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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