Demonology, Jack Hoye
Isabel always had trouble sleeping, ever since Theodore could remember. She never made it through the night without a nightmare plaguing her unconscious, resulting in her screaming for Mom or walking down to her parents’ room to squeeze in between their two bodies. Frankly, she was getting too old to be sleeping with her parents, but Theodore knew Isabel just wanted to get a good night’s sleep.
But Isabel’s room was not safe. The wind howled through the trees outside her window, but not loud enough to drown out the banshee’s screams. And the old skeleton scratched his spidery fingers against her windowpane, illuminated by the moon and streetlamps. They could deal with her outdoor monsters, though, because what she was really afraid of were the creatures that had already made their way into her room.
There was an eldritch horror living in between the sweaters hanging in her closet. Dad never went far enough back to see them or checked the sleeves. Their tentacles popped the lock on the door every night until it creaked open. Even with her eyes closed extremely tight and the blanket over her head, she could hear their tentacles slithering on the carpet towards her bed. And on the nights she called for Mom, she was too scared to run down the hall, for the ghoul would surely grab her ankle and pull her under.
One night, Mom and Dad were trying to convince Isabel to start sleeping in her own room, no matter what, but she got worked up. Protested. So Theodore promised to watch over her that night to make her feel better. He was usually around and awake anyway. And he’d do anything for his family. But that night turned into two, then three nights. Then a week. Then he stopped counting.
Theodore watched over Isabel while she slept. He knew his job was simple: protect Isabel. From what, he wasn’t sure yet, but Isabel told him to be vigilant and show no mercy. Mom and Dad said he’d keep the monsters out, if there were any. Theodore liked listening to the loud sounds in the quiet night.
The first few weeks were uneventful, and no progress was made, but Theodore figured that was because Isabel wasn’t used to having to sleep in her own bed. Or having someone watch her sleep. When Isabel trembled during her slumber, her eyes moving frantically under her eyelids, Theodore sat on the edge of her bed and waited. When Isabel scurried to her parents’ room, only to be told to turn around and go back to bed, Theodore willingly let himself be dragged there, too, by his hand. Theodore loved her so much. He hoped that when the time came, she would be grateful for his help. He wanted to make a difference.
It was a hot summer night, and Isabel was tossing and turning in her bed. Blankets and top sheets and pillows were strewn across her mattress, intersecting with her prostrate body. The crickets and cicadas orchestrated Isabel’s dance of unconsciously searching for cool spots until her fingers dangled off the edge of the bed. Tonight, Theodore was seated in Isabel’s desk chair.
As quick as popping a balloon, the chirping stopped. What settled in the room instead was a distorted view, like looking through gas ascending from a stove. The air was thick with it. All the hair stood up on Theodore’s body. Ignoring his own discomfort, Theodore looked over at Isabel.
She was fine: still breathing, still asleep, not even a little bit aware of the emaciated fingers inching their way towards her hand. Theodore jumped up from the ground, eyes focused on the creature. “No,” Theodore said, taking a step towards the bed. The hand paused for a moment. “I said, no.” Theodore couldn’t see the being whose arm this belonged to, but he knew it could see him. Without saying a word, the creature’s focus shifted to Theodore. He squared up, lifting his chin to make himself seem taller. The arm unhinged from the bed so that its open palm faced upwards. One by one, the hand curled its fingers inward until only the index was left, pointing straight at Theodore. One, two, three—the hand beckoned Theodore forward. Cautiously, Theodore crept forward, careful to not step on any of the creaky floorboards. With every step, the hand retreated farther back under the bed. “You can’t have her,” Theodore whispered.
“Then I’ll have you,” said a voice, smooth and malevolent, like slipping under the ice. Just as Isabel had always feared, the hand reemerged fast and grabbed his ankle; Theodore didn’t even have time to gasp before he was under the bed. Or, what Theodore assumed was under the bed. It was dark. Empty. But he had room to move and stand, as did the creature in front of him. It was ugly— humanoid, but not quite. All the appendages were there, but its skin was sucked airtight to its insides, whatever that might be. And yet, the skin looked translucent and thin enough to tear, but Theodore didn’t think it would be that easy to do.
“What is this place?” Theodore asked, keeping his eyes trained on the monster.
“This is the void,” it said. “One might call it the shadows. It is the place you cannot see when it is too dark to make out anything. Under your bed, in cupboards, in the pitch-black night. This is where all missing items come to die. It is where you go when you close your eyes.”
The monster smirked. “Me? I have no name.”
“No, what are you? Why are you here?”
“I am the figure you see out of the corner of your eye but is gone when you look. I am what is chasing you up the basement stairs after you turn off the light. I am hiding behind your shower curtain, in the back seat of your car. You cannot see me, but I am always there. Watching. Waiting.”
Theodore clenched and held his ground as No Name began to pace. “You are not welcome here.” No Name barked out a laugh. “I am welcomed nowhere, which is why I am here. In the void.” Its voice echoed, sounding as if Theodore was hearing it underwater. “But it is quite lonely in here, no? And I am quite hungry. Which one are you going to be, Theodore? Friend or food?”
“I don’t think you’re very interested in being friends. With anyone.”
No Name grinned, its mouth stretching far too wide. This smile had more teeth than seemed possible, and they were all needle-sharp. “We all like to play with our meals sometimes.” And with that, No Name lunged at Theodore, who barely dodged it. Theodore should have known this was coming; this was why No Name had urged him here in the first place. They played cat-and mouse for what seemed like hours, and even though No Name was bloodthirsty like a cat, Theodore was a fighter. Mice were born to die, to be eaten, but they didn’t climb into their predator’s mouth—no, mice were swift and elusive. Theodore’s will to live was stronger than No Name’s urge to kill, and he knew in his heart of hearts that his adversary was vermin, not he.
Theodore was able to land some punches on No Name, but No Name’s sharp and spindly nails sank into him more often than he would have liked. Theodore was injured, and it seemed every hit rolled right off No Name’s back. Its gaunt-looking body was stronger than it appeared to be. Anyone else would have shattered all the bones in their hand hitting the creature, but not Theodore.
There was nothing left to do—Theodore ran. He ran to the direction he was pulled into this godforsaken land, hoping there was an opening somewhere in the darkness leading back to Isabel. He could protect her on the outside, maybe get her a nightlight. But the further he ran, the more everything looked exactly the same, like drifting off into the never-ending darkness of space. He had no idea how far he had travelled.
Until he tripped. His foot definitely hit something solid, and then Theodore was pitched forward towards a ground he couldn’t even see. He scrambled to get up, but No Name had caught up to him, sinking its fingers into Theodore’s shoulder to keep him down.
“I haven’t had this much fun in years,” No Name hissed in his ear.
Theodore slammed his head backward, colliding with No Name’s forehead. It had no nose to break, but it let go in surprise. Theodore was able to scramble out of its grasp, only to be pulled back in one more time. They rolled and rolled, each trying to gain the upper hand, but unfortunately, Theodore got sloppy for a moment. This time, Theodore was pinned on his back with No Name’s bony knees digging into his abdomen. Theodore blinked, and its hands were wrapped around his throat, digging in hard. Small crescents cut into the side of his neck where No Name’s nails were. Theodore fought back hard, trying to pry the hands off of him or kick the monster away, to no avail. The edges of his world blended with the darkness of the void, and he felt sad. Sad to have disappointed Isabel. Sad to have disappointed himself. Sad to be just another lost toy in the shuffle of the empty. Had he even made a difference in this life?
Just as Theodore was lowering his arms in defeat, believing No Name’s ravenous smile to be the last thing he’d ever see, he felt something big and solid and sharp. This must be what he had tripped over, Theodore thought. With one last huzzah, Theodore smashed the blunt end of the object against the side of No Name’s face, causing the monster to tumble off of him. As Theodore scrambled up, he looked down at his weapon: a yellow spear, sharpened.
When No Name came to its senses, he charged back at Theodore, but luckily for him, he had evened the playing field. With every swat of its claws, Theodore swung back. He had managed to create three deep gashes across its chest, and now No Name seemed to be weakened.
The combat lasted a while longer. Finally, Theodore was able to get the creature on its back, dark oozing out of its cuts. Theodore dug the heel of his foot into the wounds, making No Name howl in pain, but Theodore didn’t let up. He pressed the tip of his spear against No Name’s neck.
“This house is protected,” Theodore said, catching his breath. “Go elsewhere. Or preferably, leave this world. Forever.”
No Name was motionless, staring up at Theodore with actual uncertainty—he wouldn’t say it looked scared, but it wasn’t confident anymore. For all Theodore knew, No Name was an ancient beast. It had probably been in situations like this before. It probably had to make decisions about which battles to stoke and which to let simmer. No Name lowered its arms.
“You win this time,” No Name said, his eyes half shut. “You were a good rival, Theodore. You’d do well here.”
“I have a family who needs me. Isabel needs me.”
“She’s lucky to have you,” No Name said. Theodore flared his nostrils and tipped his chin up again.
The void started to brighten as morning broke through Isabel’s curtains. No Name hissed, and Theodore could feel its heart speed up under his foot. When it struggled to get free, Theodore let it. It retreated further into the empty, into the recesses where the dawn didn’t touch.
“Until next time,” No Name’s incorporeal voice echoed.
Theodore looked around, and the underside of Isabel’s bed became visible as the light surfaced. Theodore had to get out of here before she woke up. Spear still in hand, he crawled his way back out to the body of Isabel’s bedroom.
Isabel’s mom’s alarm went off, and soon she came to wake her daughter up, as well. “Rise and shine, sweetheart,” Isabel’s mom cooed, stepping over Theodore. “How did you sleep?”
Isabel yawned and propped herself up a bit. Her face lit up. “I slept really good, Mommy.”
“Excellent!” her mom said, clapping her hands together. “See, I told you Teddy was going to protect you no matter what.” She winked at Isabel.
Isabel’s mom reached down to the ground and picked up Theodore and the No. 2 Ticonderoga. After she handed Theodore over to Isabel, she deposited the writing utensil back into Isabel’s pencil case. Isabel hugged the teddy bear to her chest.
“Izzy, what have I said about putting your pencils away? You could step on one and hurt yourself. Breakfast in fifteen.”
Isabel remained in bed for a moment as her mom started to make her way out of the room. Isabel looked down. There was stuffing popping out of the bear’s neck.
“Mommy, come back!” Isabel cried. “Teddy is hurt! Look.” Isabel showed the rip to her mom.
“I’ll stitch him up while you’re at school. Don’t you worry.”
“But how did he get ripped? He wasn’t when I went to bed.”
“He must have ripped when you kicked him off the bed. He just might not have been stitched together strong enough when he was made.”
“Or the monsters got him.”
“Honey.” Isabel’s mom sighed. “There’s no such thing as monsters.”
About the Author
Ella Luzzi · Kutztown University
Ella Luzzi is an aspiring writer and a recent graduate from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. She double-majored in English and Professional Writing and had two minors: Public Relations and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Luzzi’s poetry has previously been published in Shoofly Literary Magazine, Essence Fine Arts and Literary Magazine, and plain china and was a finalist in the 2018 EAPSU Poetry Contest. “Monsters Under Your Bed” first appeared in Shoofly Literary Magazine.
About the Artist
Jack Hoye · University of Central Arkansas
Jack Hoye is a passionate creative from the suburbs of New York City, studying Entertainment & Arts Management at Westphal College of Media Arts & Design of Drexel University. Jack has been published in various editions of Soupstone Literary Magazine and Maya Literary Magazine throughout his secondary and higher education. Original student films of his have also been featured in international film festivals, including The All American High School Film Festival – through which he and his collaborators were nominated for Best Editing at the 2017 Teen Indie Awards. At the moment, Jack continues to study, create, and consume media in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This piece first appeared in Maya Literary Magazine.