The Thing Under The Bed
A Halloween Tale
It was the night before Halloween, and Vince Howe and his wife were settled comfortably on the couch watching Ancient Mysteries, when their six-year-old son trotted into the living room. He ran to the couch and burrowed his way between his parents.
Vince looked down at his son. Andy was pale and his eyes were big and startled-looking.
Vince exchanged questioning looks with Margie, then asked his son: “What’s up, chief?”
Andy gulped audibly. “There’s something under the bed.”
Again Vince and his wife exchanged looks, but this time Margie had a skeptical, almost scoffing look.
“Something under the bed, hunh?” she said.
“Yeah,” Andy said emphatically. “It was a hand. I woke up and I heard a noise under the bed, and I looked down on the side of the bed and there was a hand sticking out.”
“A hand,” Margie said skeptically.
“Yeah,” Andy went on, “it was big and whitish-yellow, all kind of gnarly and bony-looking, and it had long brown fingernails, and they were real sharp, like claws.”
“Then you woke up and ran in here, right?” Margie said.
“No, Mom,” Andy said matter-of-factly. “I woke up before I saw it, not after.”
Vince looked down at his son and smiled, then his smile faded as he remembered….
When he had been a little kid he’d seen something under his bed. And yes, it had been a hand, lying halfway out from under the bed. He remembered running from his room, then going back and peeking in, and the hand was gone. He’d been scared for days afterward and he’d had some bad dreams. But he never saw the hand again, and eventually he forgot about it.
And now…it seemed the hand had returned. But Vince knew it wasn’t a real hand. That wasn’t to say the hand didn’t exist; it did. It existed in the imagination of a little kid. But the hand wasn’t real—it wasn’t physical.
Vince looked at Andy, and a wave of love and understanding washed through him. I know exactly how you feel, he said to himself.
Maybe it wasn’t necessary to do it, but Vince did it anyway. “Come on, chief, we’re going to check it out.”
He got up and walked to Andy’s room with Andy closely following him like a shadow.
He got down on his knees by the bed, raised the covers, and looked underneath. In spite of himself, he felt a sense of—what? Fright? No, that wasn’t exactly it. He knew there was nothing under the bed, but it was dark under there and he couldn’t actually see all the way under the bed.
“Nothing there,” he said.
“I saw it, Dad,” Andy said in a trembling voice.
Vince got up and gently laid a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Sometimes our eyes play tricks on us, chief.”
It wasn’t easy getting Andy back into bed. Vince had to sit on the bed as his son got under the covers, and even then Andy wouldn’t let him leave.
Finally, Andy went to sleep and Vince crept out of the room.
Margie was already asleep when Vince made it to bed. He didn’t think he would be able to go to sleep for a while, but as soon as his head hit the pillow he was out—and dreaming….
Underneath the bed something stirred with a swishing, slithering sound. Then a hand came out from under the bed and clutched the bedspread and pulled itself up.
Just as the hand made it onto the bed, Vince awoke. He was breathing hard and his heart was thumping.
“Whew, what a dream,” he murmured. “A hand—“
And then Andy came bounding into the bedroom and clambered upon the bed and dived under the covers.
“It’s in there,” he said in a wee whispering voice.
Margie stirred, turned over, looked at Andy and mumbled, “Don’t tell me, let me guess. It’s the thing, right? The thing under the bed.” She yawned and said, “We’ll deal with this tomorrow, right now it’s too late to deal with anything. All I’m going to say right now is, it’s not real. There is nothing under your bed. Now, goodnight.”
Andy curled up between his parents and was soon asleep. Margie soon followed. But Vince lay awake for a long time, unknowingly straining his ears, listening for something that he knew wasn’t there, something that wasn’t real….
It was Halloween evening and Vince was alone. It was Margie’s turn this year to take Andy out trick-or-treating and they’d left fifteen minutes before.
Vince checked the bowl of candy by the door and looked out the window. The sun had set and the twilight shadows were creeping in.
He suddenly felt restless. He wandered from room to room and then halted at the doorway to Andy’s room. He looked at the bed. It was made up, and Vince smiled. Andy had begun making up his bed when he was five years old.
He walked into the room, and as he passed by the bed a rush of irrational fear shot through him. He jerked his head down and looked at the side of the bed—down where the covers almost touched the floor. What if a hand came out and grabbed me, he thought. At the same time, he chuckled, realizing at the instant of his fear that it was absurd, impossible, unreal.
He walked out of the room, grinning wryly and wagging his head.
He got a Coke and turned on the TV and watched Tales From The Dark Side. A few kids dressed in Halloween costumes knocked on the door and he gave them candy.
Halfway through The Dark Side he heard a thumping noise, coming from the interior of the house.
He walked into the kitchen and listened.
“Funny,” he murmured.
He finished the Coke and headed for the bathroom. As he passed Andy’s room he heard a thud and a rasping, scraping sound, and he stopped short when he saw that the covers on Andy’s bed were pulled partly off.
He frowned, and then walked straight into Andy’s room.
What’s going on here? he asked himself.
He stood by Andy’s bed, looking down in mystification at the mussed bed covers.
Then he heard a clicking sound coming from under the bed, and then a hand whipped out and grabbed his ankle. It was a big hand, whitish-yellow, gnarly and bony-looking, and its nails were dirty brown, and so long and sharp—like claws.
Vince was pulled down and dragged, and he clawed at the carpet, at the bed, but the hand’s grip was tight and unbreakable. He clawed on down and felt a thick, leathery, scaly wrist and arm. Vince screamed as he was pulled under the bed, and when he saw the dark shape with sharp white teeth as big as piano keys and slanted red eyes, he screamed again. But even as he screeched, and underneath his terror, he was thinking quite reasonably: "I knew it was real--I knew it all the time."