.
As if on cue, his nine-year-old brother barreled through the door. Dramatically lit from the light that flooded in from the hallway, Jimmy leaped and landed in a superhero pose and sang “Duh-Duh-DADA” as if he, Johnny’s mean big brother (only by two years), would protect him. Jimmy cut quickly to the right and darted into bed. Johnny’s head jerked to the left, past the dark corner and toward the vent. Jimmy ran past it without a second thought. Maybe he could protect him.
Tink, ta-clank, clink…clink, said the vent in response.
Great, Johnny thought. The vent's in on it too.
The vent, Johnny was convinced, was not only scaring him, but ridiculing his brother, laughing at Johnny.
Mommy tucked Johnny in one more time, and went to tuck in Jimmy. When she left the side of his bed, the door was in full view. He stared.
Johnny wasn’t sure, but he thought that the door had closed slightly.
Sitting on the opposite side of Jimmy’s bed, she tucked him in as well. All that separated the brothers’ twin beds was a nightstand, but Johnny still had a hard time hearing the conversation Jimmy and his mom were having, especially because Jimmy was facing away toward the wall. Mommy smiled and gave Jimmy’s hair the same tousle and a peck on the cheek. She crossed back to Johnny and did the same.
Johnny’s heart quickened as mom strode to the door, grabbed it by the knob and was closing it as she walked out.
“Mom!” Johnny yelled. He couldn’t believe it. “Mommy!!” Johnny yelled again as she closed the door, ignoring Jimmy.
“What!?” She half snapped as she opened the door again, her mask of composure momentarily slipping, moments away from the one break she had all day.
She looks so tired, Johnny thought.
Mommy rubbed her face and calmed, releasing her grip on the doorknob and hugging herself.
Johnny looked at her as if what he had to say should be common knowledge. “Mom….leave the door open.”
Tink, tink, tink, the vent taunted Johnny.
Jimmy giggled, violently shaking his bed. “Wooooo,” he said not attempting to stifle his giggles.
“Jimmy…” Mommy said reproachfully
“I know…” Jimmy said
Mommy edged the door open a bit, and then a bit more when Johnny’s eyes widened. She stopped when he grinned.
“Love you, Jay Jay,” mom said to the both of them, using the communal nickname that bugged him so much.
“Love you,” Jimmy and Johnny sing-songedly droned back at her.
Johnny stared at the half-open door. He stared partly because it was away from the dark in the opposite corner of the room and also because he saw it moving.
...on its own
…and each second the room grew darker
tick-tick, tick-tick, tick…tick…tick…Tink, ta-clank, clink…clink
“Just close your eyes,” Johnny whispered, repeating what his mom would tell him whenever she was helping him fall asleep.
Johnny could not close his eyes.
Johnny, would not close his eyes. He knew that counting worked because mom sat in the room with him one time when he was scared to try by himself. He wanted to show mom that he could do it by himself. He wanted to be brave for mom, but he was scared.
It was simple: When he closed his eyes, it was dark. The dark is what he was trying to stay away from. He could see the light of the hallway when his eyes were open. So, he kept his eyes open.
“Count,” he remembers mom saying. “Try it for the count of three and then open them and you will see that everything is the same”
As if mom was right there on the bed beside him, Johnny closed his eyes…
tick-tick, tick-tick, tick…tick…tick…tink, ta-clank, clink…clink
Johnny falls asleep in no time at all.
TICK-TICK, TICK-TICK, TICK…TICK…TICK…TINK, TA-CLANK, CLINK…CLINK
Johnny’s eyes flipped open, and he whimpered ever so slightly. He was positive the door had crept closed, and quickly looked away. But when he looked away, he looked into the dark and heard the loud bang of the door opening into the wall and his brother scream…a shriek of such terror that Johnny’s bladder loosened.
Just before he flung the covers over his head, the door opened with a resounding bang against the wall.
The dark struck with serpent quickness, snatching Jimmy from his bed. The dark had solidified into a thick, mucusy curling tentacle. It moved with shocking quickness. for an appendage of such girth. It deftly entwined itself around Jimmy's nine-year-old frame. It flew back to the corner, into the closet, and slammed the door.
Johnny did not move until the morning light chased the darkness away.