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At first glance, the strange shadow creature huddled under the bed looked similar to a fox, except that its ears were too big, its tail was too fluffy, its claws and teeth were way too long and sharp, and foxes don’t normally have neon blue eyes. Ezekiel tossed a stuffed animal at it and, after some sickening tearing sounds, watched the fluff spew out from under the bed along with the stuffed animal’s decapitated head. Ezekiel backed away just as a clawed hand swiped out where he was just standing. Myrtle and Ace, his two 8-year-old children, waited in the doorway, “I-told-you-so” smirks on their faces.

“Well,” Ezekiel said, coming to stand by them, “It’s, uhh, it’s a monster alright.”

“Can you get rid of it?” Ace asked hopefully.

Ezekiel watched the clawed hand snake out again and grab the stuffed animal’s head, dragging it back under the bed. More fluff erupted into the room. “How would you normally get rid of one?”

They shrugged. “That’s the parents’ job, dad.”

The monster snagged one of Myrtle’s shirts and stole it away. Further ripping noises ensued and scraps were tossed out. “Hey, Ace, go to the laundry room and bring me the bottle of bleach, will you?”

Ace hesitated, and then raced off to do as he was told. Myrtle looked to her father with wide, watery eyes, “You’re going to poison it?”

“I have to,” Ezekiel replied.

“Poor thing,” Myrtle said as Ace came back with the bleach.

Ezekiel took the bottle from his son’s hands and listened to the violent snarling and growling coming from the creature. “Yeah, poor thing,” He muttered sarcastically.

Ezekiel knelt down and rolled the bottle towards the monster’s outstretched hand. The creature immediately grabbed it and pulled it to the darkness, ripping its claws at the bottle's side. There was a strange gurgling noise and the sound of water being poured out of a jug. After a few moments, the monster sprang out, screeching and falling to the ground. It was drenched in bleach and it clawed at itself, trying to get the liquid off. The monster convulsed in the middle of the room, thrashing and screaming so high pitched that it made Ezekiel's ears hurt. Myrtle and Ace shrieked as the monster leapt at them, fell, and had a seizure at their feet. Soon, the thrashing stopped and the monster exploded in a cloud of thick smoke. The children opened the window, coughing, and waited a few minutes for the room to clear. Once the smoke was gone, there was no sign of the creature ever being there, save for the shredded items. After a few tense minutes, they relaxed.

"Alright," Ezekiel said as calmly as he could, "Back to bed. You have school tomorrow."

Last Wednesday, Billy Woods heard a monster moving underneath his bed for the first time in a long while.

Even though he was only seven, Billy had done his best to make the environment uncomfortable for any creatures that would slink out of the black pit of the basement to take up residence in his room. He carefully lined the spaces under his bed and dresser with Legos, his collection of metal bottle caps with the edges facing upward, and cat toys filled with noisy bells that he stole from Grandma’s house. Everything else he owned that was important was crammed into his small closet.

Mom peeked into Billy’s room. “Almost time for night-night. You want a glass of warm milk?”

“Nah,” he said, wrapping the thick Batman comforter around him like a burrito shield. “G’nite, Mom. Love you.”

“I love you too, sweetie.” Her arm appeared and flicked off the overhead light.

Billy waited until the hall light extinguished and he heard the slight click as his mother’s bedroom door latched. He unraveled himself and carefully retrieved an old wavy glass jar with a rusted lid from his nightstand. He heard the teaspoon of salt on the bottom swishing around as he unscrewed the top and set it aside.

He yawned loudly and, still hugging the jar, rolled over towards the edge of the bed. Even though his eyes were open he really couldn’t see anything. Remaining still, he counted down from a hundred.

When he ran out of numbers, he let his left arm slip over the edge of the mattress, fingers dangling into the abyss. The monster under the bed began to move around, whispering curses at all of the painful toys and freezing whenever it bumped a jangly cat toy.

Billy began to make slight snoring noises like his mom made when she fell asleep watching television surrounded by several empty beer bottles.

He heard a dragging noise as the monster under his bed began to unfold and creep towards the dangling limb, and the ends of Billy’s mouth curled upwards. It wasn’t a happy smile at all -- a cruel, crude approximation of one.

The monster below had taken the bait. When it brushed Billy’s fingertips, he lashed out and hooked the creature with a surprisingly strong grip. Within seconds Billy had yanked it upwards and pushed it into the open jar. The salt leached the power of the monster until it fell to the bottom, impotent and jabbering threats as Billy screwed on the lid.

First listening to verify the noise didn’t arouse anyone, he crept over to the closet door and opened it up. Three dozen similar jars were stacked on a shelf in the back, all of them whispering and croaking as the occupants sensed movement. Billy placed the new jar on the shelf, proud of his growing collection.

Sometimes the monster on top of the bed was far scarier.

Behold a Pale Horse: The 2021 Halloween Horrorquest

Originally published as a drabble on HorrorTree.com


They are in the car, on the way to CANADA.

What they mean is a lake in Ontario. In the family, the shacks on the lake are CANADA. Always. When Estie was little, they drove over a hill and could see Lake Cayuga. "Canada!" said Estie. She was two. She remembered already. A blue lake is home.

Years later: Estie, Sistie and Kuz. On their way, in Kuz's rather rattletrap car. But it goes.

Sistie is excited. They all are. "How will we divide costs?" says Sistie. "Shall I keep track and then we divide it? Or each pay some on the trip and keep track of that?"

Estie answers. "I have twenty dollars. That is all I have."

There is a long silence in the car. Twenty dollars will not cover Estie's part of the motel or food or gasoline.

"Well." says Kuz. "We will figure it out."

They keep driving.

It takes two days to get there from Washington DC. They could get there in one day if they drove all night. But no one wants to. Kuz and Sistie pay once Estie's twenty is gone. Sistie keeps track anyhow.

The lake is gorgeous as always.

On day two Estie is out, reading.

"Um," says Sistie. "Are we going to talk about money with Estie? I mean, I think she should pay us back."

Estie roars in from outside before Kuz even answers. "Are you talking behind my back?" She bursts into tears.

Sistie shuts down. Kuz hugs Estie. "It's ok, don't worry about it." Kuz and Estie look at Sistie. Estie cries and cries. Sistie sullenly apologizes. Estie keeps crying and says how hurt she is and how mean Sistie is.

Eventually Sistie has had enough. She goes to her usual hiding place. They have never found her there and she thinks they never will.

Because they don't want to look under the bed.

Iron Noder#29

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