The Bogey Man

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Flash

Written for the Aphelion-webzine July 2012 challenge, to tell a story with the inspiration of “something under the bed”.

—–

It has many names. In India they call it Goggayya, in Africa it is called Dongola Miso, in the cold north it’s called the Gryla. Where English is spoken it’s often called the Bagman or Boogerman, but most commonly it is simply the Bogeyman. Parents invoke it to keep unruly children quiet in their beds. Frightened kids will lie petrified, scared that a clawed hand will grab them by a vulnerable ankle and drag them, kicking and screaming, into the unfathomable darkness beneath their beds.

Like most things of myth and legend, there is a grain of truth. The Bogeyman is real but It’s a thing of waveform, not matter. No sub-atomic particles here, no substance that can be examined under a microscope. It is, quite literally, the stuff of shadows. And, as you might expect, it hates the light; cruel photons that interrupt its pattern, that dissolve its essence. And yes, like legend, it steals children, when it can.

Jenny is seven. Jenny knows the Bogeyman is real. She knows it lives under her bed and it wants to get her. She’s heard it whispering and scratching under her bed at night. Unlike millions of other children around the world, in this case, Jenny is right.

Abigail is seventeen. She’s a pretty girl, petite and blonde. She’s used to getting her own way with a coquettish smile and dimples. It works on almost everyone. Everyone except the brats she has to babysit. Unlike Jenny, she doesn’t believe the Bogeyman is real, but she knows the power of the Bogeyman, oh yes. With graphic details of its torments, she rules those young, impressionable minds unlucky enough to end up in her care. She rules them with an iron fist of fear.

“Will you read me a story?”

Abigail scowls. “No.”

She stands in Jenny’s bedroom doorway, her hand on the lightswitch. Jenny sits bolt upright in her bed, the pink, My Little Pony, bed covers bunched around her and a scruffy toy rabbit, also pink, clutched in her arms..

“Can I have a drink of water?”

“No.”

“But I’m thirsty.” Jenny doesn’t whine. Her voice is steady, reasonable. She knows she has to be credible. To whine or show fear at bedtime wins her nothing from her parents, she expects the same of her babysitter.

“No.” Abigail repeats.

“Can you leave the door open?”

Abigail sighs with exaggerated exasperation, “No. The TV noise will keep you awake.”

“Can you leave the light on?”

“No.”

“I mean, my night light.”

Abigail smiles, the dimples come out.

“You’re not afraid of the dark are you?”

Jenny nods her head, uncertain. She’s still trusting enough of adults to try the truth sometimes.

“A big girl like you?” Abigail’s smile deepens but never reaches her eyes. Jenny realises she’s made a tactical error. She says nothing now, pinned by Abigail’s knowing look.

“Is it… the Bogeyman?” The theatrical pause and astonished reaction from Jenny almost make Abigail laugh out loud.

“You know about the Bogeyman?” Jenny asks.

“The one under your bed?”

Jenny nods, solemn, face drawn, she squeezes her toy rabbit closer.

“Want me to check if it’s there?” This is the part Abigail really enjoys. The pantomime of seeking out the monster, of pretending to get caught, of struggling and escaping, of coming within an inch of a horrible death. If she plays it right, Abigail knows she can leave a child in terrified, bed-wetting fear, silent and unmoving for the rest of the evening. But Jenny is shaking her head, very emphatically, no.

“I don’t want it to get you,” Jenny says.

Abigail moves to the bed, gets down on her knees beside it. “It only eats little kids. I’m too big,” she says. Jenny is trembling, Abigail can feel it through the bed frame and is delighted.

“Don’t. Please don’t,” Jenny begs.

Ignoring her, Abigail crouches down onto the soft, beige carpet and puts her head and shoulder under the bed. Out of the corner of her eye she sees movement in the deep shadows. Startled, she cries out, bangs her head.

“Abigail!” Jenny’s scream is full of desperation and fear.

Abigail looks again; A dust bunny, disturbed by the movement of air, settles. Abigail grins with chagrin and then anticipation of what comes next.

“Oh, my God!” Abigail screams in mock terror. “It’s here, it’s got me!”

Jenny’s answering shriek is piercing and loud. It makes Abigail grin even more. That’s when the light bulb blows with a pop. It’s chance, no supernatural intervention required, but it’s what the Bogeyman has been waiting and waiting for.

Under the bed, it’s pitch black now. The Bogeyman rises through the darkness to strike and fast, because as fast as light is, the Bogeyman is faster. Windows to the soul, that’s what they say about the eyes. For the Bogeyman it’s true. Photoreceptor cells are evolved to sense light but they are also a gateway for the shadow creature. It pours its essence into Abigail’s eyes, along her optic nerves and into her mind. Neurons stutter, misfire under malignant attack, and Abigail thrashes, banging her shoulders and head repeatedly against the underside of the bed. Jenny sobs, her worst fears coming true, and tries to avoid the rocking mattress from throwing her to the floor.

Abigail’s young soul is no match for this ancient phantasm. She is quickly subdued, destroyed, dispatched. This isn’t the Bogeyman’s first, it knows how to control its host’s vacated shell. In the dark, dark bedroom the thing that wears Abigail’s body rises unsteadily to its feet. Jenny lies shaking on her bed, unable to stop the whimpers that escape her tightly pressed lips, but the Bogeyman pays her no attention as it lurches from the room.

The night is young and so is its stolen body. The Bogeyman has much mischief it wants to try before the dawn.

The End

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Comments
  1. Michell says:

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    • Thank you, strange person/spambot.

      I have a theory that spambots are emerging as the first machine intelligence, slowly fumbling their way to consciousness. The future isn’t Skynet wiping out humanity in a nuclear holocaust, it’s spambots jamming worldwide communications networks with Viagra adverts.

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