Anton Eine

The Monster in the Closet

363
Translated by Simon Geoghegan

Jimmy is no longer a little baby; he is already five. And he understands that he shouldn’t be afraid of monsters. And he isn’t. Well, almost... He’s dealt with the one hiding under the bed. And the one behind the curtain. But the one who has moved into the closet seems particularly large and vicious.

And Jimmy knows that he can’t let this monster attack first. He must go after this monster himself. This very night. When everyone else in the house is sound asleep.

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The monster in the closet stirred again, quietly scratching against the wood and rustling the clothes. Jimmy tensed and pulled the blanket right up to his chin, glancing warily towards the closet.

A narrow strip of warm light pierced the gap under the door but did not reach the part of the room where the creature lurked in the deep shadows. It had been waiting until everyone in the house had fallen asleep, so that quietly, with barely a creak of the closet door, it could sneak up to the sleeping boy's bed and eat him.

Jimmy was convinced of this and he was terrified. There were tears in his eyes, he wanted to cry and call his parents for help. But his mother would always tell him that monsters don’t exist and his dad said that he was big enough to deal with his monsters on his own now.

And indeed, he had dealt with them. He had seen off the one who rustled the curtains and tapped against the window as well as the one hiding under his bed ready to grab him by the bare feet and drag him into the darkness. They had been easy. Well, almost easy.

Not long ago on his fifth birthday, dad had said that he was already grown-up enough to be trusted with a serious anti-monster weapon. A powerful LED flashlight capable of sending any monster packing with its beam of magic light.

The torch was large, heavy and powered by six whole batteries. It was yellow and so powerful that Jimmy quickly drove out the creature hiding under the bed. Forever and ever. After all, it was an anti-monster torch.

Dad had also given him a lightsaber, a real Jedi one. He and dad trained a lot and dad said Jimmy was doing well. His sword shone brightly in the dark with a white, blue or green gleam.

“Why not red?” asked Jimmy.

“It’ll only turn red if you go over to the dark side, son,” said dad.

Jimmy didn’t understand much about the dark side but a red sword would have been pretty cool. When they fought with their lightsabers, Jimmy was usually the young Skywalker, and dad said that he would be his ‘yoga’ master. Jimmy also wanted to become a ‘yoga’ master but in order to achieve this, he needed to do a lot more training. And to become an adult.

It was thanks to the Jedi sword that he’d been able to defeat the curtain-flapping monster. Jimmy hacked and hacked at him until he too finally disappeared. He had clearly been impressed by a real Jedi lightsaber and no longer bothered Jimmy at night.

For several months there was peace and quiet until the monster hiding in the closet turned up. He had already been hiding there for a week but Jimmy felt that he was getting bolder and readying himself for an attack. Although he was still only a young Padawan apprentice, he had already had dealings with monsters, and so he decided to take the fight to this new intruder.

In order to do this, he would need to be well fortified. What was required was not just any ordinary children's food, but a special high... high protein food for hunting monsters at night.

“Mom, are these anti-monster cookies?” Jimmy asked, as his mother placed a glass of milk and a bowl of cookies in front of him.

“Honey, monsters don't exist, now eat up,” Mom patted his hair with a gentle smile and kissed his forehead.

But dad winked at him over her shoulder, indicating that they definitely were. Mom hadn’t spotted him. It was their little secret. Jimmy winked at his dad in response and then ate everything in front of him down to the final crumb of cookie and last drop of milk. The upcoming battle was going to be a serious test and he needed all the strength he could get.

The subdued scratching and breathing continued to issue from the closet. The monster seemed hungry. He was probably in a bad mood and perhaps big enough to take up the whole closet.

Jimmy went over his plan again in his head. He would open the door and blind the monster with his flashlight. If the creature didn’t immediately run away in fright, Jimmy would chop him up with his Jedi saber until he evaporated. He crept slowly up to the closet, stepping quietly in his bare feet on the thick soft carpet. In his left hand, he held the flashlight, in his right the lightsaber. He was ready for battle.

His heart was pounding and he desperately wanted to jump back under the bed covers. But there was no turning back, he couldn’t allow himself to be like some kind of four-year-old scaredy-cat. With his right hand, he tore open the door and with his left hand, he thrust the anti-monster light into the darkness, switching it on to full brightness.

“Ahhhh!” The monster squealed in fright, shading his eyes from the light with his furry paws, and Jimmy almost screamed back.

He wanted to scream, but his voice somehow failed him.

“What’s the matter with you, shining your light into people's eyes like that..?!” The monster wailed in a thin indignant voice.

“Oh, sorry,” Jimmy muttered.

He felt embarrassed and turned off the flashlight, relying instead on the bright white light of his Jedi saber.

The monster removed its paws from its face and looked at the boy with its large green eyes. He was very small and barely reached above Jimmy's midriff. He was plump and shaggy like a teddy bear, with huge green eyes and large sharp teeth set in a wide mouth.

Jimmy tightened his grip on the sword, ready to deliver a crushing blow to the monster and drive it away. Breathe out, step forward, swing and strike.

“You are one strange monster,” the creature squeaked from the closet.

“What?” Completely taken aback, Jimmy was stopped in his tracks barely half a step away from his foe, “I'm not a monster! I'm Jimmy!”

“I've never heard of them before,” the creature scratched its shaggy head.

“My name is Jimmy. I'm a boy,” he tried to explain to the slow-witted monster.

“I’ve never heard of boys. What are you doing in my closet?”

This was really getting too much. Jimmy grimly checked his lightsabre settings.

“This is my closet.”

“You really are a strange monster. So big, pale and smooth-skinned. And the only hair you have is growing out of the top of your head. Eurgh! Horrible!” The monster made some strange gurgling and snorting sounds.

“I'm not a monster. It’s you who's the monster. And I have an anti-monster lightsaber, got it?”

The creature grimaced and hissed as Jimmy raised his sword.

“I was right not to believe my parents when they said that monsters don't exist. I told them there was one in my closet. But they wouldn’t believe me. And here you are, all huge, bare-skinned and ugly with that stupid glowing stick in your paw.

“It's not a stick, it’s a Jedi saber!” Said Jimmy somewhat peevishly.

“A Jedi what?”

What was the point of explaining? If the monster still hadn’t heard of Jedi Knights and the force he was probably too small to understand anything? And it’s not nice to be nasty to little kids. With a sigh, Jimmy sat down on the carpet next to the open closet. His powerful flashlight had probably really frightened the little monster. Not to mention his saber...

He put down his weapon and held his hand out to the creature.

“Don’t be afraid, I won't hurt you.

“But I'm not afraid of you,” said the furry creature tossing his head back and baring his teeth, “I’m seven years old, you know, and I’m not afraid of anyone, so there! And I'm not a monster either, my name is Afihah.”

Ah, then he can't be that much of a baby. But, the more Jimmy peered at his nocturnal guest, the more harmless he seemed, despite his frightening appearance. What if he were to make friends with him?

“And my name is Jimmy.”

“You've already said that.”

Jimmy picked up a small fire engine from the carpet and handed it to the monster.

“Here, you can have it.”

Afihah warily took the toy in his clawed paw and cautiously brought it up to his open mouth.

“Stop!” Jimmy shouted and the monster jumped back into the depths of the closet, “You can't eat that! It’s a fire truck!”

“Then what's it for if you can’t eat it?” The creature asked in surprise.

“To put out fires,” Jimmy answered, it was so obvious.

“Okay,” the monster clearly didn’t understand him, but nodded his head as a sign of agreement, “Then this is for you.”

“What is it?” Jimmy peered cautiously at the strange object the creature was holding out to him.

It looked like a flattened, uneven ball covered in spikes and had the appearance of the small spiny pufferfish that hung from their kitchen ceiling. Jimmy gingerly touched the spikes, they weren’t sharp at all but soft and silky. He carefully held the gift in his hands.

“It’s a puit.”

“A what?” Jimmy said, mystified.

“A puit. Haven’t you ever had a puit? Don’t you know what it’s for..?” The monster asked in amazement.

“No.”

Outside in the corridor, fast approaching footsteps could be heard. Mom! There was no way she could be allowed to see the monster, she didn’t believe in them.

“It’s my mom, hide!” Jimmy hissed, closing the closet and, in three short bounds, hurled himself under the covers.

The door opened quietly and a stream of bright light swept half of the room. Jimmy held his breath in order not to give himself away, carefully peeping through the slits of his closed eyes.

“Baby, are you asleep?”

Jimmy was silent and barely breathing.

He looked like he was. “Night, night, sweetheart.”

Mom closed the door and her soft steps receded down the corridor and around the corner. Jimmy tip-toed to the closet and quietly opened it, but the monster had disappeared.

“Afihah!” He whispered, “Hey Afihah! Are you there?”

But the closet was bare.

Maybe he had been dreaming it all? And there had never been a monster? No Afihah whatsoever? Perhaps it had all been because of his fear. Jimmy shrugged and moved back towards his bed. Picking up his anti-monster weapons on the way.

But as he climbed under the covers, Jimmy's hand felt something soft and silky.

The puit. He had completely forgotten about it. That meant he hadn't imagined it and Afihah was a real monster. In Jimmy's own closet. Mom had probably scared him off but tomorrow night he would try to find him again.

Why had Afihah said that Jimmy was living in the closet in his room? It all seemed very strange somehow. And why had he thought Jimmy was a monster. He wasn’t a monster. He really wasn’t. Maybe monsters are a bit strange.

And what was this puit? What was it for? What was he meant to do with it? He would have to ask Afihah tomorrow. Whatever it was, it glowed faintly in the dark, a cloud of faint golden sparkles whirling in the middle of it. It was beautiful.

Jimmy put the puit in his bedside drawer so that mom wouldn't find it in the morning. Otherwise, she would ask what he was doing with it and Jimmy wouldn't be able to explain what a puit was and what it was for.

“All the same, mom makes a really mean anti-monster cookie,” he murmured to himself as he fell asleep with a contented smile on his face.

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