Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Bobby Drayton had disobeyed his mother’s wishes again, staying up fifteen minutes past his nine o’clock curfew. It took Marilyn Drayton ten minutes just to convince her son to change into his Superman pajamas. Christmas was right around the corner and the anticipation was making young Bobby restless. He couldn’t wait to see what Santa was going to leave under the tinsel-draped tree this year.
“Do you think Santa’s going to bring me that Nintendo 3DS this Christmas?” Bobby asked as Marilyn finally got him to settle down. His big brown eyes were wide as telescope lenses and gleaming with joy. It was the same look of joy he got whenever he saw the commercials for the Nintendo 3DS on TV.
“I’m not sure, sweetheart,” Marilyn grinned with that I know something you don’t know look on her face. “I do know that Santa doesn’t give in to naughty little boys and girls who refuse to listen to their parents. So when I say it’s time for bed, I mean it. Now scoot under the covers and I’ll turn your night light on.”
“But I don’t want to go to sleep. I’m… I’m scared, mommy.”
“Scared of what?”
“The Boogeyman,” he whispered harshly.
“Oh, Bobby,” his mother sighed. This is why you don’t let kids watch horror movies. They see a few late-night films on Halloween and next thing you know, they’re checking their closet every night for Michael Myers and peeking under the bed to make sure the Boogeyman isn’t waiting to snatch them in their sleep. “There’s no such thing as the Boogeyman.”
“Promise?” Bobby moaned.
“I promise,” she said, tucking him in gingerly. “It’s all make-believe, just like your comic books.”
“It’s all make-believe,” Bobby repeated verbatim, trying to drive it into his tiny head. Marilyn flipped off the bedroom lights and as she reached the doorway, she leaned over to turn on Bobby’s night light, which was in the shape of a harmless duck.
“Goodnight,” she said as she closed the door behind her and retired to living room to enjoy a full bottle of red wine.
He snuggled under the covers and tried to think happy thoughts. He thought about how pleased Santa was going to be when he saw that fresh plate of cookies and that cold glass of milk. He thought about the new video games and comic books Santa was sure to leave him this year.
It was the cheerful thoughts that helped Bobby drift off to sleep. Whenever he had trouble sleeping, his mom would tell him to try the old counting sheep trick. But that never worked for him.
Seconds away from finding sleep, Bobby was stirred by a loud BANG that sounded like a car backfiring. He was sure it had come from outside, until he heard a similar noise that undoubtedly stemmed from the downstairs living room.
“Mom?” he called out. “Is that you?” But mom didn’t answer.
Marilyn’s bedroom was on the second floor and he was certain she could hear him. Yet she refused to respond.
The noises continued as someone approached the stairs and began to ascend them. Thud. Thud. Thud.
Each footstep was like a small bomb being precisely detonated in coordination with each step.
“Mom?” he bellowed. But mom still wasn’t answering his cries for help.
Thud. Thud. Thud. The footsteps continued. Bobby shuddered when it dawned on him that his mother was not capable of producing this kind of racket with her size.
Thud. Thud. Thud. The noise ceased at the top of the steps.
He almost called out again before he realized that mommy wasn’t coming to his rescue. “Think,” Bobby whispered to himself, huddled under the covers. “What would Superman do?”
Just when Bobby thought the worst was over, the noises commenced again. Thumping, scraping, clawing. It all made Bobby twitch inside his PJ's.
The noises continued as the hardwood floors squeaked outside his bedroom. His door was shut but he could see the light from the hallway peeking in from the slight gap under his door.
His undeveloped bones rattled when a loud THUD occurred outside his bedroom door. It sounded like a sack of potatoes hitting the floor.
Bobby tugged the covers tightly over his head, pretending the blanket was some kind of magic force field that would shield him and repel whatever evil force eagerly awaited him.
His door opened and slammed and the whole room shook. A sharp sting occurred as Bobby bit into his upper lip to stifle a scream. The clump of footsteps could be heard across the hardwood floors of his bedroom.
Silence. Terrifying, gut-wrenching silence.
He gulped as he slid the covers down slowly. His eyes gradually adjusted to the dark–as the night light only illuminated half the room–and he found that he was alone. His Batman and Superman posters were still tacked to the walls, his action figures and toys still in their designated spots. Nothing had changed.
Had he simply imagined it all? Did all of his “Boogeyman” paranoia get the better of his gullible imagination? Bobby had to be sure as he rolled the covers off and breathed deeply.
His bare feet touched the floor and he moved quietly, barely lifting his legs. The floor was sticky, coated in unseen goo. It felt like he was walking across the floor of an empty movie theater.
His small hand gripped the doorknob and he pulled with all his might. His eyes blinked rapidly as they attuned to the bright ceiling fixtures of the hallway.
Streaks of a black sludge-like substance stained the floral wallpaper on both sides. At least the spots of the wallpaper that hadn’t been torn to shreds. One long streak of this black muck extended from the start of the hallway to his bedroom door. He was afraid to touch it. It looked almost alien to him, like something you’d see ooze out of a meteor in those old black-and-white Sci-Fi flicks.
He followed the path of black sludge from the start of the hall to his bedroom, and what he saw resting near his feet made his telescope eyes bulge. Beyond the threshold, his mother had shed her own skin as one would casually remove their coat. There appeared to be no damage to the epidermis. There had been no knife or blade that caused this horrific scene. She had not been skinned alive. His mother had seemingly just slipped out of her body the same way a woman would slip off a dress.
He inched back from the door, his tiny shadow falling over the glow of the night light. Petrifying thoughts ricocheted around inside his head. His young mind conjured up images of every fictional monster it had encountered through television or comic books. But none of those images could prepare Bobby for what was next.
His closet door crept open a tad. Not enough to get a full glimpse enough inside. But enough for Bobby to see the shadow that obscured his own.
“Mommy?” Bobby cried.
“Mommy isn’t here…” a scratchy, unfamiliar voice called from inside the closet. Two red eyes stared back at him intently, a set of razor-sharp claws scratching against the side of the door keenly. Little Bobby shut his eyes before the tears could strike. Not even Superman could save him now. “….Call me the Boogeyman.”