There are monsters under the bed, under the bed and in the drawers and hanging off the side of the window sill outside. Simon had said so, he’d even shown Martin pictures from a book and made scary biting noises and said how they would wait until the right time to get him, just before you’ve gone to sleep they’ll pounce and get you and eat you horribly with lots of blood and insides everywhere.
Martin hadn’t been so sure at the time but dad had been watching the telly and had told him to go to bed, just shut up Martin I’ve had a long day and I’m trying to watch this, so please just go away Martin. He wouldn’t say anything about monsters, in the drawers or not, and Martin didn’t want him to get angry. Mum hadn’t been at home, she was out with the girls, whatever that meant, and Caitlin had been in her and Simon’s room and she didn’t like him going in there at all, not for anything: you have your own room Martin, get lost.
Martin hadn’t been so sure then when it had been still bright outside an the shadows hadn’t been so big, but Simon had insisted and made more scary noises while Martin was dutifully brushing his teeth, standing on tip-toe in front of the bathroom sink, wearing one of Simon’s baggy old t-shirts as pyjamas. But there wasn’t such a thing as monsters, just like there wasn’t such a thing as Santa or the Tooth Fairy, and Simon always lied anyway. Like he’d said there was always cake at birthdays and how reception at school was fun. Martin had ignored him (mostly anyway), scrubbed his face half-heartedly with the flannel and went to his room.
Now Martin was in bed and it was dark with the curtains closed, shadows cast from the car headlights outside and the light shining in from the cracks around his bedroom door. It was dark and there was something making scary noises just like Simon had said and maybe there were monsters in his room, sitting there and waiting to eat him horribly. Martin pulled the covers up over his head and curled cold knees up to his stomach, which was feeling queasy and shaky and that was worse than its previous hungry feeling, worse by far. He didn’t want to be eaten. The pictures Simon had shown him were scary, all red eyes and teeth and long black legs. But he couldn’t get up to turn the light on because then the monsters under the bed could get him, or even the monsters in the drawers or the ones hanging off the window sill outside, peering in between the curtains.
His palms were sticky with sweat where he was gripping the duvet. He was too hot, he couldn’t breath under the covers very well but if he peeked out of the hole he’d made over his head to let air in, he could see something on the wall opposite him. It didn’t look familiar and it was moving, he was sure of it, but he couldn’t tell if it was coming closer and he really didn’t want to be eaten. He really really didn’t want to be eaten but dad was still watching telly and if he shouted dad wouldn’t come upstairs before the monsters got him for sure. Mum was still out. Simon and Caitlin would only laugh.
His eyes were prickling and he shut them tight. Simon had said the monsters would wait until he was almost asleep so he only needed to stay wide awake and that way they wouldn’t get him. He could stay awake all night and then maybe he could get mum to look for the monsters in the morning and chase them away if she found them. But he was so tired and the air under the cover was only getting hotter and more stuffy and he really was tired, he didn’t want to stay awake all night. He wanted to go to sleep. He wanted his mum. It was too hot and he couldn’t move or make a sound because then the monsters would get him and eat him horribly and he was so, so frightened.
There was something hot and itchy on his face and Martin realised he was crying. Boys didn’t cry, that was for little girls and he wasn’t pathetic, he really wasn’t. He wasn’t pathetic but the tears weren’t stopping and it was too hot and close under the duvet but he couldn’t come up from under it, and he couldn’t make a sound but his breathing had turned all jumpy and wet.
Martin bit down on his lip but that hurt. He curled into a tighter ball because maybe if he was small enough the monsters wouldn’t see him, but that was too uncomfortable to stay like that all night.
“Mum!” Martin said, a strained whisper, because he didn’t want to be eaten but he was so so scared and tired and he didn’t want to have to lie in bed like this ‘til morning. But mum was still out, she must be, because she wasn’t coming. “Dad!” The silence stretched out after the word. The monsters didn’t come but neither did dad. “Dad!” Nothing, again. Dad was still watching the telly, he couldn’t hear him, and maybe the monsters really would wait until Martin was just about to fall asleep before they got him.
Mum and dad weren’t coming and Simon and Caitlin would laugh if they saw him but he didn’t care, he just wanted the monsters to go away. He just wanted them to go away and never come back.
His pillow was getting damp and hot under his face but he couldn’t stop crying, even if crying was a pathetic thing to do. Don’t go to sleep or the monsters will get you. Martin told himself to stop crying, under his breath and between hitching sobs, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t stop himself from falling asleep either, in the end.