There’s a monster living under my bed. It has sharp teeth and claws that scrabble on the floor and it’s made of… all sorts of things. It’s made of scraps of my homework flushed down the loo; it’s made of my hair cut off in science class when the teacher wasn’t looking. It’s made of the squirming ache I get in my gut every morning and it’s made of my dad.
Mum’s switched the light off on the landing and it’s too dark. If I hold my breath I can hear its breath, harsh and rattly. I can hear the tap of its claws and I freeze under the covers, tummy turned to ice, heart pounding so hard it hurts my chest, waiting for it to sneak out, waiting for it to –
“Nina, honey – are you okay? I thought I heard a noise.”
Mum’s in the doorway, looking tired. I can’t tell her about the monster – she’ll just say there’s no such thing. She’ll say I’m too big now to be scared of imaginary monsters. But then she’d bend down and look and it would burst out, all teeth and claws.
“It was just a bad dream. That’s all.” I turn over so she can’t see the lie in my eyes and I hear the monster shift under the bed. Settling down. Getting comfy.
Mum bends over to give me a kiss and she smells of the shepherd’s pie we had for tea.
“It’s all going to be okay,” she whispers.
“Mum,” I call before she leaves the room. “Can monsters be real?”
She lifts her hand and holds it over her mouth and she makes a noise I’d think was crying if she wasn’t a grown-up.
The next day at school someone whispers it as I walk past and I go and hide in the toilets. But the monster’s in there too. It’s followed me.
“We’re going to move.” Mum says it as soon as I get home. “We’re going to live with your aunty Kay for a while.”
“Will it stop?”
Mum looks down. Her hands are still stained red from where she spent the afternoon scrubbing the paint off the wall outside. It’s still there though. I could see it – pale pink now and very faint but still there.
She nods. “Yes. We’re going where no one knows us. A fresh start – we’ll just leave all this behind.”
When Mum goes I count to ten and look under my bed. It’s empty except for dust and a newspaper shoved right under, the one that girl threw at me in school. I shouldn’t have put it under my bed to grow fangs and claws like that. I look at it now, blowing the dust off. This used to be my favourite photo of my dad, before he did what he did to all those people… Now it’s blown up, grainy black and white, smaller photos of the victims underneath, the headline screaming above it –
FlashFlood is brought to you by National Flash-Fiction Day UK, happening this year on 27th June 2015.
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