There's a Monster in my Bedroom
“You’re just being silly, Naala. There is no such thing as monsters! I bet this is all made-up because you’re a scaredy Aisha,” Kuda answered smugly. The Kougra waved his navy-striped yellow paws for emphasis, his conception rivaling his sister’s with words of strong opinion.
“That’s what you said about the last time, and the one before that. Remember?” his Kacheek sister reminded him chidingly. She dropped down to all fours, assumed a tall, bigheaded stance, and bulged her eyeballs comically and slashed the air with imaginary claws for exaggeration.
“There is no such thing as ghosts! There is no such thing as too many spicy Juppie wedges!” the blue neopet mimicked in a deep voice, then resumed her regular squeaky child's pitch moments afterward. “Those were a disaster!”
“Oh yeah. The spicy cheese,” he chuckled, fond of the memory. “But I’m positive of it this time. Have you ever heard of anything more stupid than an invisible monster in this neohome? I thought not!”
“It’s not stupid, because it lives in my room. If it lived in your room, you’d think otherwise!”
“Suuure,” he replied casually, playing along with her little game. “Look, Naala, every kid goes through these phases. The dark’s too terrible for you so you make up some excuse about an pretend monster with purple hands and a spiky tail and an eyelid-less green eye.”
“I saw it! I know I did! And just because you’re only a little older than me doesn’t make you king of Neopia!”
“Hey, I'm a lot wiser than a little kid! But you know, the lady who runs this house won’t be happy about you spending your allowance on so many Nova Lamps.”
“Yeah, I know. I know,” Naala sighed resignedly, eyes downcast with realization. It was clear that her brother didn’t believe her, no matter how many times she talked about it, or how many times she showed him the evidence- the countless broken Nova lamps- in fact, every lamp she had bought-, the bizarre purple ooze trail, the patterned indent on her plush burgundy rug. He had simply written it off as accidentally knocking the furniture over during a bad nightmare, spilling grape jelly or playing with her Sticky Hand too much, and the indents were merely her own footsteps themselves.
The monster didn’t always live in her room. It was a snow-white Christmas when it happened, with the snow blanketing the frozen ground outside the window, the red brick fireplace hearth heartily crackling away at the log fire and toasting marshmallows, the Christmas tree dressed up with rainbow lights and coils of silver foil spirals blinking at the splendor, and the excitement of the holidays all up in the air like a tetherball. The house lady was planning an exquisite dinner party, in which Naala and Kuda had to act their best in formal manners like saying, “Greetings, ma’am” when the guest said hello, or “Would you like me to take your coat, sir” when the guest walked in, and “Welcome to our household; we are pleased to make your acquaintance” when the guests arrived at the dinner table.
The house lady had gone to the fleabug market that morning, pressed and stressed for what little preparation time there was left, and had taken along Naala for the trip. The time to remodel was ripe, for the furniture the house donned at the time was ‘atrocious, simply atrocious’, as Kuda and Naala had made a true blue mess. The fleabug market was a brief four or five blocks away, and was well-stocked in every sort of furniture imaginable, and you also didn’t need to haul leaden cases filled with neopoints, for everything was a light bargain-basement price. A little polish-shine on the wood tables, some brand-new bulbs for the lamps, and rich pillows for the antique sofas, and one would be well off.
For the annual round of Christmas presents, Naala had fancied refurnishing her room in addition to what Santa would bring her, for she thought it quite rude to make the poor sled carry a big piece of wood over. The house lady’s want to redecorate had rubbed off on the Kacheek and the child begged and begged until she at last surrendered, and acceded to buying a bed of choice for the neopet. Naala’s old bed was little more than a small cot, for she herself was little more than a toddler. Now, the fellow pupils at Neoschool were getting big and pretty-pink flowery beds, and thus, the fad snagged onto Naala's heart. And that was what she got, her dream bed. However, what she got was not always what she wanted.
The night, with the moon resplendent upon the glittering grains of reflected black snow outside the window, brought the unwanted for her. As she flicked off the Nova Lamp light switch and snuggled into her invitingly bulky bed with a happy sigh, she heard a thud that liberated a tickly shrill of fear straight up her spine. The house lady was quiet as a Miamouse on clouds during the hours of darkness, and Kuda enjoyed sleeping even more than he did talking. Naala apprehensively sunk deeper into her sheets and instinctively covered her head with her blanket, not daring to make a sound.
Thump. A-thump. Mmmfgh. Sssssaghn.
The stillness of the air breathed hot down her neck, and she drew in gulps of air as silently as she could. The blankets trembled as the stifled sounds of quiet moan-like resonance were unrelenting. Her heart pounded loudly in her head, and she grew warm from uncontrollable shivers of fear and agitation.
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmff. Swish. A-thump.
The tension was as thick and unbroken as the snow outside, craving to crack the unspoken and observe the feral action that would follow. Naala was frozen with fear, but the thing, whatever in Adam’s name it was, was making new sounds now. Out of bold curiosity and nothing else, she lifted the blanket just a teeny tiny bit, and what she saw would make her jaw fall open in unrestrained silent scream, muscles tense like rigid ice, and eyes stare blankly until morning. One large, almond-shaped eerie emerald orb with a skinny black-as-ink pupil, a dark lavender claw akin to Darigan’s minions, and a swishing tail spiked over with thorns.
Only when the lemonade-pink sun mounted the morning sky, and dawn came to greet her with its cheery disposition, did she start to scream.
After weeks of petrifying nights and persistent, unsuccessful pleading to change beds, the Kacheek had arrived at one and only one conclusion: that she had to take matters into her own paws. As sensitive as she was about “creature removal”, she was terribly tentative as to how to go about ridding herself of the monster. There was nothing in the picture books that comprehensively explained the science of bedroom monsters, and the Neoschoolers' reaction to her story closely resembled that of her brother's. If she angered it, she could be the unwanted phantom’s next unfortunate victim, and she did not want to be the unwanted phantom's next unfortunate victim. It was something so mystifying and frightening and curious to her that it was like discovering the way out of a forest laden with gold, but surrounded by thickening, blinding fog and haunting ghosts. Yet she wanted to dig for what amazing discoveries she might unearth, explore to fill this resilient curiosity of hers, and leave immediately to escape the dangers, all at the same time.
After hearing Kuda brag about his new collection of Spyders, plucked regrettably from the corner wall webs, a shiny new idea sparked to life. What if... what if she trapped the monster? What if she set up a strong net and ensnared it, then released it, free, in the morning? Then Kuda would have to eat his own words, and the monster could still exist unharmed. It was a win-win situation for all and worked especially well towards her line of favor, since it would not have to inhabit her bed anymore!
That evening, Naala swiftly got to work on her plan. She angelically explained to the house lady her trip to Maraqua, for the Maraquans were known for their excellent and efficient weaponry. Fortuitously, as Naala arrived on the shores of Mystery Island, there was a tour available for the rebuilt underwater world. Roped securely to her waist was her potato sack filled with neopoints, as much as she could possibly carry.
Naala nervously stepped up to the booth, uncertain. She met the Maraquan Mynci's cerulean eyes with dubiousness about her plan.
“Sir, uhm, how much is it for one tour to the new Maraqua? Diving gear included, if you could!”
“Ten thousand neopoints, but don’t sweat it! It’s one of our new, fabulous packages that takes you to the underwater treasure city of Maraqua, where you can swim, or else you’ll drown! In addition to that amazing offer, we’ll also take you to the shop where you can buy shells not found on beach shores, purchase a turkey meal while underwater (questions about how the turkey got underwater not included!), and look for a new, free Maraquan neohome with water included, neohome sold separately. This whole package also comes with a Stripey Urchin, but we are not responsible for any prickly situations!”
“That sounds great, sir! Does it also come with the right of going to the Weaponry Shop?” Naala responded enthusiastically. She could not believe how lucky she was to have found such a marvelous deal!
“Of course! You can go anywhere you want if you pay to play!”
With vigor, Naala inelegantly forked over four pawfuls of coins to the passionate Mynci, who beamed and bobbed and pointed his fin toward the crooked pile of diving gear behind the booth.
Ten minutes later, Naala had fitted herself in silly, bulky goggles and a breathing pipe, and she was completely equipped and ready to go. She heavily stumbled in the refreshing water, the current dragging against her body, until she plunged into groundless shore, tagging along after the diving guide. Maraqua was absolutely spectacular- corals and kelps and schools of Neucloop and intricately designed buildings of stunning shell and gold.
It was a fantastic kingdom to bequeath one’s sight with, but her eye was on obtaining a Maractite Throwing Net. It was a durable, sound, and mightily secure contraption, as she found later when she tested its strength by struggling to pull the wires one way or the other with nothing to show for her labor. Now she felt ready enough to face the monster head-to-head, no matter what, to stare into that one cyclops eye and never look back.
Before the waxing moon rolled around again, Naala kneeled down and warily strapped the net from the ground to the bed, then strung around the posts again, double-checking meticulously to ensure that the thread was stretched taut and inflexible. The current scenario was that if the monster moved out from under the bed, it would stumble into a snare-like trap, with its whole body being tangled by wire, thus spelling out immobility for the intense creature.
When Naala went to bed, she glanced waveringly for a second outside the window. The spotlight of the view was a globular auroral mirror manifesting silent omens, coruscating its magnificence and obscurity upon the canvas of Neopia below. Rebooted with confidence from the inspirational reflection, she flipped off the switch and fell into the soft blankets, banking on the pallid moon for her source of light. She slipped under the covers, lifting the corner faintly to see the monster itself for the second time, anticipating the nightly sound she had expected for so long. And therein it came.
No more than the tip of the back of the monster could be seen, with the colossal snout in mid yawn. It unhurriedly climbed out of the mysterious host it had lived under for so long, and finally Naala could see the creature that had taunted her for endless time. It had powerful muscles, raw scales on its back, with spikes sharply aligning its skull; and everything else was shapeless. Certain features crumbled into the darkness, while other features stuck out like a white hot sun. It immediately sensed the fully awake presence in its midst and fiercely whipped around to see Naala.
The one green eye never failed to shock the blue Kacheek, even with her memorized words of a mentally strengthening barricade. She trembled on impulse, still especially when the monster did not abandon the underside of the bed. It instead, much to her nervous astonishment, had sensed the company of the net and toothlessly tore off each wire attachment. She preferred razor-sharp choppers to that bottomless chasm of black- that mouth looked like a hungry stomach- a swallow, one gulp, and you would be a goner. There would be no need for chewing. She was in for it now, and was truly scared stiff for her life- tremulous, racing thoughts in a state of blind terror, braced for the worst, eyes motionlessly wide open, heart skipping too many beats.
Slowly, but surely, the monster slowly moved toward her, like a ground krawk slithering in a snakelike motion. This would be it. She’d never see Kuda, her Neoschool buddies, or her house lady again. The cyclops eye did not leave Naala for a moment, and the claws and spikes were moving one step closer in the direction of her doom. This whole state of affairs had turned the tables on her, and all she could do was sit there, gaping, wishing; she was like a statue, preparing for the end.
Forceful moments later, the monster had sidled up to her bedside, claws stretched as if in zeal. Naala stared at the monster, and the monster stared back. Her two true blue Kacheek eyes stared owl-like, and the single large eye matched her gaze. Seconds turned into minutes, which turned into ten minutes, then double folded into twenty, then ascended the heights to half an hour. The pressure was building like a volcano, ready to release its impressively perilous rain anytime now. Once it was shattered, it would be even more startling than had the monster attacked her earlier.
Naala had grown into a state of thoughtlessness. She looked, and looked, and looked. Her mind was free from feelings, emotions, anything. She could not do anything now; numbness ate at her as a starving bandit would to a royal feast.
And then she blinked.
The moment the strain became too much for her, too much for the impassive state of burden, inquisitiveness and the audacious flooded back to her. She shot out a paw and stroked the monster’s back, feeling the rough hide and texture of the nightmare of her childhood, the heavy folds in the cracked lips, the barbs that dreams are made of along the jaw line, and the brawny brute force indications that she herself could never overcome. The emerald orb fleetingly looked downward before meeting her eye to eye again.
“What’s your name?” she whispered softly.
When the monster was spoken to, alarm rang loud and clear like a chiming bell from the cyclops eye. It, in a strange madness, wildly reared its head up toward the ceiling, its height being tall enough to stand up and claw the roof apart, shingle by shingle. While groaning softly, it aggressively moved its whole body from side to side, as if being looking behind itself to see if it was being pursued by a shady hunter. The monster roared quietly one last time before turning around slowly and heavily shuffling off in the other direction, spiked tail swinging fiercely, as a signal of goodbye, out the door.
But that wasn’t the last Naala heard of the monster.
“AHHHHHH!!!” shrieked a brotherly voice, thunderous enough to coax a dormant neighborhood out of sleep. It was highly seasoned with fright and panic, intermingling with pure shock.