The boy tried to lay himself as flat as possible under his favorite Batman blanket. He knew from previous nights that if he did this, the monsters in his room would not get him. Maybe they couldn’t see him. Maybe the blanket, which his mother washed regularly, masked his scent. Maybe monsters could not penetrate cotton. He didn’t know why it worked. He just knew that so long as he remained under the blanket he was safe.
He had tried telling his parents about the monsters. Neither believed him. His mother told him there was no such thing as monsters. His father said he shouldn’t be such a little girl. It hurt when his father said that, but it hurt more when his mother said there were no monsters. That was like calling him a liar.
And he wasn’t a liar. He knew there were monsters. It wasn’t his imagination. He knew the difference between fake and real. Under his blanket, which wasn’t thick, just thick enough to hide him, he could see the shadows moving around the room. They came out of the closet. He heard their grunts, the sick snorts as they drooled overhead, searching for him. Sometimes he felt their breath on his arms as they smelled the blanket.
It was every night now. Every night. As soon as he climbed into bed, covered himself with the Batman blanket, and the lights went off, the monsters moved into the room. They searched, but did not find. He was hidden. He was safe.
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Eventually, like all the rest of the nights, exhaustion overtook him.
In the morning, he woke to the sun, the smell of breakfast in the other room, his Batman blanket kicked to the floor in the night. He inspected the room. All clear. They had retreated again into the closet. How did they hide themselves in there? How come his mother never saw them when she pulled out his church clothes on Sunday? (Which he absolutely refused to do himself.)
He didn’t know the answers to those questions and he largely didn’t care. He was safe for another day. He picked up the blanket and held it to his face. It was his shield and it had gotten him through another night.
“As long as I have you,” he told Batman’s face, “they’ll never get me. Will they?”
He was called to breakfast. He folded the blanket and set it on the bed. Still tired, he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and hurried downstairs.
The Batman blanket burped.
This was the life. Never did it have it so good. This child’s fear was delicious and plentiful, seemingly endless. All it took was projecting a few dark shapes across its underbelly, a few grunts from its fibers, a bit of wet heat at the right times and in the right places, and the child supplied enough fear-sustenance for ten of his kind.
He hoped the boy would never grow up. Or worse, peek from under him to the empty room above. Or worse of all, find the real Batman blanket buried at the bottom of the closet.