“Good night honey. Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Walter Rand said kissing his daughter gently on her forehead.
She giggled, “Don’t be silly Daddy. Love you.” She grabbed her doll, (a ragged Teddy bear that she dragged everywhere with her,) trapping it between her small body and the mattress and then pulled the blankets up over the lower half of her face so that only her eyes and the top of her head remained visible.
Walter stepped back from the bed, tripping over one of the many toys that always seemed to litter the floor. He waited a few seconds, to make sure that she was comfortable and then tiptoed out, pulling the door shut behind him.
Chelsea lay there, warm in the blankets, pulling them closer to her. She didn’t move, her eyes were clamped shut and were beginning to hurt. Her heart was beginning to pound in her temples, the steady beats drumming against the pillow like footsteps; the lumbering footsteps of the beasts that were coming to take her away.
Her legs began to tingle, she had her back to the wall, everything felt heavy, leaden, she had to move, turn onto her back. She didn’t want to. She knew if she moved they would see her. If she rolled over she would see them.
She had just turned six the week before, and since then her fear seemed to be growing. Every night she would lay awake for hours before sleep would finally win, or so it felt to her.
There was a nightlight in the far corner of the room, plugged into a socket that was just above the floor, however it had stopped working just before her birthday and was now covered over by the new toys she had received.
She breathed slowly, trying to make as little noise as possible. Sometimes they left her alone.
Last night they had missed her. Tonight they would come, she was sure of it.
“Chelsea.” She heard the faint call cutting through the darkness. Her eyes clamped shut even tighter, tears leaking through a gap that she could never quite fully seal.
She held her breath. “One, Two, Three…..” She stuttered quietly under her breath. In her mind a field full of sheep was queuing up to jump over a fancy looking hedge into the next field over. One filled with dandelions and thick green grass.
The first few sheep made the jump no problem, easily floating over the hedge with a cloudlike grace. The third seemed to have a slight problem, only just making it, the fourth one began to jump but as it was over the hedge, a thick black hand shot out from with middle, grabbing the sheep with long, strong fingers the seemed to wrap all the way around. Once its grip was firm it squeezed until the sheep expanded at either end the same way a deflating balloon does when held in a similar fashion.
The remaining sheep in the field began to panic, running blindly around, some of the smaller ones were trampled, and even in her mind she was unable to stop it. There was a wolf running loose amongst them, only it was wearing a sheepskin over its back, its large grey body, angular and large was hardly hidden by the pelt. The white wool was stained red with the animal’s blood, the head balance on the beasts head rolling from side to side with each heavy pace the wolf took. Its shadow loomed large, covering half of the flock with its menacing figure.
Chelsea’s eyes sprang open. She gasped sharply. Her bedding was already feeling damp with sweat. In on quick movement she rolled, throwing her arm out taking a swipe at anything that was nearby.
She was alone. The room was dark but she could make out familiar shapes. The kitchen she had received for Christmas the previous year, with its utensils and pans hanging from various hooks, the food neatly laid out on the counter top for preparation in the morning. Next to that Chelsea could see the shadow of the large stuffed bear that had been a present when she was born from her Uncle. At the foot of the bed was a toy chest filled with smaller toys and dolls. She thought that maybe there was a monster that lived in there too, but she hadn’t heard him yet.
“Chelsea. Are you awake?” The voice called from the wardrobe. It was deep and gravelly, it sounded as though the creature it belonged to was drowning, calling out from beneath the water.
The cupboard in question was the other side of the room, the same end as her bed. She looked carefully to one side. She could make out the black frame of the cupboard and was sure she could see the gleaming yellow eyes of the monster the dwelled there. She held in the moan that was trying to escape. She closed her eyes and saw the wolf.
She opened them again and stared back up at the ceiling. The last remaining shards of daylight cast long shadows from the world outside. That world didn’t scare her. Not yet at least. She knew they were just shadows the way she knew that during the day her room was safe. Monsters were like Owls, she had decided. They slept during the day and could never be found.
“I think she is ready to play.” A voice, a hissing snakelike whisper floated up through the mattress from under the bed.
The bed shook on the floor. The legs scraped gently against the plush pink carpeted floor.
This time she couldn’t hold it in, a squeak as mighty as that of a timid mouse came out. The monsters laughed.
“I think she’s scared of us. What do you say Chelsea, are you going to join us tonight for some tea?” The voice of the dark boomed in the room, the darkness had just arrived, enveloping the lifeline of the outside world. She was cut off, adrift and floating into the frightening nightmare world.
She heard the small cups and plastic teapot rattle on the Princess table against the far wall. It was beneath the window.
She moved in her bed, the rustling covers seemed amplified like a bag of sweets in a silent movie theatre.
A waft of air blew over her, the goodnight kiss from the Sandman, in her mind he was a horrid troll like figure that carried a bucket of sand and he scooped it not into the eyes of children as they slept but into their mouths, suffocating them, while his eyes filled with a lusting power watched joyfully. She closed her mouth, trapping her tongue between her teeth. She tasted blood in her mouth. It was warm and tasted like an old penny.
“Goodnight Princess.” She heard the voice carried on the wind.
‘You’re not real.’ She whispered through her clenched teeth. Her hands were clamped on the bedcovers, her knuckles almost white enough to light up the darkness.
“Shhhhhhh. Quiet,” The wind carried the voice again. This one louder, it was a new voice. The monster from the toy chest maybe,
A cool gust of night air rolled over her. She heard the window slide up even further. The house they lived in was old and still had windows the were opened vertically. Her mother always locked it when she put her to bed. But tonight her mother was out. Her friends from school were having a party. Her Daddy had put her to bed, and he didn’t now about the window lock.
The curtains rustled, whipping gently, the way the wind rustles the sails of a pirate ship sailing one of the seven seas.
The cups jingled in their saucers and the teapot fell to the floor.
They were coming for her.
“Chelsea. Come here.” The snake under the bed hissed at her. She felt its hot breath heading up the mattress as though it were a dragon snake.
“Come to me Chelsea.” The wardrobe monster seemed to be. The door to the cupboard was ajar, she could see the eyes glowing, and brighter than she thought was possible. It was smiling; she could make out gleaming razor sharp teeth. Her hair was sticking to her scalp and plastered against her forehead.
Boots, heavy sounding boots stood on the table, it snapped under the weight with a brittle definitive crack. Chelsea flinched. She heard rapid breathing and felt something touching the bed. The creatures running their monstrous hands over the fabric of her duvet, fingers scaling the purple walls of her princess castle.
She began to shake, the hands felt real, the pressure hard. Something else rushed past her, the door opened and she saw something run into the hallway. Later she heard muffled sounds coming from somewhere else in the house.
“Daddy, Daddy… Heeeeelp.” She screamed. A hand clamped over her mouth cutting the words short. It was clammy and large, engulfing most of her face. She felt another hand pull back the bedcovers. The night air against the damp fabric brought her out in Goosebumps.
“Shhhh, Good girl” A nervous voice sounded. It was breathing hard as if out of breath. “I won’t hurt you.” It spoke lies. She knew it. Another hand was resting on her leg, crawling slowly up her thigh like a spider on a drainpipe. She kicked out but the hand held her thin legs easily. It hurt, the fingers pinching her flesh like the hand in the dream bursting the sheep like a balloon.
She began to sob.
“Chelsea” The mixture of the monsters voices called out to her. The door slammed shut,, while the door to the cupboard flew open. She saw, before the darkness deepened even further the crazy look in the eyes of the man that held her.
She saw it was just a man, she recognized him. He worked at her school. He was always standing in the playground. He had asked to take photos of some of the girls once, they wanted to, he had given them some sweets, but he ran away.
He said he was late for work.
He man turned around, the grip over Chelsea’s mouth lessened. She could breathe again, taking a deep gulp of air that hurt her throat.
At the same time the bed began to shake, rattling violently on the floor, rising up and then falling down still. The grip on Chelsea’s throat disappeared. She grabbed the bedcovers and pulled them up over her head. She could hear the sounds of struggling in her room. The wardrobe was crashing and banging. She heard shouts of pain and a scream of terror that was cut short and replaced by a choking sound.
She lifted the blanked, peering from darkness into darkness, which somehow enabled her to see what was happening.
The man who had come through the window was struggling, his hands up clawing at his throat as a thick snake like creature wrapped its body around the man’s neck. The tail disappeared into the screaming mouth, inching further and further down his throat. The man began to gag and vomit trickled out of his mouth and down the body of the snake.
The room smelled of vinegar.
The head of the snake creature looked unlike any snake Chelsea had ever seen. It looked like a dragon, as she looked at it she saw small flames snort from its nostrils which opened and closed with each chocking thrust of its body. She looked around and saw a large black, scaly creature wrestling with the man, large bulky arms. Its body was wet, and made a squelching slapping sound every time it moved. It had two legs which rooted it firmly to the ground, an don its back was a series of raised spikes like a dinosaur, and its head was enormous, the size of a deep sea diving suit mask, and had small ears that hung down like the fins of the goldfish Chelsea had won at the carnival that summer.
Its chest had a series of slits in it, gills she guessed that opened and closed like the snakes nostrils, only they made a hissing sound as air was sucked in and forced back out.
The two were grunting and pushing, and with every second the man struggled less. The door to the room opened, another figure came crashing in. It was another man, younger with long thin hair that now covered his face. His shirt was wet, gleaming black against the light from the hallway.
The new man screamed, his hands now she could see were covered with blood. He was holding a knife. Although to Chelsea it looked more like a sword.
“What. You,” He pointed at Chelsea. “I guess Ill go first.” He said, seeming not to notice the two monsters his friend was entertaining.
The man staggered towards the bed, Chelsea was now on her knees, trying to crawl as far towards the end as possible. The man clambered onto the bed and crawled after her. He was smiling now; even his teeth were covered with blood.
“You’re pretty.” He hissed, in a tone that made the dragon snake sound comical.
Suddenly, the toy chest burst open, Barbie dolls and some solid plastic ponies were sent flying into the air, before they rained down onto the bed. A short fat troll was suddenly standing between Chelsea and the man. He was wearing a brown cloth that looked like the sack that held the potatoes her mother always bought from the farmer down the road.
In his short arms he held a large hammer that was almost as tall as he was. The man stopped crawling and tried to back away as the troll swung with a powerful stroke and created a gust of wind stronger that that coming through the open window.
Chelsea heard a wet thud and saw a spray of blood fly across the room. When the troll brought the hammer back to rest over his shoulder she saw clumps of bloodied hair stuck to the face, and something else that looked like jelly.
She felt sick and her stomach retched.
The troll turned to face her. He had a long beard which hung down to his feet; his face was anything but the horrid dribbling image she had imagined, but instead seemed rather intelligent and kind. Behind him the man was kneeling on the bed again, half of his head broken in, his brains exposed, grey and wet. His left eye was hanging slightly out of its socks and his lips were a bloodied mess. He opened his mouth to speak and his teeth fell out of his mouth like a crunched mint. The troll turned, grabbed the man, throwing him over his shoulder and jumped back into the toy chest.
The lid slammed closed.
By the door, the man who had originally grabbed at her was in the process of being pulled in half. His skin was split and organs were dribbling from the split. With a slick ripping sound he came apart, one half falling to the floor, the lower half of the dragon snake falling free the from the throat which was now stretched wide enough for a melon to be swallowed whole. The dragon snake slithered under the bed, dragging the body with it, while the half held by the fish monster continued to flop about, before being dragged into the cupboard.
The door closed behind it. Darkness filled the room again, the light in the hallway was extinguished, a floating shadow moved over the ceiling, a flat face on it made her think of the stingray she had seen that morning in the Fish centre they had all visited.
“Don’t be scared Chelsea. We are here, all of us.” The Godly voice sounded, not coming from the small mouth of the cloud but somehow from the entire body. Like a music from a speaker.
Chelsea was frozen, she had wet herself and the smell of her excrement now also began to fill the air. Her trousers were damp and heavy. She kicked them off, repulsed by herself.
The cloud hovered, creating a darkness that no longer seemed to overpowering, but rather comforting.
She felt tired, the room smelt of sweat, and of a heavy musky aftershave. Blood covered the walls and floor of her room and by morning the sweet aroma of rotting flesh would be the main stench filling the house.
“Come Chelsea. Lie down, sleep. Nobody will hurt you now.” She felt herself lifted from the bed. The cloud shifted towards her, it was now a giant hand that scooped her easily into its palm, laying her nearly on her bed. She grabbed the covers and pulled them around her. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again she saw them all, The troll was standing on the toy chest, the hammer being used as a cane to lean on. His beard flowing covering his body. The Dragon Snake stood up like a hypnotized Indian cobra, his forked tongue hanging out of its mouth like a panting dog, the look on its face one of confusion rather than hatred. Beside the snake stood the Fish monster that ruled the wardrobe, he was smiling, and she noticed that it wasn’t scales that covered his body but rather a suit of armour. It shimmered in the dim light created by the hanging shadow of darkness which hovered above the bed.
She felt sleepy, her eyes grew heavy. That was when she saw him, the sandman. He walked down her nose, and slid from her chin as if it were a slide. He was tiny, no larger than a grasshopper, he did indeed hold a bucket, but it was too small for her to see what was in it. He turned to face her and blew a kiss. She fell asleep.
The body of her father was discovered when her mother returned from the high school reunion. Chelsea was scooped into her mothers arms, the bloodied bedroom left behind. She never woke. They moved into a hotel and soon a new house. The monsters never came with her, but most nights, before she fell asleep she thought she could still hear them, calling her name.
She never felt safer than she did at that point in the day, the moment just before sleep takes hold and anything can seem possible, from dreams to nightmares.