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