Under the Bed

At first Reggie feared the monster, then he grew to understand it and, as the years passed, understanding grew into love.

                After his third birthday is when Reggie first felt inkling of the foreboding presence beneath him. He had just moved from crib to toddler bed, in his own room with blue wall-paper fringed with cherubic angels, with a dark velvet carpet that covered the floor from wall to wall. He was a big boy, or so his parents told him, and could sleep on his own. At least most nights. But then he heard the breathing, low and slow, coming from below his mattress. A looming force grew in his mind. He was not alone. Reggie thought to tell his parents of his fears, but worried they would dismiss him as the foolish child, and take his bed away from him. That crib, with its wooden slats and high walls, was no prison he wished to returned to. So he overcame his fears and stayed. Each night, the breathing grew louder and louder.

                When he was five, legs dangling off the edge of the bed, nowhere near long enough to touch the ground, the creature began to talk to him.

                Reggie. Its voice, loud yet subvocal, echoed against the chambers of his impressionable mind. The loud, booming tone belonged to a creature of unfathomable dimensions. It spoke his name, and Reggie screamed. Within seconds, his parents rushed to his room.

                “Reg, honey, what’s wrong?” His mother asked.

                Father yawned, scratched his chin impatiently, both their clothes were disheveled. As if they had been recently discarded and then quickly reworn. “You have a nightmare Reg? Go back to bed, there’s nothing here to get ya.”

                Reggie could only mumble, stutter his concerns. “M-m-m-monster, Momma, a-a-a m-m-m”

                His mother ruffled his air, cooing quietly to soothe his fears. “Oh monsters Reg, there’s no such thing. Only shadows in the dark. Here-” She turned up his nightlight. “That should scare them off.”

                She kissed him on his forehead and Father hugged him gruffly, clearly still resentful of the interruption. They tucked him in, left, and again Reggie lay alone with the flimsy light, the darkness, the low, deep breathing only his child’s ears could hear.

                Do not be afraid. Reggie. I mean you no harm.

                This time, Reggie swallowed his fears. No help was forthcoming. If he was grown enough to sleep alone, he was grown enough to confront the demon meant for his eyes only.

                “Wh-what a’you?” He asked.

                I don’t know.

                “H-how long you been down there?”

                Always.

                Silence hung in the air, Reggie did not speak. Only the hushed breathing signaled that the monster still remained. Waiting, it seemed for the young boy to make the next move.

                And so Reggie took a chance. He swung his legs back over the edge of the bed. Nothing. No grotesque limbs reached out from under him to drag the boy to some hellish dimension. No horrid jaws nipped at his heels. Hopping off the bed, he knelt down to look underneath the frame, to see what horrors awaited his child’s eyes. Yet he saw nothing. To be more accurate, he saw nothingness. Not the floor, not the hanging sheets, not the bedframe itself. He saw only blackness, he felt only despair. And he began to empathize for the monster, living in such a world all its own.

                “Monster?” He asked.

                Yes Reggie.

                “You lonely down there?”

                Lone-ly? The creature spoke as if he didn’t understand the world.

                “Doncha, donchou wish you had friends to play with?”

                Friends. It paused, teasing the word over in its mind. I have no friends.

                In that moment, Reggie made a choice that would divert the course of his life and countless others. “It’s okay monster. We can be friends.”

                Reggie was no longer afraid of the darkness. Years passed, and each night he and the monster spoke. Soon, he was ten, in a full bed of his own. They had moved, yet somehow the monster followed. His world unstuck in place, he knew exactly where to find Reggie. He knew which bed was the boy’s. Reggie’s parents wondered why he forsook all close friends, instead choosing to play in his room, but that was the way of children nowadays. With access to the internet, the constructed worlds all their own, they reasoned. As long as his schoolwork didn’t suffer, and he seemed so well adjusted, there was no need to worry.

                “Monster?” Reggie began one night, “Can I ask you a question?”

                Go ahead Reggie.

                “Why don’t you come out, meet my Mom and Dad? I’m sure they’d like to know I had a friend.”

                I’m scared. The blackness seemed to contract and sigh.

                “Scared? You?” Reggie wanted to laugh. The idea of this consumptive darkness—one that had terrified him to his core—itself feeling fear, seemed impossible to him. “Whatever of?”

                Your world… is so big. I am… accustomed to being alone. Just me Reg, just you and just me. I don’t- I don’t want that world. It scares me. It is scared of me.

                “I’ll make them understand! I will. You mean no harm to anyone, right?”

                No… I don’t know. I don’t even know what I am.

                Reggie asked a question he had asked many times before, and was always met with a dodge or dismissal. “What did you do before you haunted my bed?” He asked with a smile, he knew that the monster hated all comparisons to a ghost. (I am not that creature it would deny loudly, well, as loudly as it said anything). “Where were you?”

                For the first time, it answered. I… I don’t know. I remember you, my Reggie, I remember knowing you, even before we spoke. I knew we would be friends. But before that, I remember nothing.

                “Then how do you know?”

                Know what?

                “How do you know I’m not to bring you out of your shell? Show you the world?”

                I-

                “Come on! You’re tired, lonely. What’s the harm?”

                I don’t know.

                ”Monster?” Once again Reggie sat at the foot of his bed, staring underneath into the darkness.

                Yes Reg.

                “You know I love you, right?”

                I love you too Reg.

                “Then come out. I’m lonely too. No kids understand me, my Mom and Dad don’t neither. I… I only have one friend.”

                Me too.

                “Then why be alone when we can be together and happy?”

                Because.

                “Because why?”

                Because… perhaps I should show you.

                The ground beneath the bed began to rumble, and from the darkness within sparked a light. It grew and grew, sprouting features. A face, grotesquely misshapen. A body, parts all out of line and out of proportion. The light, the glowing form, grew to the size of a small rat, then to a dog, then a human child. But it did not stop there. Its chest rose and fell and still the creature grew. Soon, the bed was no longer big enough to house it. And its bulk lifted the frame into the air. Reggie stumbled backwards, eyes wide in fear for the first time in many years.

                “Monster? What are you? Why are you-”

                I cannot stop once started. I’m sorry. This is what I am. What I’ve always been.

                Reggie stared in awe at the creature of terrible, powerful light as it grew even larger. Staring slack-jawed as it crushed his small frame against the wall, before splintering it—and the house containing it—to pieces. Within minutes, the monster loomed over the late-Reggie’s neighborhood. The screams of his neighbors quickly obliterated by the spreading form that consumed them and everything else. A tower of light reached into the sky, and beneath it crumbled the entire world. Nations fell into the seas, which then boiled and evaporated as the light touched it.

I remember. The universe... It explained to the long dead boy, who was now beyond and a part of it. Your bed, your fear, was a prison built to protect me from the universe.

                Earth burned as the light stretched across it, melting land into plasma, converting the core into light brighter than the sun. With the light within it, it reached across the solar system, consuming the planets, the satellites and even the void in its wake. Soon, not even the sun was a match for its brilliance. And soon after that, the sun’s brilliance was merely a part of its own, augmenting it even as it spread past what was once our solar system, greedily feeding on the rest of the galaxy.

                Soon, the whole of our realm of being became one creature. The nameless monster, once friend to Reggie, once fearful of the world beyond. Now it knew, it was not that the creature had to fear the world, it had to fear what it would do to the world if unleashed. It expanded into darkness, wondering how far it could grow, until off in the distance it saw a light. In the light, two scrawny legs dangled, not yet long enough to reach the velvet carpet beneath. It reached for the dangling legs, but was rebuffed by a barrier it could not see, by an incipient fear of the unknown. And it understood where it was. The prison still. It smiled, a smile of hunger and terrible purpose, and spoke into the mind of a boy readying for bed.

                Reggie…