Authors note: I started this with no clear idea of where I was going and found it nearly impossible to write. I’ve only just started trying to learn to write fiction and I was following the Niel Gaiman masterclass along with suggested reading. But the lockdown gave way to work and trying to save my business. The story of a boy meeting his house monsters seemed such a simple story but quickly became so hard and unwieldy that I’ve kind of written the opening chapter to something completely unexpected. Maybe I’ll return to Dean one day. Either way, this has taught me a lot about what not to do when writing. Which is good as well. Basically don’t expect much from this one. I just put it up here to show I’m doing something.
The noise just wouldn’t stop. For the first few weeks, they had been patient enough, but over time the noise had just gotten steadily louder, more strident and more obnoxious until after 30 days had passed. The patience of the youngest of them finally snapped.
“This,” he lamented, “is simply unacceptable!”
“Kraig, it’s not even summer! They aren’t meant to be here during the longer nights, do they even know the shifts we pull?!”
“Dennis,” Kraig sighed, “we’ve talked about this, they don’t even know we exist… That’s kind of the point.”
“Well it’s just rude,” Dennis folded his arms in a sulk, “should let the Woodies in one night just to show em’ how lucky they are.”
“Do you ‘really’ want one of ‘them’ inside the threshold?”
“Maybe only a small one..”
“Fine. F-i-n-e, so what do we do? Any bright ideas? It’s nearly noon and I haven’t slept a wink. Did you know they are currently playing Cowboys & Indians, one of them hid next to me under the bed!” Dennis’s voice ended in a bit of a squeak.
“That must be very tough..”
“Under the bed! Kraig, where I was sleeping!”
An uncomfortable silence had just settled on the two when it was savagely broken by the warbling cry of a child swinging a plastic tomahawk and chasing another larger child wearing a stetson. The whirlwind of tiny forms flew through and around the speakers, as the children jumped from sofa to arm chair-throwing themselves under the dining room table and throwing various epitaphs at each other. To add to the din throughout the incursion, Barnabus, the German Shepherd, gamely kept pace barking overexcited encouragement to the tempest that was the “boys”.
Finally, after much yelling the Stetson-wearing cowboy Ben, decided that he was not in fact “dead” and was not going to play any more. With which he marched out the room with a horrified and apologising Dean chasing after him promising he would let him come back to life but he had to at least lose a limb. Barnabus made to follow them but paused at the door and glanced back
“Dennis,” he huffed cheerily, “Kraig… “ he said with less enthusiasm
“Barnabus” the two chorused back.
“Sorry about all the noise lads, this lockdown has got them going crazy.”
Kraig cleared his throats gently, “Any uh… News on that front?”
Barabus flopped his ears back and forth.
“Nothing concrete, maybe late June, or July?”
The tiniest wail could be heard from Dennis as the sound of smashing glass drifted to them from somewhere down the hall and Barnabus’s tail drooped in response,
“Well duty calls!” he barked, “Good luck tonight Lads!” and with that Barnabus barrelled off after the children, barking manically, leaving a crystal delicate silence between the speakers.
Dennis began to make little weeping, snuffling noises from his principal mouths.
“Okay,” Kraig said slowly, “ Yeah, maybe we need to do something.”
“ .. Maybe,”
“No. No “woodies” in the building, you can forget about it, Nah, there’s only one way, we’re gonna sort all this out…”
“Well, murder seems a little extreme tho…’”
“No you moron, we’re not murdering the wards; Nah, we’re going to av’ to monster-up, pierce the veil and talk to ‘em!”
“Oh.. “ Dennis dragged out the word carefully “Shit.”
“Yeah,” Kraig sighed “, this is gonna suck.”
It was late in the evening and the sun was low and bloated red on the horizon when Dean finally stomped into the bedroom he shared with his idiot, unfair brother. The X-box had been taken over and Ben was too far into his game to allow Dean to mess it all up. The final argument has sent Dean off to find refuge in their room biting back hot tears that certainly were NOT due to the parting shots Ben made. Also, he wanted to read, not play that dumb game anyhow.
Dean made straight for his bed and reached out for his copy of the Famous 5, not even looking at the customary spot next to his pillow where such things were always carefully placed by Mum. Confusion hit when his hand struck bed covers and sheet. Squinting in the twilight he stared dumbly as the empty spot patting his hand around as if the book would pop back into existence, eyes darting around frantically he finally noticed it peeking out from just under the bed, frowning he reached down to scoop it off the floor and then froze solid, while his fingers were still inches above the cover, he watched it smoothly and silently slide out of view. Slipping into the shadows under the bed frame.
Pulled, it had been pulled beneath the bed! Dean leapt onto the mattress making sure his ankles were far from the black slot of space where his book had been taken. He panted, mouth dry staring at the edge of the bed. He tried to squeak out a cry for help but his body betrayed him and all that came out was a high pitched squeak of panic. There was something under his bed. Just as he came to this conclusion the last lingering rays of sun faded and the room was left in shadows.
“I told you this was a terrible plan.”
Dean paused on the edge of screaming. Had he just heard…?
“Well excuuuuse me for not being an exact expert on this”
“Look we just need something of his to form a connection right?”
“Yes, and that’s why we have the book!”
“So, wait, is that it?”
“Well, it’s the famous 5, I’ve been reading it over his shoulder I mean, I prefer Tolstoy personally, but…”
“No, I mean, that’s all we need? No spell, no candles or incantations?”
“Right, just a thing in hand.”
“… so… It’s in your hand Kraig.”
“Yeah, and now… Now we.. oh.”
Dean had moved past terrified at this point, as curiosity had completely overloaded any built-in instinct to be afraid of the things under the bed. He now lay flat out on the bed craning his head over the side of the mattress to try and listen. He heard a deep and long sigh, a lot like his dad had made when he’d heard about the broken vase. But this sounded… different more like a crowd of people sighing at once?
Dean didn’t respond, his heart was pounding like a drum. Another voice seemed to cut in.
“Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3, can you hear us?”
“Shut up! Dennis.”
Dean bit his fist in incredulity, he hadn’t meant to speak at all, it had just sort of popped out. He was about to leap off the bed to the safety of the hall when he heard the voice again.
“Ahem, Dean?” the voice sounded deep, gravely, like two large rocks grinding around
Dean didn’t want to reply his fist between his teeth was meant to stop it but still, words poured forth.
“Yeff, y cun ea u?”
“Did you catch that?” a stage whisper filtered across.
“Dennis, I swear to all the gods and the spirit of the house if you speak one more time, I’m gonna’”
“I can hear you!”
Dean squeaked and stared at his traitorous hand which had unplugged his mouth without his permission. He was just preparing to replace the plug when he heard the gentle cough.
“Dean? I know this must be strange for you…”
“Strange? There are voices under his bed Kraig, I’d be shitting bricks if I were,”
“Mhm,” … “shutting up.”
“Who,” Dean’s voice quivered more than normal “who are you?”
There was a whispered debate that Dean couldn’t make out. Followed by a throat clearing.
“We,” Said the first voice, trying to inject some real majesty into his words ”are your guardian angels Dean.”
“.. and your names are Dennis and Craig?”
This pause continued for a considerable time before a long-drawn-out and tentative affirmative came back from the two voices.
Dean thought this through. He wasn’t a baby anymore, but he also wasn’t completely sure what guardian angels were meant to be, he was pretty sure they had grander names than Dennis, and he was also almost certain that they came through windows and didn’t steal books beneath beds.
“I don’t believe you.”
Dean tried to sound firm like his dad when ‘laying down the law’, but his voice sounded a lot more like a squeaky than he liked. He heard some desperate whispering moving around under the bed. Finally, it seemed to settle up under the bottom half. So he scuttled over and hung his body over the footboard craning to listen.
“… what if we offer him something shiny and interesting?”
“We have that Viking axe just lying around, he’d LOVE it.”
“We aren’t giving Dean an axe.”
“Well we’ve got to do something, they’re going to start coming out of the forest soon and we can’t hang around here, we need to man the defences.”
“… Fine, just leave the book here and we’ll try again tomorrow night.”
“We, err… Should we say something though?”
“Dennis, you say something, I am leaving, and “I” will sort this out tomorrow.”
There was the sound of large crunching footfalls moving off into the distance, then a kind of long whistling rustling sounds that Dean realised what Dennis sighing.
“Dennis?” Dean asked meekly.
“Sorry, did I scare you.”
“Nnnnhh… House gods do NOT get scared Dean!”
“Sorry, you just sounded like Jenny at school when she saw that spider.”
“I was startled, Dean… Startled, not scared!”
“Oh, and what’s a house god? Why did you lie about being angels.”
Another long sigh,
“We’ve got no time tonight, Dean. Look, we’re really busy, we’re busy every night, and we’re just looking for you and Ben too, you know, keep it down during the day.”
“Well Ben is an idiot so I’m sure he’ll just do what he wants”
“Dean, we’ll speak tomorrow, I’m leaving your book here near the foot of the bed.”
“Look, we don’t normally do any of this, we’re just…”
Then Dean heard it, a distant bell, the clang of a deep giant chime like that time he’d been in London and heard Big Ben ring. He heard a curse from under the bed.
“Dean, we’ll speak tomorrow,” an urgent serious quality filled the voice, “I’ve got to man my post.”
Dean heard more crunches, like hundreds of tiny toddler feet stumbling along. The sound conjured up an image of his little sister Imogen, Just like every time she randomly came to him, it left him feeling cold and clammy, The pit of his stomach-churning in time to the clattering of rocks and footfalls beneath his bed. Finally silence thick and deep settled onto Dean’s room. The last rays of twilight just touch the edge of the ceiling.
Dean counted to 10, taking deep breaths like his Dad had told him to do before something seemed scary then heart in mouth he jumped from the bed and rose up facing the black slot beneath his bed in his best ninja pose. He managed to hold the fierce kung-fu stance for about 3 seconds before overbalancing and falling slowly over to his left. After untangling his limbs he jumped back up to a newer, more stable, stance.
Nothing moved, the space beneath the bed remained dark, quiet and empty. After his body started to really protest and he started to hear his own heartbeat Dean finally let out a huge breath that he didn’t even know he was holding. But even then he found he still was panting a bit like he’d been running after Ben for the last 10 minutes. The darkness under the bed remained impossible to pierce even with Dean straining them to the point of bursting. He took 3 slow steps up to the bed and felt a tangy acid taste in his mouth as he forced himself to look under the mattress.
From here, it wasn’t a solid black, he could make out shapes, but he wasn’t able to work out exactly what they were. It wasn’t his box of Lego he was sure, it looked more like, more like leaves or a bush, or brambles like something out in the garden at least. He started to turn, deciding he’d be happy enough watching his brother play Xbox for a while. Not because he was afraid, he just had read enough of his book… His book! He could see it! It was just under the edge of the bed.
Dean shimmied closer, then backed up, then closer, chewing his lip, it had been so quiet for so long. He was sure nothing was around anymore. But it wasn’t just the silence, it was the lack of feeling anyone was there. His body was as sure as he was that the room was empty. Whatever was under the bed had run away. 10 deep breaths, he moved before he thought about it too much.
His hand snapped out impulsively and grabbed the book, then instantly tugged it to his chest to reclaim it, but somewhere along the way, something felt wrong. As his fingers grasped the book back it felt, wrong, like it was glued to the floor. Instead of pulling the book out to his chest, he found himself pulling down towards the book. He noticed with horror that he hadn’t even “grabbed” the book as such, his fingers had sunk into it like it was playdough or thick clay. He watched in growing horror as the book seemed to topple backwards as if down a slope. The weight of it pulled him slowly but surely down.
He managed to let out the start of a wail to his brother before he was sucked under the bed through the cobwebs and branches sliding down the hillside of small rocks head over heels. Bouncing and rolling to a stop in a huge pile of dead leaves.
Silence surrounded Dean, he heard nothing but his heavy breathing, a muffled voice far off seemed to be calling his name, sounding concerned. He sat up wanting to stare angrily at his treacherous book, it was gone, his hand was now coated black with dirt and grime. Getting on his knees Dean stood and for the first time took in his surroundings and froze. The wind gave him goosebumps, the trees surrounded and encased him, the stone hillside ran out in both directions for what seemed like miles. No house, no room, no bed. Dean felt a cold heavy feeling in his stomach as he tried to find something, anything familiar. The muffled voice of Ben slowly faded away leaving only echos. Dean felt the realisation in waves, he was lost in a forest that was under his bed and nobody knew where he was or would believe he could be there.
Dean, took a deep breath and started yelling.