THE ninth TALE - monster
SIMON P. CLARK
The monster was in the closet. That’s where they live, after all. Anwar frowned and bit his thumb.
‘I don’t really like it,’ he told his father. The old man raised an eyebrow.
‘The monster’s in my room.’
‘Anwar,’ said his father. ‘There’s nothing to be afraid of.’
Anwar thought about this. ‘I know that,’ he said. His father smiled.
‘I’m not afraid,’ said Anwar. ‘I just don’t like it being in my room. I don’t want to share.’
His father’s smile faded a little.
At bed time his mother made him brush his teeth and put on his pyjamas. She tucked him in and kissed his head.
‘You have to check the closet so the monster isn’t there,’ he said.
‘Why would there be a monster?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t want it. It asks too many questions.’
‘Oh, how annoying,’ said his mother. ‘What kind of questions does it ask?’
Anwar rolled his eyes. She was using her silly voice, as if this were a game and she didn’t really care about the monster’s questions at all.
‘Just ... stuff,’ he said. His mother kissed him again.
‘There aren’t any monsters, petal,’ she said. ‘Not in your closet, or under your bed, or in your sock drawer.’
That was just silly. Anwar sighed. The sock drawer was too small. It was the closet – that was where the monster lived. His parents never listened properly.
‘OK,’ he said.
‘OK,’ said his mother. ‘Goodnight, my little soldier.’
‘Goodnight,’ he said, just as his mother was shutting the door.
The room was dark. Anwar shifted in his bed. The door to the closet was already open.
‘No story?’ said the monster. ‘No bed time tale?’
‘No,’ said Anwar. ‘I didn’t ask for one.’
‘’Cause I don’t want to share my room. It’s not fair! Janeet doesn’t have to share her room, and she’s two years younger than me.’
His voice was whiney, but he didn’t care.
‘Don’t you like sharing with me?’ said the monster, and Anwar felt a little bit bad, because he knew you were supposed to be nice to people, even if you didn’t want to be.
‘You only want to hear stories, anyway,’ he said. ‘You’re not a real friend.’
The monster thought about this.
‘You’re right,’ it said. ‘I’m not.’
A long time passed without either of them speaking. In the dark, and the warm, Anwar knew he was falling asleep.
‘I liked the one about the train,’ said the monster.
‘The train. The bedtime story. Your mother has a real gift.’
‘That story was for me. You’re not supposed to know it.’
‘Nevertheless,’ said the monster. Anwar huffed and turned over in his bed. The monster was moving around the room. It picked up toys, examining them, and put them back without making a sound.
‘Anyway,’ said Anwar, ‘Dad says monsters aren’t real.’
‘He said you’re just a ... a figment.’
The monster laughed at that. ‘Maybe he’s right,’ it said, which didn’t really help. Downstairs, Anwar’s parents were watching TV.
‘So, you should go,’ said Anwar, ‘’Cause this is my room, and so that’s my closet.’
Something rippled in the air in front of him. The monster was on his bed.
‘You’re not afraid of me, are you?’ it said.
‘May I ask why not?’
Anwar blinked. He could see the monster’s eyes. They were yellow, the colour of old honey.
‘You hide,’ he said. ‘In my closet, you hide. Why would you hide if you were dangerous? I don’t know. I just kind of thought...’
The monster’s eyes were very close. It had never been this close before.
‘You are a strange one, Anwar Patel. Your stories are good, but your heart is ... too strong.’
Anwar had never been told that before. ‘Oh,’ he said. Then, ‘Sorry.’
‘Perhaps I should move on,’ said the monster. ‘Move on and stop sharing your room.’
The monster smiled, a flash of white teeth splitting its face. Anwar raised his head and looked at him.
‘Really?’ he said.
‘Perhaps. Why not? It’s like a joke, how little you understand, how close you are to falling into the dark.’
He was smiling even wider now. Anwar didn’t like his teeth.
‘Tell me, Anwar Patel, will you miss me, if I leave you? If I give you back your closet and your room?’
‘Um. I don’t know.’
‘Won’t you feel less special?’
‘Won’t you wonder where I went? Where I came from?’
‘No,’ said Anwar. He yawned, and the monster’s smile flickered.
‘Dad said you’re not real,’ said Anwar. The monster’s eyes lit up, like flames bursting from coal, and it smiled wider than ever. On wings like shadows it lifted itself off the bed, landing silently on the carpet in front of the door.
‘Kids today,’ it said. ‘Eh? Hm?’
Anwar sat up. The monster was getting smaller, shrinking into itself, its eyes locked on his.
‘There are other places,’ it said, ‘and other stories.’
Anward watched. He nodded.
‘One thing, though,’ said the monster. ‘One thing, as a present to you, and a warning. Do not make the mistake, Anwar Patel, of thinking that just because something isn’t real, that it is not dangerous. Do not,’ said the monster, its eyes turning red, its wings stretching up and brushing the ceiling, ‘think that just because something doesn’t exist, it won’t still come and find you.’
Its voice was a growl now, low and angry, shaking Anwar’s bones. He clutched onto his bed. The monster smiled, and then it leapt, roaring and laughing, and Anwar screamed. The closet door rocked on its hinges, and the sound of splintering wood crackled through the air. Anwar’s clothes, hanging neatly in a row just moments before, lay scattered on the floor. His books, his schoolwork, everything that had been in the closet, was spread around the room, torn and ripped and broken. Anwar could smell dust, and smoke, and earth. He shut his eyes tight, trembling a little, and then he opened them again. The room was still. He could hear his own breathing, but nothing else. He got out of his bed. The carpet felt rough under his feet. The monster was gone. He knew that. He knew it. He looked at the closet, at the big black hole that used to be the door, and even though he wasn’t cold, Anwar Patel shivered.
Monster, Eren Tales © Simon P. Clark 2015. All rights reserved.
Photography © Brandon Rechten 2015. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission
from the author or publisher is prohibited.