In the marzipan castle situated on the hill, next to the treasure stump and just a rock's toss from the stone bridge which crossed the swift brook, Princess lived with Mr. Whiffle, who was still just a teddy bear.
Their adventures took them far and wide across the rolling hills; through the dense forest where the Black Duke's forces had retreated to reassemble their stuffing; across the swift waters where Greenbeard the Pirate still hid in his shell after his defeat at the spongy paws of the soggy Mr. Whiffle and his gallant captain, The Captain Princess.
No more presents appeared on her doorstep after Emmy the Kitten had been left to keep her company, causing Princess to wonder if eating the kitten had been such a good idea after all.
For you see, Princess, even though she had Mr. Whiffle, was still lonesome. The Thing Under The Bed hadn't been much sport and his bones still held her fort together for her's and Mr. Whiffle's afternoon tea time.
After all, it's hard to be an adventurer if you can't confront scary things. It gets lonely.
The night always had scary things. When the shadows grew long and every sound amplified to sound like a creak-creak-creak of someone walking around outside your door…
…or inside your closet.
Every night before bed, Princess checked her room from top to bottom. The Thing Under The Bed was no longer The Thing, nor was it Under Her Bed. She and Mr. Whiffle had eaten well that day. There was still the lingering dread of eyes, slanted and slitted and glowing in the dark that caused the hair on her arms to stand on end with the sounds of his lips smacking or his hands clapping.
It was hard to tell through the closed closet door.
She gathered Mr. Whiffle, now fresh from the dryer after their daring rescue (who says heroes can't be princesses? Or Princesses?) of Prince Hedge of the Hog from the mudpits and almost certain death -- still smelling like fabric softener -- and crawled beneath the covers, her wide gaze fixed, lingering on the closet door. Not since the Thing Under The Bed, had Princess been scared of the candle snuffing out, only to be followed by the creak-creak-creak of The Thing In The Closet walking around and the rustle-rustle-rustle and the clap-clap-clap.
Who knew why it lingered there? Perhaps it liked to try on her shoes, stuffing itself down into the toes to wait for her to slip them on and devour her feet.
So she sunk into her bed, pulling the pillows around her like a wall; covers tucked around her ears as she stared at the closet door. The creaking clapping smacking grew louder, then faded as her candle guttered in the drafts through her room that sometimes cast her into darkness when the wind picked up a gust that whipped through.
Tossed into the dark, the acrid smell of the now extinguished candle drifting in the air, the closet door creaked open. The sliver of darkness widened and Princess burrowed further into her blankets, dragging Mr. Whiffle with her.
Something slithered out and she heard it when it shimmied up the wooden foot of her bed, slitted eyes of orange peering at her from over the edge.
Her heart pounded.
Its claws scritched and tapped on the wood.
She pulled the blankets to her nose.
It snuffled and huffled.
In an explosion of motion it leapt up and on to the mattress, giggling gleefully as it took a high bounce to almost touch the ceiling! Mr. Whiffle joined in the jumping, although probably not because he wanted to. It was hard not to bounce with the Thing In The Closet leaping higher and higher until It could touch the ceiling.
Ending... the First