When I was a kid, a monster lived under my bed for about a year; until I suddenly stopped believing that it did. Looking back into childhood, I remembered the fear that my imagination created, and that gave me the idea for the following short story. I hope that you like it.
CHARLIE AND THE WARDROBE MONSTER
Charlie Barker was going out of his way to be awkward. He was very confused, very unhappy, and very angry. He used his fork to push the peas around his plate, not eating properly because he knew that leaving his meals upset his mum. And he hardly ever went to school; just roamed around, bored. That had got his mum annoyed. She’d shouted at him, and told him that she’d been warned that his truancy was a problem that they blamed her for.
“You should eat your tea, Charlie,” his mum said. “You’ll make yourself ill if you keep leaving your meals.”
“Not hungry,” he muttered, before dropping the fork on the tabletop, shunting the chair backwards with a screech of wood on tiles, and rushing out of the kitchen to run upstairs to his bedroom, slamming the door shut and throwing himself face down on top of the bed. He started to cry and couldn’t stop. He missed his dad so much, and wanted everything to be back how it was. It wasn’t fair. Why didn’t his dad love him anymore? It wasn’t that Charlie wanted to leave his meals, or be miserable all the time, or go out of his way to make himself and his mum even unhappier than they already were. He just couldn’t seem to help it. And the worst part was that his dad had gone to live in some place called Manchester, which was probably a thousand miles away from Luton. He only saw him once a month, and for a just a few hours. He hated grownups. They spoilt everything.
Charlie got up and went to the window. It was pouring, and the raindrops were hitting the glass and running down it in little rivers, like the tears that coursed down his cheeks. He wanted to die. There was nothing to look forward to. And his mum was different these days. She hardly spoke, and never smiled. It was as if she had changed into someone else. She missed dad a lot, too, he knew that. They’d talked about it, but not for a long time now. His mum had told him that everything would be all right. But it wasn’t. Everything was totally wrong. He didn’t want to go to school, watch TV, or even play football anymore. But that wasn’t really true. He did want to be happy again, but didn’t know how to be.
It was a couple of weeks later that the monster came back. Charlie thought that it had gone forever, after his dad had sprinkled a magic powder in the bottom of the wardrobe and said it had the same effect on monsters as sunlight had on vampires. Maybe the powder had gone mouldy, like bread and apples and stuff did after a while. Whatever. A noise had woken him up, and in the grainy grey light that filtered through the bedroom window, he thought he saw the wardrobe door open a fraction. He’d never actually seen the monster properly, but somehow knew exactly what it looked like. It was similar to a gargoyle he’d seen high up on the side of a church. But it wasn’t made of stone, so it could move. It had horns on its head, a beak like a crow, three-inch long claws on its fingers and toes, and eyes that were yellow and slanted and glowed in the dark. But there were rules. If he stayed very still and kept under the bedclothes, then it couldn’t get him. The only problem was, he got too hot, or needed to go to the toilet. off the shoulder bridesmaid dress
Charlie didn’t want to, but was so frightened that he called out to his mum. She heard him and came to his bedroom and switched on the light. He lowered the duvet and peeped out at her.
“What is it, Charlie?” she asked. “Do you feel ill?”
“N...no, Mum. It’s back.”
He didn’t know it, but Sarah Barker was about to tell him not to be silly: that he was almost nine now, and shouldn’t still believe that some creature lived in the wardrobe. Instead, she hesitated, gave it some thought and said, “Okay. We’ll have to deal with it, won’t we?”
“How, Mum?” Charlie said.
“Go to my bedroom and fetch me the cross and chain from the jewellery box on the dresser. Hurry, Charlie.”
Charlie leaped out of bed, did as he was told and returned holding the small gold crucifix by its chain. He was safe for the moment. Wardrobe monsters never appeared in front of adults. That was another rule.
His mum took the cross and hung it on the door handle, after making sure that the door was closed properly. She then told Charlie to put his dressing gown and slippers on, before taking him by the hand and leading him downstairs.
“What are you going to do now, Mum?” Charlie said.
“Come with me,” Sarah said, and went out to the garage, where she found two three-foot long planks of wood, a tin full of nails, and a hammer.
Back upstairs, with Charlie holding the wood in place, Sarah nailed the two planks across the wardrobe door.
Charlie started to giggle. He couldn’t believe that his mum had sealed the monster up.
“There,” Sarah said, ruffling his hair. “That silly old monster won’t ever bother you again. Not with the door planked up, and the cross hung on the handle. He’ll most probably go up in a puff of green smoke and cease to exist.”
“Awesome,” Charlie said, amazed at what his mum had done.
“All that has made me hungry,” Sarah said. “I reckon we should have some eggs and bacon, and a mug of cocoa. What do you think?”
That had been the moment when Charlie started to feel a lot better, and stopped feeling so sorry for himself. And although he didn’t know it, his mum did too. All Sarah wanted was for Charlie and her to be happy.
From that day on, Charlie knew that everything was going to be fine. And when his grandma and granddad came round at the weekend, he told them how his mum had got rid of the monster, and took them upstairs to see the boarded-up wardrobe with the gold crucifix hanging by its chain from the door handle. And he began to enjoy school again, and made friends with Zoë, a girl who, like him, only had her mum at home. Thing was, he now knew that he had the greatest mum in the world, who loved him to bits, and that helped Charlie a lot. He still missed his dad, but with every week that went by he got more used to just being with his mum. She started to take him swimming, and came to watch him play football, embarrassing him a little by screaming and shouting from the touch line. And she was far cleverer than he’d ever known. She could help him with his homework, and explain a lot of stuff he didn’t understand, like maths.
The next time his dad visited, Charlie had Muffy, a puppy his mum had bought him on condition that they would both take it for walks, and that he would help to look after it.
Charlie gave his dad a hug, but didn’t start crying, or ask him to come back to live at home, like he usually did.
“You okay, Son?” his dad asked him as they strolled around the back garden and Charlie threw a ball for Muffy to chase after.
“Yeah, Dad. Mum and I do lots of fun stuff together. We’re going to Disneyland in Paris, soon.”
“That sounds great. Do you want to go for a burger or something?”
“No thanks, Dad. I don’t want to go anywhere. I’d rather stay here with mum and Muff, if you don’t mind.”
Three years sped by, and Charlie had sorted out how he felt about his mum and dad not being together. He still loved his dad a lot, but had got used to him not being around. They sent each other emails, and sometimes talked on the phone. And once in a while his dad would visit, and bring him a new game for his PlayStation. Everything was somehow all right, but in a different way to how it used to be. But his mum was his hero. She had made them both happy again. He remembered that real weird night when he’d been very sad and very scared. He began to laugh, and Muffy barked and cocked his head to look up at him as though he was daft.
“I know now that there are no such things as wardrobe monsters, Muff,” he said to the attentive dog. “But you should’ve seen mum that night, nailing planks across the door, and then making us bacon and eggs at two in the morning. She is totally wicked.”