by Saniya Doshi
Art by Alice Cai
Issue: Metanoia (Winter 2017)

When I was little, I could have sworn that there was a monster living under my bed.

This notion, of course, is not at all uncommon amongst young children. After asking a few friends, it seems nearly everyone I’ve talked to had some sort of imaginary creature they were afraid of. I’ve heard of everything from a demon in a closet to ghosts lurking outside the window. In the end, though, these monsters were just fake. An irrational figment of the imagination, abandoned with age. That’s what I thought my monster was, too. I know now that my monster is as real as I am.

What I remember the most about the beast is its breath. It smelled heavily of rotting garbage, and it was hot like fire on the back of my neck. Like a heartbeat, it was steady throughout the night.

And its eyes. Those ghastly, beady, swiveling yellow eyes with the pitch-black irises that still haunt me to this day.

I remember begging Mamma to get rid of that monster. She’d let out this big sigh of frustration, get down on her hands and knees, peer underneath the bed, and snap that there was no monster there, that it was “only my imagination.” How was I to prove to her that the creature only thrived in the dark?

I’d cry and plead with her to let me sleep in her bed with her for just one night so I could be safe, so I could sleep in peace if only for a few hours. Mamma always said no, that I was too old to sleep with her and that I should be more independent and all that other nonsense, except for that one night she’d been to tired to argue with me and had reluctantly agreed.

That night was no better than the ones spent alone. The monster crept down the hallway, on its long, wiry legsall four of themslowly, slowly, its long claws clicking against the wooden floors, its yellow teeth stretched out in a ghoulish grin, and settled down cozily underneath Mamma’s bed. I was too terrified to even move a muscle, to yell to Mamma that the damned creature had followed me there.

And, believe it or not, that wasn’t even the worst part. The worst would be when the beast whispered in my ears as I was on the edge of sleep, telling me how terrible I was, how Mamma didn’t love me and neither did Daddy and that was why he left us. It would tell me that I would never be happy and I didn’t really deserve to be anyway, since I was such a bad little boy. I want to say that I didn’t let this get to me. But if I did, I would be lying. It scared me so much that I’d tremble at the mere thought of falling asleep, of having to face my monster again.

I’ve tried finding other people with monsters like mine. I’ve never found anyone.

Eventually, with time, the monster faded away. Although sometimes I’d think I caught a whiff of that foul breath or a glimpse of those bright yellow eyes, it always disappeared. Slowly but surely, my monster withered away, and I was convinced it was all my imagination. I’d believed this wholeheartedly…until tonight.

Tonight, on the eve on my thirtieth birthday, nearly twenty years since I’ve last been haunted, the monster has returned. My heart is pounding with panic, but I am otherwise petrified as I feel long, familiar fingers brush my limbs. The putrid stink fills my nose. I want to close my eyes; I know what’s coming. But I can’t get my eyelids to move.

Unwillingly, I look up and am once again engulfed by those piercing yellow eyes.