I was struggling to come up with something to write today, and I decided to fall back on my Twitter fiction by expanding one of my oldest “nano horror” stories into a flash fiction piece of about 450 words.
The clock on the living room wall strikes 10 PM and I get up from my easy chair to check that my daughter has made herself ready for a final tuck-in and a goodnight kiss. For the past half hour, I have been faintly aware of the sounds of her obedient routine – brushing teeth, putting away toys, and so on. And although she seemed overactive for a while, pacing around her bedroom and seemingly raising her voice from time to time in talking to her dolls, all is quiet now, and I know I will find her waiting patiently beneath the covers.
The room is dark when I open the door and peer inside. The faint light from the hallway spills across her bed and I see her sitting upright, evidently waiting for daddy’s voice to lull her toward sleep. But I notice also that her face wears the expression of a girl who has just woken from a nightmare. I step fully into the room and ask her what is wrong. Her worried eyes flit back and forth for a moment before she fixes her gaze on the adjacent wall and says, “There’s a monster in my closet.”
We haven’t had to deal with these tricks of imagination for a long time, but I’m happy to reassure her in the way I used to when she was barely out of diapers. I smile and step forward, but her body tenses immediately and she gives forth a trembling gasp. “Please check,” she pleads before I can cross in front of the closet door.
“All right, honey,” I say in my softest voice. “Of course.” I take the three steps to the door and then stand before it for a moment of theatricality, to indulge rather than disregard her flights of fancy. I twist the knob and step back to throw open the door, then peer inside and begin to part the hanging clothes.
“You see, honey?” I say, making a point of visibly tracing every inch of the space with my eyes. “There’s nothing here.” But before I can finish speaking, a faint rustling sound rises from the opposite side of the room. And before I can turn my back on the closet, three long, heavy steps stride across the carpet, their sound barely muffled.
I turn my head to find my daughter still sitting in place. She has tears in her eyes. There is a cold, hulking presence behind me. I feel something hard and piercing settle on my shoulder, like the claws of a bird but much larger.
From her bed, my daughter speaks through sobs. “I’m sorry daddy. It made me lie.”