Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
Groggily, I check the clock beside my bed and grimace. It’s 00:21 already, which means only a maximum of six and a half hours sleep for me now. Great. I close my eyes tight and urge my mind to shut off, but it is as reluctant as always. My consciousness remains occupied with disconcerting thoughts.
To try and subside my paranoid deliberations, I drag my funfair trophy towards me in a tight embrace. The now somewhat-scraggy bear, easily the size of an older child, had been won at the towns’ annual fair for me by my father eight years ago. It had taken a tedious amount of whining and crocodile tears on my behalf for him to keep trying. After a total investment of £12, the bear was mine, and I had kept it in my bed ever since.
In troublesome nights, when I found myself consumed in nightmarish fantasies, the bear always brought some kind of a comfort. It was always cold, which was somehow pleasing within the warmth of the duvet, and, despite the fact that its fur was now matted and unkempt, it was always cosy to cuddle with. Even when I wasn’t hugging it, the bear would ‘sleep’ under the duvet beside me, and during the night I’d be able to feel its coldness beside me. I never felt alone in the bed.
And now, in the early hours of the morning, I cling to it like a child. The familiarity of the odd, fairly unpleasant smell it has acquired over the years calms my frantic mind, and I feel myself slipping into sleep within minutes.
Half asleep, half aware, I feel a movement beside me, a gentle tug of the duvet. It is enough to widen my eyes and quicken my heartbeat. I find my vision locked on the wall opposite me. Suddenly, my heartbeat slows to a near stop as fear soars through every inch of my body. Two words can be read, albeit distorted and indistinct, but visible all the same.
Beneath the writing was a downwards-pointing arrow, which indicated to only one logical location. The sight of the grotesque scrawling sends a sharp shiver along the length of my spine as my brain feverishly searches for a rational explanation for what I am seeing.
For many nights now it had happened, this exact situation. I would awake in the vacant darkness, and the only thing I would be able to see was the message. It would never be there when the sun surfaced from the horizon, but I’m confident to say that, on all of the occasions, I was not asleep. It has happened frequently over the past few years; a strange feeling of movement from within the bed would pull me from sleep, and then I’d see it.
Each time, a theoretical battle between curiosity and irrationality would transpire in my subconscious, and irrationality remained champion. Until tonight. Tonight I feel more compelled than ever to just look… to just valiantly climb out from the bed, fill the room with light, and put my mind at ease. The knowledge that there is nothing under there would surely resolve my spurt of insomnia.
And yet I am still reluctant.
A typical childhood is spent fearing the endless forms of monster that could be lying under your bed, concealed in the gloom, embracing the obscurity of the shadows. Such a fear becomes embedded in the darkest regions of the mind, and even now, I daren’t put my legs over the edge of the bed in case something wraps its cold, slender fingers around them. The distance from the bed to the light-switch isn’t long, but in the dark it would be an eternity.
I’m going for it. Oh god, I’m out of the bed, and my legs are monster-hand free. I pause to admire my fearlessness, before taking small, quiet steps towards the wall. I take about four before another sound rivals the creak off the floor: the bed.
The bed creaks. A subtle sound, but audible enough to freeze me completely. The bedframe has long outlived its prime time, and so the bars underneath are weak. So weak that even the slightest movement can be heard.
It creaks again, louder this time, as if weight were shifting from one position to another. Suddenly there is a scratching sound: pointed nails against metal. Slow. Loud. Terrifying.
I find a sudden energy within me to move my feet once more, big strides this time. The scratching sound does not subside; it is now accompanied by raspy, deep breaths. Each inhale sounds like a struggle for air. The exhale is silent.
As I near the wall, the volume increases, and it seems to get closer. What appeared to have emanated from the bed now shadows me as I fumble in the eerie black for the light-switch. Come on, come on, I urge, adamant that I do not stand alone in this room. The uncomfortable feeling of being watched strikes me from all directions, and I cannot escape it. Something vindictive lurks, and it is waiting.
My fingers finally locate the switch, and I press it without delay, spinning as I do to face the now-lit room. Empty.
The wall is barren, the bed unharmed. The outline of the bear beneath the duvet is apparent, but of no concern. I sigh, with both relief and frustration at my own imagination. Now I can settle this stupid situation and finally get some rest. The clock reads 02:49.
I move towards the bed with courage, now protected by light, and drop down to my knees so that I can see underneath it. And there, at the far side of the floor, alone and partially concealed by the dark, is my bear.
What a comforting sight! I quickly drop onto my belly, and drag myself underneath to grab the bear. I get about halfway under when realisation hits me like a tonne of bricks. If my bear is underneath the bed, then what is in it?
At this point, the creaking restarts. I can feel the weight above me on the bed. The horrifying sound moves from the right side of the bed to the left. Silence then falls upon the room. I can barely breathe.
I see a shadow be cast beside me. Round, like a head. It’s looking at me.
Biting my lip, I turn my head so that I can see what I have been sharing my bed with every night. I see the monstrosity that I have wrapped my arms around so tightly for comfort in times of fear. And it grins a satisfied grin with its grisly teeth. Hanging from the edge of the bed, with pure black eyes that lock with mine, it whispers to me, in an icy, malicious voice, four simple words:
“You shouldn’t have looked.”
And with that, it slithers from the bed and onto the ground, onto its hairy stomach. It crawls to join me under the bed, and I feel its familiar coldness press against my body once more. It wraps its foul arms around my torso, presses its grisly lips against my ear, and sneers:
“Oh, how the tables have turned.”
And with that, I drift into eternal sleep.
Credit To – Nightfall
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