Midnight Shadow Monster!

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To be honest, it was a feeling — a presence in the darkness of our bedroom, that awoke me around midnight. 

Suddenly the dream of my beach vacation was chased from my mind as I opened my eyes trying to see anything in the blackness. Slowly, my gaze fixed on a small area of the bedroom that was darker that all the rest, an area next to my bedside.

Now fully awake, I thrashed both arms out in a defensive move (might have said a bad word), and then quickly scooted away from the edge and the menacing, black, formless shadow.

Undeterred by my thrashing of the covers or my utterance of not one but two bad words, the dark figure moved right to the bedside. Knowing my life was about to end, I elbowed The Wife for help. (Besides, it’s in our vows: In sickness and health, to have and to hold, and to protect from bedside shadow monsters.)

What happened next surprised even me, for this wasn’t just any ordinary night. Outside a storm was raging, a storm that had obviously unleashed the shadow monster, causing it to enter our bedroom and disrupt my time at the beach.

The high winds of the approaching cold front which had blown cars off the road during the day only accelerated at nightfall. By 10 p.m., winds reached 45 mph and started to howl. Around 11 p.m. the gusts had gotten so bad, low hanging branches started scratching against windowpanes as if old, bent fingers were raking across a school blackboard.

At midnight, there was a flash, a crack of thunder, then a boom that shook the house! Something large had hit the side of the house right outside the bedroom where our two granddaughters were now huddled together under their covers. (In the morning, the girls professed a monster had made the noise while trying to bust through the outside wall.)

The winter storm had wakened them an hour earlier, but they were too afraid to make the perilous journey all the way across the dark house to our bedroom. The boom outside had changed all that, and now the darkened figure standing next to our bed said in a shaky voice, “I miss my mommy.”

Another flash of lightning illuminated the owner of that voice for a moment — our wide-eyed redhead.

Sweet Caroline stood bedside clutching a stuffed owl in one arm and a blanket wrapped around her with the other. Mom is a flight nurse on a helicopter, so Gigi and Big Papa were taking care of the girls.

After a drink of water, I walked Sweet Caroline back to her bedroom, tucked her into bed, gave her a kiss and whispered, “Mom will be here when you wake up.”

Feeling my way back to our bedroom in the dark, I slid back into bed, foolishly thinking I could sleep the rest of the night. The storm continued to rage outside, the high winds never stopped, but somehow, I managed to drift back to sleep and to the beach.

Less than an hour later, Sweet Caroline returned. This time with her older sister, Little One, and both stood next to Gigi’s bedside. They shook her awake.

“Gigi, we miss Mommy.” After another hour, we finally got the girls back to bed as the storm started to subside. The Wife and I decided we’d stay up just in case we got another visitor or two.

The girls came in around 6 a.m. laughing and wide awake. It seems they’d never gone back to sleep, choosing instead to stay up reading books with their flashlights under the covers together.

They remarked that we looked tired. We grown-ups were not tired; we were exhausted. Staying up all night as a kid is much easier than doing it as an adult.

Mom soon came to pick up her girls and was looking frazzled too, after being up all-night flying. During the day the social media stories were the same, children frightened and up all night because of the storm. And parents awakened by midnight shadow monsters.

It was the same thing we had done as kids when bad storms raged, except my parents didn’t have visits from two shadow monsters, they had visits from us five. Now I know why they looked so tired the next morning whenever there was bad weather.

Guess kids really haven’t changed all that much from when we were growing up on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo. A street, whenever there was a severe storm, full of little shadow monsters standing at parents’ bedsides.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]