Tuesday, November 20, 2018

“After the Lights Go Out” by Tanya de Lima

Mummy turned off the lights. She closed the door. They were practicing sleeping with the lights off and the door closed, because Emily was a big girl now.
Emily fussed with her blankets until they were just right. Cuddling Mr. Fluffers and Mistress Moo in her arms, she sighed and snuggled further into the pillows.
That’s when she made her fatal mistake.
Before her heavy eyelids closed, she allowed her gaze to fall on a dark shadow just inside the closet.
Her eyelids almost made it shut, but were rudely interrupted by a voice.
Wait, whispered Mistress Moo. What was that?
Her eyes snapped open. It was difficult to see, even with the moonlight peeking hazily through the window. In fact, the moonlight made it worse, because it made things appear uncertain. It would have been better to be surrounded by complete darkness.
She squinted at the dark shadow.
It’s moving, hissed Mistress Moo.
That was ridiculous. Shadows don’t just move by them Oh wait. She looked more closely. It was sort of moving.
Well, so what. Maybe it was a draft from the window, making the dangling sleeve of a blouse drift back and forth ever so slightly.
You're probably right, reassured Mr. Fluffers.
Her eyelids began their descent once more.
Well, okay, conceded Mistress Moo. But look again. Doesn’t the shadow sort of look like it has a gaping jaw full of razor sharp teeth?
Oh, stop overreacting, chided Mr. Fluffers. It’s time to go to back to sleep!
But Emily couldn’t resist one more glance towards the shadow. Yes, technically it looked like a pee-in-your-pants kind of monstrous creature, the kind that would devour her, horribly and painfully, bite by bite. But Mummy and Daddy already sprayed the closet with Monster Spray, so it really couldn’t be a monster.
Unless, said Mistress Moo. Unless the Monster Spray has EXPIRED and is no longer working properly.
Geez. She hadn’t considered that. There hadn’t been any discussion with her parents about whether the Monster Spray had an expiration date.
Maybe it's organic? Offered Mr. Fluffers, trying to be optimistic.
Ha, organic, scoffed Mistress Moo. Those things never work.
Oh, would you stop.
Sorry. I just had another thought. What if the monster is immune to the Monster Spray?
Immune? What’s immune?
You know, like remember when we went to the doctor’s office and he had this big, pointy needle that he poked into your arm, and you wouldn’t stop crying? And he said you needed to get it so you would be immune to those diseases with the funny names?
Uh huh. And then I got a lollipop. A red one!
Right, right. Okay, hear me out. What if a monster doctor gave the closet monster, the one that is probably sharpening its teeth right at this very second, a shot that made him immune to Monster Spray? Mummy and Daddy could be spraying that closet all day and it wouldn’t make a difference! It wouldn’t keep him away!
Well that was a terrifying thought. She would have to bring it up with her parents in the morning. If she lived through the night, of course.
Mr. Fluffers piped up. So… what’s the plan then? For staying alive.
She supposed crossing her fingers and hoping the monster would just decide to stay put inside the closet was too much to ask. So when it came down to it, she basically only had two options.
Option A: bury her entire body underneath the pillows and blankets, being careful to leave a tiny air hole for breathing, and being very careful not to leave any body parts exposed to any razor sharp teeth that happened to be nearby.
Option B: run to her parents’ room and climb into their bed.
Option A appeared safer, but, without a breathing straw or a snorkel, it was difficult to breathe. Plus, it was agony to just lie there, waiting and hoping that the blankets would provide enough protection against the monster.
There were also several issues with the Option B. The first problem, in order of most concerning to least, was the issue of there being monsters potentially hiding under the bed who would grab for her feet the second they touched the floor, drag her under and finish her off. This horrifying end might be avoided, of course, if she jumped out of the bed as close as possible to the bedroom door. This led to the second problem, however, which was that the thud of her landing might alert the closet monster of her plan to escape, and cause him to leap after her, snarling and snapping.
Use Mr. Fluffers as bait, urged Mistress Moo. If you throw him to the ground first, the monster under the bed will grab him. That's when you can make your escape. With me, obviously.
No way, protested Mr. Fluffers. Are you kidding? You've had me since you were three years old! Mistress Moo has only been around since last Christmas!
But there was a third problem. If she made it to her parents’ room, they would probably get mad at her for not staying in her bed and for waking them up. But, to be fair, they were the ones using expired Monster Spray, so how was that her fault? And really, lying in bed with one parent on each side was the only guaranteed protection against monsters.
Option B it was, then.
She positioned herself at the edge of the bed carefully.
3... 2.... 1... Go!
She kissed Mr. Fluffers on the top of his head. Then she flung him in the opposite direction of the door, to distract the monster(s) under the bed. At the same time, she slid out of the bed with Mistress Moo under her arm, then ran lightly on her tip-toes to the door. Throwing the door open, she sprinted full-tilt to her parents’ bedroom, entering as quietly as she could. She lifted the blankets at the foot of their bed and tunneled her way between her parents’ sleeping bodies until she emerged from the covers at the top of the bed.
She nestled her head on the corner of her mother’s pillow. Safe at last.
Nice work, whispered Mistress Moo. I’ve never seen you run that fast before.
Emily sighed tiredly and rolled closer to her mother’s warm body. Wait, what was that? Something slimy… were those tentacles?!
She sat up suddenly, throwing back the covers. Her mother’s eyes sprang open, only that wasn’t her mother at all! A hideous, scaly beast with red-rimmed eyes and a horrible snout filled with razor-sharp teeth roared to life instead, towering over her with its grotesque tentacles reaching for her!
Shrieking, she reached for her father, only to discover a snarling wolf-monster with twisted horns on its head, hot smoke billowing from its nostrils. She closed her eyes at the terrifying sight and screamed, throwing her hands up in front of her face –
– only to land with a thud on the floor. Her eyes popped open in shock. Sunlight streamed in through the windows, licking playfully at the foot of her bed, where she lay tangled in her blankets on the floor. Had it all been a horrible dream?
The door opened suddenly.
“Are you alright, my darling?”
Her mother rushed in, followed by her father.
“We heard you screaming!”
Her heart calmed and she lifted her arms so that her mother could help her up. Safe in a warm embrace, she peered into the closet.  That polka-dotted skirt with the beaded fringe at the bottom could have been making a scary shadow the night before.
She slid down from her mother’s arms, marched over to the closet, and closed the door firmly. There. Everyone knew that monsters couldn’t open doors – either their tentacles were too slimy or their sharp claws couldn’t grip the doorknob properly.
Problem solved.
But what is that on the carpet, next to the closet door, hissed Mistress Moo.
Oh, quiet down, you.
But Emily slowly looked down, dread filling up her tummy.
“What happened to Mr. Fluffers?” demanded Mummy.
He lay in a pool of his own stuffing, which looked like it had been ripped from a gaping hole in his stomach. One eye was missing, the other dangled by a thread, staring at her accusingly.  You did this to me.
Mr. Fluffers?! Mistress Moo was horrified.
Emily looked away from the carnage. “Mummy?”
“Yes, sweetheart?”
“We need to buy some new, extra-strength Monster Spray.”

Tanya de Lima loves books and has been writing her whole life, in the form of essays, comic strips, short stories, diaries, and shared Writers' Notebooks with friends. She has edited Masters' level theses and Doctoral dissertations. Most recently, she has written a middle-grade novel titled Bottled Up. Tanya is a teacher and teaches children to love books, too.

See Brian Henry’s schedule hereincluding writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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