""> The Monster Under the Bed

Title: The Monster Under the Bed
Author: Jenna Tooms
Rating: PG-13.

Summary: Who says the monster under the bed isn't real? A Halloween offering.


1.

October 29, 1998
8:48 p.m.
Baltimore County, Maryland

Joel was seven and big enough to sleep without a nightlight. He'd been sleeping without it for several months, in fact, but suddenly he started begging his mother Annie to leave it on at night. At first she humored him, because he was young and children went through phases, but after two months she told him, "You're old enough to sleep without it," and switched it off.

"No, Mommy!" Joel shrieked and lunged off the bed, which he had never done before. He grabbed her around the legs as she stood in the rectangle of light from the hallway. "Leave the light on or the monster will get me!"

She laughed and ran her hand through his hair. "Oh, honey. There's no monsters in here. I promise."

"No, Mommy, there's a monster under my bed and he said if he ever catches me in the dark he'll take me to his house and put me in a cage! Please leave the light on, Mommy!" He wrapped his arms around her waist.

"Joelly, honey, look." She knelt down on the floor and lifted his blankets. "There's nothing under here. See? Except your baseball glove. There's nothing to be afraid of."

"Please leave the light on, Mommy. Please."

"I'll leave the hall light on and your door open. Okay? You're big enough not to need the nightlight on anymore." She kissed him and put him to bed, tucking the blankets around him. "Good night, Joelly." She clicked off his bedroom light and left the door open.

She went back downstairs to where her husband and teenage daughter were watching TV. "What's up with the munchkin?" Hal asked.

"Oh, he thinks there's a monster under the bed. I left the hall light on for him. He'll be all right."

"Such an imagination." He ran his hand over his wife's shoulders and their daughter rolled her eyes.

"He'd better not start wetting the bed again."

"Becky, be nice. It's not like you have to clean up after him, anyway."

"Yeah, but I smell it."

Annie just sighed, and leaned back against her husband's shoulder.

Not ten minutes had passed when they heard a bloodcurdling scream from upstairs. Annie and Hal both leaped to their feet and ran up to Joel's bedroom, with Becky close behind. Hal slammed on the light.

The window was closed, the shades were drawn, and the bed was empty.

Joel was gone.


2.

October 30, 1998
7:22 a.m.
Baltimore County, Maryland

I hate the sight of police cars on a suburban street. I hate to see them parked in front of houses where life should be carrying on, peaceful, uneventful. I hate kidnapings and I especially hate it when children are kidnaped.

Mulder and I flashed our badges to the officer keeping the neighbors away, and he gestured us into the house. "The detective in charge is named Bailey," he said, and I followed Mulder up the front steps.

"Talk about a nightmare on Elm Street," Mulder murmured.

"Shut up, Mulder."

Det. Bailey was young and black, and he looked like he'd been awake for a few days. He nodded to us when he saw our badges, and left the officer he'd been talking with.

"Thanks for coming, Agents." He rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"I'm Mulder and this is my partner, Agent Scully. So what's going on?"

"About nine o'clock last night Joel Martin was stolen out of his bed. We have no fingerprints other than the family's, no sign of forced entry, the front and back doors were locked, and there's no one that would gain from taking him, as far as the father can think of." He pointed to the kitchen, where a man was shakily drinking coffee and staring beyond the detective talking to him. "That's my partner, Crusoe, with Mr. Martin. The mother has been sedated and put to bed, and their other child is with them."

"Tell me about the other child."

He consulted his notes. "Rebecca. Thirteen. Good grades, into sports, gets along with her brother most of the time. Spends most of her time swimming and studying, and is not friends with anybody her parents don't know."

Mulder nodded and pulled his bottom lip. "I'd like to talk to the father."

"Sure." He led us into the kitchen.

"Mr. Martin?" I said gently, and he looked up at me blankly.

"Are you from Social Services? They said someone from Social Services was coming."

"No, I'm Agent Scully with the FBI. The police department requested us. This is my partner Agent Mulder."

He held out his hand automatically. "Hal Martin. My wife's, uh, indisposed."

"It's okay, Mr. Martin." We sat down across from him at the kitchen table.

"I guess you're here 'cause kidnaping's a federal offense, right?" He squinted at us. He looked even more worn out than Det. Bailey.

"Det. Bailey requested us because of some of the more unusual facets of the case."

"The case," he repeated with a ghostly chuckle. "You never think one of your loved ones will become a 'case.'"

Mulder said, "Was anything unusual happening with Joel before he disappeared?"

Hal shook his head and sighed. "Nope. Well, he'd started wanting his nightlight again. I thought that was kind of strange, but Annie-that's my wife-said it was just a phase. She left the hall light on for him."

"Why did he want the nightlight?" Mulder pressed, his voice soft.

"He said there was a monster under his bed. We told him it was nonsense, of course. We even showed him what was under the bed. Nothing but carpet and his baseball glove."

Said glove was on the table, and Hal kept stroking it as if it was the only connection to his son. I had to look away.

"But that's ridiculous, right? There's no such thing as monsters under the bed. When I was his age I thought there was a vampire in my closet." Hal looked at us pleadingly, asking us to tell him it was just a story you eventually grow out of. "Last year around Halloween he was sure the house was haunted. He's sensitive. He's got a heck of an imagination."

"Could we see Joel's room, Mr. Martin?"

"Sure. Do you want me to show you?"

"That's okay. Thanks. Come on, Scully." We both rose from the table and started upstairs.

"So tell me what's going on, Mulder."

"I'm not sure yet, except that last Halloween another child disappeared in Annapolis under similar circumstances. It was a locked house, no sign of forced entry, family had no enemies, sudden re-emergence of fear of the dark-sound familiar?"

"Was the child ever found?"

Mulder shook his head and went into the boy's bedroom.

I lingered in the hall. The walls were lined with family photographs: wedding, baby, school, vacation, sports. Joel had bright eyes and a missing front tooth. His sister was growing beautifully out of her awkward stage.

"Hey, Scully, look at this."

I sighed and went into the bedroom. Mulder was kneeling on the floor, looking under the bed.

"Don't tell me, you've found a doorway to Halloween Town," I said.

He leaned back on his heels and flashed a grin at me. "I love that movie. Look at this." He held out a latex-gloved hand.

I took out a glove from my own pocket and plucked what was in his fingers. It looked like an extremely hoary fingernail, curved, sharp on one edge and torn on the other. "I don't get it."

"Kinda looks like a claw, doesn't it?"

"Mulder, you can't be serious."

"Didn't you ever think there were monsters under your bed?"

I'd rather have a monster in my bed, I thought, and said, "Up until I was five or so, yeah. I thought the Boogie Man lived in our basement, too, but that doesn't mean he actually did."

"Think about it, though, Scully. Why would such a belief arise?"

"Because children are afraid of the dark."

"Circular logic, Scully. You're slipping."

"Okay . . . because the dark is frightening, especially when you don't know what's in it. The closet, the basement, and under the bed are mysterious places to a young child with an active mind."

"Sometimes a child's safest place is their own bed. So why would a child turn their safest place into an object of fear?"

"I never understood where the Boogie Man came from , either."

"He moved from the swamp and the marsh into the closest scary place: the dark in one's own house."

"Mulder," I said, trying to sound patient-really, I was-"you are not going to tell that man downstairs that his son was kidnaped by the Oogie Boogie Man."

"The police are doing their end. They'll look for the usual: child molesters, pedophiles, whatever. And I don't think they're going to find anything. But tonight we are going to sleep in here and see what comes out."

A thought I'd have to mention at my next Confession passed through my mind, and I said, "The Martins will think you're nuts."

"All folk beliefs have their basis in reality. They used to think the Trojan War was just a story, too."


3.

October 30, 1998
Baltimore County, Maryland
11:10 a.m.

Det. Crusoe looked like she thought we just need a new place for a rendevous, but Det. Bailey sighed and nodded. "Whatever, Agents," he said. "Our leads are going nowhere. I've got people at his school, talking to the parents of his friends, even talking to his piano teacher. I don't think anybody looked crosswise at this kid."

"All right," Mulder said, "we'll be back tonight."

At the kitchen table, Hal Martin was just shaking his head. "I don't believe this," he said quietly. "You've got to be kidding."

"We're doing whatever we can to find your son," I assured him.

"But a real monster under his bed? Come on. You can't tell me you believe this."

I looked at Mulder, who was on his cell phone, and said quietly, "I'm not sure I believe it yet. But I'm willing to try."

Hal closed his eyes. He nodded slowly. "Okay. Okay. Whatever it takes to find him."

"Thanks, Mr. Martin." We shook hands and I joined Mulder on the way out of the house.

"So do you really think there's a chance of finding him?" I asked.

"I don't know. I'm more worried about finding him alive."

That was enough to make me shiver. In the fairy tales trolls and monsters steal children to eat them, don't they? "All the better to eat you with"?

Mulder put his arm around my shoulders. "Bring your sleepover jammies tonight, Scully. We'll make S'mores."

That made me smile, and I said, "Okay, but I'm not doing your hair."


4.

October 30, 1998
Baltimore County, Maryland
11:45 p.m.

The Martins gave us sleeping bags, and Mulder chivalrously let me have the bed. It reminded me of sharing a room with Missy all those years in tiny base housing. The daughter, Becky, had stared at Mulder with open teenage lust, and managed to find several excuses to talk to Mulder before her parents finally sent her to bed. With a light on, of course. Hal and Annie were also sleeping with a light on. Just in case.

We, however, were in the dark.

I refused to be nervous. We'd get a good night sleep and rejoin the regular investigation in the morning. Surely we could find something they'd missed-once Mulder bent his thoughts to a more earthly excuse we'd find the boy. I was sure of this.

Mulder was not happy on the floor. Every few minutes he'd sigh dramatically and move into a new position, punching his pillow. "I did offer to take the floor," I said.

"I'm fine, Scully."

"This is actually a very comfy bed." I bounced a little, just to annoy him. The mattress rustled but didn't squeak.

"Oh, is that an invitation?"

I laughed. "Behave yourself, bucko."

"Only because we're guests here."

One of these days, I thought, I'm going to see if you can walk the walk, 'cause you talk the talk just fine.

The gun was firm and lumpy beneath my pillow. I wondered if one of those little Dillenger pistols Victorian ladies in the West used to carry would be any more comfortable. Something delicate that would fit into my palm . . .

I heard Mulder yawn.

I felt the bed bump.

"Mulder, quit fooling around."

"Hm?"

The bed bumped again, firmly against the wall. I reached under my pillow for the gun.

"Holy shit," Mulder whispered, and I saw his shadow against the window as she stood. "Scully, get off the bed."

"Mulder, don't be-"

Two scaly hands on impossibly long arms reached up from under the bed and yanked me down, through the blankets, through the mattress, through the floor. I'm not sure if I screamed.


5.

Unknown location
Unknown time

When I opened my eyes I could see bars over my head, and beyond that what looked like a cave ceiling, dark and dotted with stalactites. I heard sobbing, and looked around. A tiny body in footed sleepers was curled up in a corner of the cage.

"Joel?"

He looked at me from between his fingers. He'd been crying a long time. "Who're you?"

"My name is Dana. I'm one of the people who's been looking for you."

"He's gonna cook us and eat us up for Halloween," he said with all seriousness.

"Who is, Joel?"

"The monster. The Boogie Man."

I supposed now was not the time to assure him there was no such thing, and said quietly, moving closer to him, "I'm not going to let him hurt you, Joel."

"Are you with the police?"

"I'm an FBI agent."

That brought a tiny smile. "You're a Fed," he announced, and for some reason that made him giggle.

"That's right, I'm a Fed."

"So how did you get here?"

"I slept in your bed tonight. To see what would happen."

"I bet you're not gonna do that again."

"No, probably not." I stood up as much as the cage would allow and tried to look around, but the cave was too dark to see far. Our only source of light was a tiny hole high up in the ceiling, casting down a cone of light over the cage. I could see no door or other opening. I knelt down at Joel's side on the hard, rocky floor.

"Joel, tell me what's happened while you've been here."

He took a deep breath, and put his arms around my waist. That made me smile, and I hugged him back. "I've been scared. The monster comes in sometimes and sniffs around the bars, and he talks to me."

"What does he say?"

"That I'm gonna be tasty when I'm roasted through." He shivered and I hugged his closer. "Stuff like that."

I nodded, scanning the dark cave. "He's not going to hurt you."

"He's big, Dana, and he has teeth and claws."

"But I have my gun." I reached across the cage to where it was resting and placed it in my lap. His eyes widened when he saw it.

"Is that a Magnum?"

"It's called a Sig Sauer."

He leaned his head against my shoulder. Having the gun did give me a small sense of assurance, but I knew it wasn't quite realistic. I might not have time to fire. He might have another hostage. The bullet might not injure him. Anything could happen.

And even if I did kill the creature, how would we get back to reality from this in-between place?

I wished Mulder was there, at least to bounce ideas off him. But I rocked Joel until his eyes closed, and sang to him. "'Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine. Never understood a single word he said but I helped him drink his wine. And he always had some mighty fine wine.'"


6.

Unknown location
Unknown time

I jerked awake again at the sound of slithering across the cave's rocky floor. Joel woke up too at my movement, and he whispered in a high, terrified voice, "That's him, Dana, that's him!"

"Don't be afraid, Joelly, I'm not going to let him touch you." I clicked the safety off my gun and got to my feet. Joel pressed close to my side, as we both watched for a shape to come out of the darkness.

In a few minutes I could see the creature. His eyes were red like glowing coals. His skin was green and scaly, and his long claws dragged on the ground. When he opened his mouth I saw row upon row of sharp yellow teeth. He smelled like rotting meat.

He pressed himself against the bars of the cage opposite us and Joel shrieked and hid his face in my thigh. "Meat," the creature hissed, and a globe of drool fell from his black lips.

I pointed my gun at what looked like his face. "Take us back to where you got us and I won't hurt you."

He chuckled, like the door opening on a rusty crypt. "So tasty," he crooned, and his clawed hands opened and closed around the bars. "Cooked just right. With potatoes. Yummmmmmm."

"I've been threatened by scarier things than you. Let us out of here."

His fingers slid under the cage and with one movement he lifted it and tossed it back over our heads. I gripped Joel closer to me and kept my gun pointed at the creature. The creature advanced on us, growling and drooling, and we circled each other, we stepping back as he moved forward. I was afraid he would rush us or jump us, faster than I could react.

I'm not sure how it happened, but above our heads the ceiling groaned open and I heard yelling as another body fell through. I pulled Joel back from where it looked like the body was going to land as the creature rushed forward, and the body came down right on the creature's back. I heard a sickening snap like breaking bones, and the creature groaned and collapsed onto the floor.

The newcomer groaned too, only not as low, and rolled of the creature's body. He looked up at me and said rustily, "Hey, Scully."

"Mulder?" I rushed to him and knelt on the floor. "How did you get here? Are you all right? Are you hurt? You've got to be hurt."

"I think I'm okay."

"I heard bones breaking."

"I think I broke its spine." He smiled at Joel, who was still clinging to my side. "Hi. You must be Joel."

"Hi," Joel whispered.

"So how did you get here, Mulder?" I said as I helped him stand and brushed him off.

"I . . . believed that I could. And I think that's how we get back." He took hold of Joel's other hand. "Can you do that, bud? Believe that you're home. Believe yourself home."

"Should we click our heels together?" Joel asked, and Mulder laughed.

And then we were home.


7.

Dana Scully's apartment
October 31, 1998

Mulder helped me pass out candy to the neighborhood kids, playing Rimsky-Korsakov's "Night on Bald Mountain" in the background. He looked very festive in his zombie getup: black clothes and a death's head face. Whenever people asked me what I was dressed up as, I told them I was going as an undercover cop.

One of the local stations was playing the 1931 "Dracula" at ten, so as the kids trickled down to one or two small groups we settled down on the couch to watch the movie. Mulder kept his arm around my shoulders.

"Mulder," I said eventually.

"Hm?"

Put that man in front of a TV and he dozes off in ten minutes. "How did you know how to get to . . . wherever we were?"

"I, um, didn't. I tried everything else I could think of, and I was just sitting where the bed had been wanting to be with you . . . and then I was."

"Mm."

Bela Lagosi said, "Listen to the children of the night. What beautiful music they make!"

"Are you okay?" Mulder asked me. "No post-traumatic stress?"

"I'm okay. I'm more worried about Joel."

"I don't think he's going to be sleeping in the dark anytime soon."

I hated to say it, but I thought so too.

When the movie was over Mulder hugged me tight. "Sleep well. Happy Halloween."

"Drive carefully," I told him, and saw him out.

I got ready for bed and closed up the apartment. Door and windows locked, lights out, appliances off. I got into bed and pulled the sheets up to my chin.

And then I reached over and turned on my bedside lamp. Just to be sure.

End.

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