“Night” by Matt Conte
Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.
This week, Matt Conte details one boy’s night full of terrors — and its aftermath.
The lights went out. His parents always turn the light out, even though he asks if they can stay on. The lights went out, and his room transformed. The posters on his walls disappeared underneath a blanket of darkness. The bed gradually seemed further and further from the ground. The lights went out, and the monsters came out to play. There were creepies, there were crawlies, there were squigglies, there were wigglies, there were bed bugs, there were dust bunnies, there were jeepers, and there were creepers. Luckily, the height of his bed provided him with some physical protection, but it couldn’t protect him from his inability to sleep. He peeked over the edge, glimpsing grasping claws and scraggly limbs.
The sinister stench of senescence rose and wriggled its way into his naïvely open nostrils, causing his face to scrunch up in disgust. Disgust was the least of his worried emotions, though, as he tried to comprehend, once again, the idea that under his very bed, of all the beds in the entire world, was the breeding ground for the most savage and slaughterous beings known to mankind—and probably even more than that.
The sound of the rain outside drowned out most of the noise—what he could only imagine were horrible, bone-rattling screeches and deathly, ear drum–exploding howls. Lightning struck outside, and he thought he made eye contact with something—something awful that had eyes that pierced his entire being. He jumped back, making sure none of his limbs were hanging over the edges, and cowered underneath his feeble blankets, staring at the smiling face of Thomas the Tank Engine on his suddenly uncomforting sheets. He tried singing to himself softly. He tried counting sheep, but each time one leaped over the fence, there was a spike-toothed and bloodthirsty creature on the other side, catching the poor sheep in its mouth.
Then—oh no! Not now. This can’t be happening right now—he had to pee. He peeked out once again at the mosh pit of black tails and swiping talons and rumbling stomachs. He was going to make a run for it. He held his breath and counted to three. One . . . Two . . . Three . . . But he was still there, on the edge of his towering bed, legs dangling dangerously close to the chompiness below. What was he to do? There was no point in sacrificing his existence for an empty bladder—after all, tomorrow was Saturday. He swung his legs back up, and as he did, something hooked onto his sock. But it slipped off and he remained two-footed, albeit one-socked. It was a close call. His fragile life had been tossed up to remain midair in between the two binaries of being and not being. That decided it—he would not get out of bed until the monster-searing sun rose from beneath his windowsill. But how long would that be? How long would he have to lie there? Could he hold it? How long had it been since his bedtime? Questions tumbled around his brain like the riotous nightclub of scaries below him.
Jack’s mother got up at eight a.m. Jack had a flag football game at nine, so she went to wake him. She opened the door to his room, tiptoed in, and pulled back the covers.
“Aw, Jack! Did you wet the bed again?”
MATT CONTE is a 23-year-old writer, a substitute teacher, and a Philadelphia Flyers fan born and raised in Brielle, New Jersey. He is a graduate of Stonehill College and The Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater’s sketch program, and he likes you, or would at least give you a shot. In his spare time, he writes about music at unionlane.blogspot.com and can be reached at [email protected].
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Jan 20, 2015
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