The scratch at the door was soft. It continued every two seconds in a macabre metronome of insistence. Ben sat in his bed with the covers gathered under his chin, grasped tightly in his fists. His comfort blankie was stuffed into his mouth and he sucked on it as he stared at the door.
He had a horrible nightmare, which woke him up screaming and he called for his mommy, but she never came. The only answer to his desperate calls for help came just a few minutes after his first cry. That scratching at the door.
His breath caught in his throat and he reached out for the light next to the bed. His Mickey Mouse lamp. His safety lamp. It had two settings. You could press the button on the stand once and the light bulb would illuminate the room. If you pressed the button a second time, the light bulb would turn off and light inside of Mikey would turn on. A Mickey Mouse night light.
He turned on the main light. The room burst into being. His Peppa Pig on the nightstand looked at him with a soothing grin. The closet door was shut, nice and tight. The window was shut and latched. His poster of Dora the Explorer affixed to the back of the door to the hallway was in place. Both Dora and her monkey pal Boots were smiling and waving at him. He wanted to wave back. He wanted to ignore the scary noise coming from behind them, but he needed the comfort of sucking on his blankie.
Where was mom? Why didn’t she come? She always came when he screamed like that. Even when she knew he was faking it and was lonely and wanted to sleep in her bed. What could possibly keep her from coming to help him out? She always said that there was no such thing as monsters in the closet. She had proven that time and again when she opened the door and showed him that nothing was in the closet. He still thought something could be there. Monsters were tricky. They knew how to hide.
He was glad his bed rested on the ground. There wasn’t room for monsters there. The closet though. Mom had always said that nothing was there. Nothing could be hiding behind the door. Mom always said that there was no point to hide in the closet. Monsters were mean, they wouldn’t try to scare you, they would just come right out and eat you. They were scared of the light though. That’s what she said. If you could cover the room with light, it would destroy monsters.
He was going to have to turn on as many lights as he could. If there were monsters here, they would be destroyed. He threw the covers off in defiance, but he kept sucking on his blankie for comfort. He approached the door, never taking his eyes off Dora and Boots. They were smiling, nothing could be that bad. He flipped on the main light switch and even the shadows were destroyed.
He jumped away from the door. Those scratches sounded so close! He ran back to bed and wrapped himself back up in the covers. The metronome stopped. Maybe the light worked! It destroyed the shadows, it must have destroyed the monster too! Ben sat there, swaddled, for at least five minutes, but no more scratches came. When he was satisfied that the monster was destroyed he yelled for his mom again. As loud as he could. He was sure that she would be able to hear him, no matter how tired she was.
It sounded like the scratches, but it was a voice. Thin and whispery and somehow aggressive. Ben looked back over at the door. A corner of the Dora the Explorer poster suddenly came loose and it peeled down, covering Dora’s and Boot’s smiling faces. Then what looked like red goo seeped under the door onto the carpet.
Ben looked around for any other source of light. He needed more light. That was a monster. He was sure of it. It had to be a monster. Only monsters knew your name.
“MOOOOOOMMMM!” He yelled again, attempting to swaddle himself tighter.
The door opened with a click. It was so dark on the other side of the door that he couldn’t see anything. The door slowly opened.