Dr. Frederick von Bedstein squirmed between the storage boxes and a few stray shoes under Emmi’s bed. It was too neat, and she no longer kept fun things under her bed. The only thing the least bit amusing he found was an old bell with bits of string tied to it, and the cat had already informed him that was NOT for him to play with, nor was it Emmi’s to share.
Em’s eyes shot open and she blinked for a moment into the pitch blackness. “What time is it?” she groaned nearly inaudibly and shifted to see the LED display read 12:47 AM. “Oh my God, SERIOUSLY? That STUPID CAT!” Em froze at the sight of a long-since-forgotten tail slithering under the edge of her bed, the only thing she would possibly be able to see in this darkness. “Ugh, now I’m seeing things too!”
Frederick froze as he felt the bed shifting above him. He hadn’t meant to disturb her sleep. He didn’t even know how he would tell her. It had been years since he’d even stopped by – over ten since he officially retired from being her bed monster – and here he was trying to give her a message. He shook his head to clear it. He didn’t know how he’d make her understand, but her daughter’s safety depended on it. He stretched his hands and examined the sharp claws he’d carefully hid from her as she grew up. Reaching one clawed hand out from under her bed, he scratched noisily at the floor beside her bed.
Em could feel the goosebumps rising on her arms. Her logical grown-up mind told her that she was, of course, still imagining things. It had been a rather stressful day. Several people in her department had been laid off today, including Andrew, the guy on the other side of her cubicle wall. He had seemed nice enough, but he was, like all the other men, more interested in Rachel in marketing… Em saw the claws and her rambling mind stopped mid-thought.
Frederick slowly pulled his hand back under her bed. Even if she was all grown up, he didn’t like scaring his girl, but he had to warn her. He took the oath he’d made so many years ago seriously, but some of the younger bed monsters were less concerned with keeping promises and more concerned about getting attention. His Emmi’s little girl was unfortunate enough to be paired with a rebellious young monster that made no qualms about breaking the lesser of the rules in the oath, and now he heard rumors that her monster would even break the most sacred of laws. Frederick wasn’t one to get in the middle of things, but he knew it would hurt his girl if her daughter were injured, and even after all these year’s he couldn’t bear to see her hurt.
That claw was not the cat — real or imagined! Em had a sudden urge to walk the 20 feet down the hall and check on Cassie. She felt suddenly uneasy, with the sudden reappearance of her long-forgotten imaginary best friend, Mumble… Mubboo… what did she call him? He hadn’t had claws though… at least, not that she’d ever seen. What did this “mutant version” of her strange friend from her past mean? Cautiously, she inched her head to the edge of the bed to look down, feeling silly and a bit like her seven-year-old self. Not sure what she was doing, she whispered, “Mum… Mumbly-Boo?”
Frederick flicked his tail out from under her bed. It had been a long time since they’d played these games, but he hoped to catch a glimpse of the delight she always showed when he flicked his tail. Remembering what he came for he let out a low grumble. He hummed a few lines of her mother’s lullaby – the one he used to try to copy, and then in a low growl he changed to a tune he’d heard make her daughter cry when it came on the tv earlier that evening.
Em was filled with a mixture of pleasant nostalgia and irrational fear. She still wasn’t sure if this whole exchange was real or just a nightmare, but there was something strangely familiar in this. As terrified as her friend made her from time to time as a child, she knew he always had a reason. And she’d learned decades ago to trust him implicitly.
Frederick hooked a sharp claw on the edge of her blanket and gave a little tug. He needed her to get up, needed her to realize her daughter was in danger. If he let Cassie’s bed monster inform her of his existence it could be too late. He growled the scary tune a little louder, willing her to go check under her daughters bed, not that she would see anything there….
The blanket fell to the floor, and Em jumped out of the bed, no longer even wondering whether it was only a dream, and barreled down the hall. She flung the door open in time to see Cassie gasping for air, her face a pale bluish-white. Em reached her side as Cassie’s little eyes fluttered open and she coughed. “Mama…” she whimpered. “C-can I sleep with you? ….I don’t want it to come back….” Em brushed her hair back from Cassie’s forehead. “Of course, sweetheart,” she murmured.
Relief flooded Frederick as he watched a small set of bare feet patter into the room next to his grown-up Emmi’s feet. He heard Cassie’s small voice, so much like his little girl’s, asking if it would ever come back, and felt the bed shift above him. He stretched, readjusting himself to get comfortable under the unfamiliar bed, and quickly pulled the tip of his tail back into the dark.
Em glanced over at Cassie and pulled her closer as the little girl’s eyes widened. Cassie had obviously seen the flicking tail too. “It’s ok, sweetie, it’s just Mumbly-Boo. He’ll keep us safe tonight.”