by Gemma Alderman © 2002

I woke suddenly. For a moment I laid with my eyes shut, listening for something that could have woken me.

There was nothing. I shifted position.

What was that?

I had heard something. Not the slight squeak of bed springs, or the soft rustle of bedclothes. Something I couldn't identify, something that had waited until I had moved, to mask its own noise.

The room was too dark. I flicked on the nightlight by my bed, stealing myself. Now I was enclosed in a pool of yellow light and the rest of my room was hidden in shadows.

There were too many shadows.

I wanted, I needed, to turn on my bedroom light. My legs wouldn't move. I could only stare at the switch as if it was a hundred miles away.

I couldn't bring myself to place my foot on the carpet. All those childish fears about things under the bed now seemed very real. I knew that if I got out of bed a clawed hand would snake out from underneath the dust ruffle and wind itself around my ankle. I knew

There was another slight noise. Oh, I needed that light. Before I could stop to think too long about it, I leapt from my bed and ran to the switch, knocking my hip heavily against the dresser, stumbling about in the dark, and feeling my heart race in my chest. I couldn't find the switch. I couldn't even find the walls.

My searching hand slammed on the switch. Blinding light flooded the room. I looked around wildly, expecting a scaly arm to be slithering back under the bed. There was nothing. Of course.

I tried to laugh at myself. What was wrong with me? An adult and still panicking over the fears of childhood. Monsters, for god's sake. Getting scared about monsters.

For all this, though, I left the light on.

I crept back into bed. The nightlight was still on, and as I reached out to turn it off, my hand knocked my glass of water off the little table. I cursed, leant out, and put my hand on the carpet...

Mistake. Every child knows the bed is safe. You never leave it at night, not even a single toe.

Something like a rough, clawed hand clamped down on my wrist.

x x x

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