Suggested Audio Candy
 Barrie Guard “Monster in The Closet”
 The Frustrated “Frustration”
 Mark Isham “Life As A House”
 Appaloosa “The Day (We Fell in Love)”
 Barrie Guard “Monster in The Closet (Reprise)”
Emily and Nathan were both tucked up in their respective bunks. It was a chilly midwinter’s night at the McMahon house and the tree at their bedroom window glanced across the glass, providing the eight year-old twins with a most disconcerting audio. The storms had rolled in over the past couple of days and thunder growled from a none-too far vantage as the pair lay dormant so as not to arouse the interest of a certain unwelcome guest. Their visitation came at around the same time each night without fail. A gnarled demon, almost six-foot in height, although you wouldn’t know such from its hunched posturing, made an habitual b-line from their far-side closet and rejoiced in terrorizing the pair each night as they rested their heads. Although neither of them had come to any harm thus far, this was only because Emily’s scream could wake up the dead and its plans were foiled before it had chance to sink its dripping incisors into their soft flesh.
“Do you think it has forgotten us?” Emily whispered from the bottom bunk.
“No I can hear it shuffling around in there. Listen” Nathan replied.
The pair paid attention and, true to form, usual service was set to resume. Faint growls could be discerned from behind the closet door and its three-pronged feet could be heard scampering about amidst their hanging clothes.
“See?” Nathan commented, wishing that for once he would not be so accurate in his assumption.
I’m scared Nate” Emily whimpered, clutching her teddy bear for dear life.
“Remember the plan. It can’t see us through our bed sheets” he reminded her.
“I know” she replied, pulling them over her head and tucking them around her so as not to leave any limbs exposed to the night. Nathan did the same.
“Here it comes Em” Nathan informed, the closet door beginning to creak as the succubus stepped out into their boudoir once more and began rooting around.
Emily was shaking uncontrollably beneath her sheet, tears flowing down her cheeks as the malignant intruder poked through their belongings, pulling all manner of bric-a-brac from their collective toy box and leaving them strewn in its wake. It could smell their flesh, indeed, it was that which made each visitation so appealing. Had it located them before now then it would have procrastinated not in separating the skin from their bones but their concealment kept it at bay night after night.
Emily began sobbing as she heard the creature making its way to her bedside on the lower bunk. It was mere inches from her and had picked up on her anguish more than usual this night as she had an deep-rooted fear of thunder and never settled through storms. As it possessed no discernible eyes, it couldn’t see either child and the fresh linen just about kept it at bay as their scent remained largely ambiguous. However, on this particular occasion, it was becoming privy to Emily’s coordinates and she knew as much, desperately covering her mouth so as not to arouse further attention. It began to run its gangly claws across her pine bed frame, desperately close to foiling her plan and Emily could take no more at this point.
“Argh! Mommy! Daddy! Help!” she cried and the beast became startled as the landing light flicked on behind it, scampering back whence it came and disappearing into the void of darkness in the open closet.
Both parents burst into the room and illuminated their children’s quarters “What? What is it?” Elaine yelled frantically but Clive was far less distressed as he knew the routine only too well “It’s nothing hun. Just the usual night terrors eh kids?”
“No daddy” Emily cried, pulling herself free from her air-tight fortress and running to her mom for comfort “it’s real”
“How many times have we been through this? There ain’t such thing as monsters. Look” Clive strolled over to the closet and pointed inside at rows of clothes and an underlying bouquet of random junk “You see. No monsters. Don’t you think you’re getting a bit old for this?”
“But daddy…” Nathan began to plead.
“But daddy nothing. I’m getting sick and tired of the same thing night after night. I’ve got work in the morning and just one time it would be great if you’d just let me sleep”
“They’re just kids Clive” Elaine reminded him, sensing her daughter’s fear through her nightdress as she wiped her streaming eyes against her leg.
“It’s that attitude which keeps us going through this rigmarole and it’s getting old now Elaine” Clive snapped. He shut the closet door and ordered the kids back to their bunks.
“Can we sleep with you tonight mommy?” Emily pleaded and her mother looked over at her husband for approval. He shook his head decisively, sick to the back teeth of broken sleep and constantly being kicked in the back whilst attempting to rest.
“How many times do I have to repeat myself? You’re not babies anymore. The answer is no. Last word”
Emily and Nathan were only too aware that last word denoted exactly that “Can we have the light on then daddy? Please”
Only if you’re going to pay the electricity bill for the next quarter. Tell you what, I wish that just once, for one day, you could take on our responsibilities and mommy and I could play at being kids again. Maybe then you’d see how unfair life really is”
Just then a sudden bolt of lightning lit up the entire sky and the bedroom window swung open violently.
“Don’t tell them that” Elaine protested “they’re eight years old Clive. Have you forgotten how that feels?”
Clive marched over to secure the window “I’m not getting into this with you now. In case you haven’t noticed, I have to be up in little over six hours and the last thing I want right now is a full-scale argument” He then turned to Emily and Nathan “You two. Bed. Now. I don’t want to hear another peep out of you until morning”
Elaine shrugged and tucked the kids back into their beds while he stood guard at the door, making sure they didn’t wrap her round their little fingers as was customary. Once she exited, he flicked off the light and closed the door tight behind him. As soon as the coast was clear, Nathan leapt from his sheets and turned on the light once more.
“Do you have to be so hard on them Clive?” Elaine protested as they settled back into their quarters “They’re just kids you know”
“It’s the same shit every night. If you ask me, it’s about time you stopped molly coddling them”
“Grumblefish” she muttered. This was a pet name she had dreamed up for Clive whenever he was being unreasonable, partly because she had a thing for Matt Dillon and partly due to the fact it rolled off the tongue so effortlessly. It had been frequently used of late as his workload had almost doubled through cuts at work.
“I know. Sometimes I play back some of the stuff that I say in my head afterwards and I think I may have become my father you know”
“Don’t ever say that” Elaine defended “You’re twice the man that your father was and I don’t want to hear you talking like that. I love you, Grumblefish or not”
“Thanks for the vote of support honey but it does niggle me you know. What if I was to turn out like him?” he asked.
“Never going to happen. You wanna know why? Because he was a tyrannical piece of shit and you’re the most loving, attentive man I have ever met. It’s the reason I fell in love with you all those years ago and the same reason why I adore you even more now”
Despite her kind words raising his spirits slightly, he was still bothered that his sense of fun had drastically lessened in recent times and Elaine picked straight up on it.
“It’s eating you up isn’t it? I can tell Clive. It’s written all over your face” she said.
“I just wish I wasn’t always the bad guy. I don’t wanna be that person”
“Tell you what, I’ve got a plan. Before you say a word, I’m not taking no for an answer” she informed him.
“Go on” he urged.
“The kids have a sleepover tomorrow night for Lance’s birthday. That means we have the whole house to ourselves. You and I mister are going to become kids again, just for the evening”
“And how do you propose we do that?” he quizzed.
“You just leave the details to me. You trust me right?” she inquired.
“Well I married you so…yes. Of course I do” he replied, still baffled as to what her cunning plan may be.
“Then that’s all you need to know. Now let’s get some sleep before you wake up Grumblefish for work tomorrow” Elaine kissed him tenderly and switched off the bedside light.
Clive was running late for work and shoveling in a slice of toast before he left. It was a day unlike any other in the McMahon household, the kids were cutting it fine and Elaine was doing her level best to get them ready.
“Mommy?” Emily asked.
“What is it petal?” Elaine replied, wrestling the girl’s arm into her jacket sleeve.
“I don’t like the monster. He wants to do bad things to us”
“Jesus Emily” Clive interjected, annoyed at having to go through this tired subject once again when he knew he had a busy day ahead “Do we really have to go through this all over?”
“Honey, you’re late for work. Get! Leave this to me okay” Elaine offered.
He looked at his watch and agreed to her terms, giving all three a kiss before scuttling to the door, toast still only half-eaten.
“I’ll be back around six thirty” he informed them and made his way outside to his car. Elaine turned back to Emily while Nathan remained tight-lipped in the other seat.
“Daddy’s got a lot of pressure on him right now baby. You’ve got to stop with this monster stuff, there’s no such thing you know” she said.
“But mommy it’s real. Ask Nathan”
“She’s not going to listen Em” he barked up.
“Yes I am and daddy does too but we have been through this so many times kids. There’s nothing in your closet, no monsters. They don’t exist, not in the real world. They’re just make-believe”
“See” Nathan added.
“Now come on, let’s get a wriggle on shall we? School bus will be here in less than five minutes”
Emily shrugged at her brother and he gave her a look as if to say told you so, before grabbing his school bag and declaring himself ready.
The same situation played out that night at precisely the same time it always did but this time Elaine offered to handle things as Clive was visibly exhausted and it looked like Grumblefish was about to make his return. She didn’t buckle to the kids’ pleas to sleep in with mommy and daddy and, no sooner had she returned to the master bedroom, than the light switch had flicked on behind her once more.
Today was Friday which meant no work for Clive for two days and plentiful chances to kick back. Elaine worked as a freelance artist from home so grabbed a couple of hours shut-eye every day after the kids headed off. Today had been slightly different from the norm. In preparation for their big night she had worked out an itinerary, determined that she was to help her husband rediscover his admittedly misplaced youth. It was 5.45pm and ordinarily he wouldn’t even have begun his commute home yet but, true to his word, he bowled through the door, willing to give her master plan a try, even though he hadn’t the vaguest idea what that might be.
“Look at you mister. I have to say I’m rather impressed with your punctuality.”
“How could I resist an indecent proposal from the hottest girl on the cheerleading squad?” he joked, excited that he may finally get to see that silk bodice he had bought her for her birthday three months back. It was still in its packaging.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself. You ain’t getting none of this tonight” she said, shattering his dreams in one fell swoop.
“So what’s this all in aid of then?” he asked, visibly facilitating the return of Grumblefish.
“Tonight is all about finding the child I know full well is still inside, beneath all that worry and stress” Elaine could feel Clive’s eyes rolling without needing to make contact so clarified further “We’re going to be the kids tonight. It’s time for us to reconnect”
“No. Before that. We’re gonna be eight years old again. No trying to squirm out of it, tonight you can be seen but not heard. Last word” she replied.
“Great. I’ve spent all afternoon stuck behind paperwork and now I get to watch Sesame Street. Priceless” he objected.
“No Sesame Street but we will be watching a film later”
“Great. There’s some great stuff on American Horrors tonight. They’re showing My Bloody Valentine at ten” he propositioned.
“Nope. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” she blurted.
“Excuse me?” he responded.
“That’s our movie for tonight”
“Un-fucking-believable. Oompa Loompas and no nookie. Sounds like a bloody brilliant plan” he remarked sarcastically. Suppose you’re gonna say that we have burgers and chips for dinner next”
“Close but no cigar mister and I won’t accept any potty mouth from you tonight thank you very much” Elaine returned from the oven with a hot plate and placed it before him.
“Waffles, turkey shapes and spaghetti O’s” she informed him. Clive pushed the fork around his plate in objection and his look echoed an eight year old’s immediately which, at least, meant he was giving this the old college try.
“Are we there yet?” Clive asked despondently.
“Almost. Sheesh you really are in character aren’t you?” Elaine replied, pushing through the foliage to reveal a clearing by the lake about 500 yards from their house.
“Look, we’re her now mister impatient” She gestured ahead.
“Please tell me we’re going for a skinny dip?” he pleaded, already aware that wasn’t an option as she was far too body conscious to do that.
“Almost. We’re gonna skim stones”
“Almost? Since when has lobbing pebbles in the lake been anything like getting naked?”
“You make a fair point. However, I know you and your brother used to do this all the time and think it would help you to channel that inner child” she continued.
“Not being funny but I never wanted to screw my brother” he quipped, desperately dismayed by the revelation.
“Uh uh! There’ll be none of that X-rated talk, not this evening. We’re PG all the way okay?” she reminded him.
“You have that look you know” said Clive.
“What look?” she quizzed.
“The one that says I ain’t backing down” he replied.
“You got it all wrong mister?” she teased.
“How so? Are you gonna strip off for me”
“Not even” she burst his bubble in an instant “This is my ‘stop being facetious, you’re eight years old’ glare” she added.
He processed the information for a second and immediately softened. Nobody else could steer him back to mainland like Elaine, there was just something about her, always had been. Besides, he used to be something of a monster at stone-skimming.
“Prepare to be soundly beaten” he chirped and made off to grab himself a projectile.
“I still think this is all just one long elaborate seduction” he remarked. Against his better judgement, he had actually rather enjoyed their joint venture to the lake. It bought back memories of his childhood which weren’t tainted by his overly strict father.
They crossed the road to their house and she stopped him at the gate “Are you ready for stage two of my little experiment?” she asked.
“Does it involve us naked and sweaty?” he answered with a poser of his own.
“No. It doesn’t” was her swift rejoinder.
“Go on. You got me curious” he admitted, beginning to wind down after their relaxing lakeside interlude.
Elaine pointed up at the oak at the foot of their garden.
“We’re going etching aren’t we?” he joked sardonically.
She urged him to take another look “What’s up there?” she asked.
“The dastardly squirrel that keeps pilfering the nuts from our bird table” He waved his fist at the tree.
“Are you going to have a wisecrack for everything I say?” she raised her voice just a little. Ordinarily, being something of a self-confessed control freak, Clive was used to being the mealy-mouthed one. It actually made him kind of aroused, which was bittersweet given that sex was clearly off the table. Not if he had anything to say about it.
“I’m sorry baby. Hit me with my briefing”
“Race you” she chirped, sprinting at breakneck speed to the fence and bounding it in one go. After a moment’s procrastination, Clive couldn’t resist taking up her challenge and followed hot on her heels. However, she had been district hurdles champion and his incessant hamstring concerns prevented him from making up the ground. As she reached the tree stump a good two seconds early, Elaine swung around with grin firmly spread across her cheeks. He reached her puffing and leaned in for a kiss but she rebuffed him tantalizingly, biting her lip and swiftly ascending the rope ladder “Are you coming up or what?” she teased.
With a still hopeful shrug of the shoulders, he followed.
“This has been really nice you know?” Clive commented.
“Aw thank you baby” Elaine replied, touched by his change of heart but not about to give up the fanny just yet.
“No I mean it. I know I have given you some shit, I mean baloney; and, you’re right, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. But do you know what?” he didn’t wait for an answer “I probably don’t say it enough but there’s no place I’d rather be than here…with you. You know that right?”
“Yes but you can never tell me that too much” She rolled a little closer and fell into his eyes with the same hunger she did all those years ago “I love you”
Elaine didn’t say this for a response as she believed it to mean more stated one way…as long as he didn’t leave it too long to return the favor. Instead she kissed his lips tenderly and the moment became perfect. Clive being Clive, sentimentality was only ever to be a fleeting endeavor.
“So do I get to jump those bones now?”
This time his opportunist pursuit fell on softer ears. He was off the hook…for now “I’m afraid not” she glumly informed him but perked up for the remainder of her sentence “but I tell you what. Let’s skip Charlie Bucket. Tonight the services of Mr William Wonka will no longer be required” Clive rejoiced inside.
Elaine climbed from the tree house and he followed like a stray dog would tail a sirloin. She grasped his hand and led him straight upstairs, leaving the dishes until morning although usually this would eat her inside out progressively to the point of hysteria. Not tonight however, this had gone better than she could ever have envisaged; it felt as though they had reconnected considerably with something long since discarded.
As she reached the landing, suddenly turning to Emily and Nathan’s door, Clive’s face sagged a little.
“Come on. You wouldn’t be that cruel” he said, knowing that was exactly what was being dished out.
“Eight year-olds remember. It’s what this has all been about, stay with me my love. Just a little longer. I promise you I will have a whole lot of fun making it up to you okay?”
“You’re going to tell me we’re not sharing a bunk aren’t you?” he presumed and did so astutely.
“Innocence. There’s so much time for sin but not now. I want to savor this Clive. Tonight has meant more than you could ever know…you know?”
“I get top bunk” he joked, racing past her to claim his snuggle chariot “Race you”
As he clambered up, slipping and hitting his chin en route but laughing it off; Clive couldn’t wipe the grin from his face and had no intention whatsoever of trying. In one glorious evening, he had reclaimed a little hunk of his misplaced childhood and he cherished feeling so youthful. They held hands between bunks and both had dropped off within minutes.
It was a quarter to one when the thud awoke them. Elaine was active first, she had always been the lighter sleeper as Clive had only ever changed two diapers and feigned hopelessness well enough to never constitute further duties.
“Baby?” she whispered. It took a moment for him to process the audio but he replied “hmm?” in something of a slur bout five seconds tardy. By this time, the thumping had recommenced.
“Probably one of their thousand toys. You’ve seen the way they stack that, it’s like a junk yard in there” The soundbite was evidently emanating from the closet. Elaine had never been easily flummoxed and, for all his cocky verve, Clive was customarily the one watching horror movies through his fingers so she had no qualms with making her way over and investigating further.
She did, however, take her time as the third bump had sounded far more ominous and unlike the rattle of knickknacks. He sat up in his bunk behind her as she slid open the wicker door. Just linen and plastic as expected, but followed by a growl which sounded anything but distant and a brace of burly claws which commenced to drag her beyond the clothing before she could so much as voice a scream. Clive wailed frantically, hardly able to shift from the spot as his wife of seven years was consumed in no uncertain terms before his sorry eyes.
What he couldn’t discern with his eyes, his ears relayed balefully. There was nothing Pretty Woman about the way this foul creature tamed his veal and this was attested by the shattering of Elaine’s rib cage as it ardently headed for her center loin. After deducing that the taste was not to its liking, the beast spat her heart across the carpet, where it rolled at breakneck speed until it hit the dresser. Clive excavated his spaghetti O’s over the side of the dual-bedstead.
Unsatisfied by entrée, it leered back from beyond its veil of ambiguity, fangs dripping with his wife’s giblets and nostrils flared as it assumed its trajectory. From Clive’s elevated position in the bed, the scent trail was a direct one and it wasted no time in leaping up to join the hors d’oeuvre. Tilting its head momentarily to size up its prey, it grasped out at his face, sinking all five talons into his cheekbone and using the grip to drag his body back to its dark space in the closet. Clive’s ultimate rejoinder was a childlike scream and his last consideration, outside of sheer panic, was the irony that he had rediscovered this a little too late.
Truly, Clearly, Really, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014