A short story
Pete unlocked the door and swung it wide open. The house he and his wife, Monica, had saved for was finally theirs. Tara ran past her parents and jumped on the couch.
“First one in the new house,” she said. Tara put her feet up making herself comfortable.
“Young lady, you know better than to put your feet on the couch with your shoes on.” Pete said. He and Monica sat down and took in the view from the large bay window. Tara pulled her sneakers off and dropped them on the floor. Monica looked at Tara and rolled her eyes.
“We put a shoe mat out in the kitchen. Go put your sneakers there.” She motioned towards the kitchen with her head. Tara slid off the couch and picked up her shoes.
“Lousy shoe mat,” Tara mumbled under her breath. Being seven was tough. She knew that in a few years, when she reached ten, everything would change, and she’d be old enough to make her own rules. Or so she thought. Tara tossed one sneaker at the mat. It hit the floor and bounced on to the mat. A smile crossed her face. This would be her new game. How far away could she drop her sneaker and have it bounce to the mat. She took a step back and gave the second shoe a gentle throw. That shoe hit toe first and took a bounce landing it next to the closet in the kitchen.
“What are you doing?” Monica yelled from the living room.
“Nothing. Just playing a game.”
“Play quieter.” Pete added.
Tara walked over to pick up her shoe and saw the closet door open a little. She dropped her shoe and ran into the living room.
“Mommy. Daddy. The closet opened all by itself.” She jumped on Pete’s lap and buried her head into his chest. Pete wrapped his arms around her.
“Honey, this is an old house. There’s probably a draft and it pushed the door open.” Tara looked up at her dad and kissed his cheek.
“Okay. Love you.” she said. Tara went back into the kitchen to continue her game. She went to grab her shoe and noticed that both were gone. She walked over to the mat and stepped on it a few times. Then she turned to the closet. The door was shut. She wondered if the draft could close doors too. She reached for the doorknob when her mom interrupted her.
“Tara. We’re going to order pizza. It will be about 20 minutes until dinner.”
“Alright, mommy.” Monica made her way back to the living room and Tara turned back to the closet. Her shoes were sitting on the mat. She picked up the left shoe and saw what looked like a bite mark. She threw the shoe down and ran out of the kitchen. She didn’t know what would try to eat a sneaker and she wasn’t going to stick around and find out.
* * *
Pete tucked Tara into bed. Between moving all the boxes into her room and helping her mom decorate it, Tara was exhausted. Her dad gave her a kiss on her forehead.
“What about the nightlight? Don’t forget to plug it in,” she said.
“I thought we were getting rid of that thing?”
“we could keep it for a little bit. Just for a while.”
“For a week. You stopped using it in the old house.”
“This is a new house. I’m going to need to get used to it.” Pete thought she sounded a lot older than seven. His little girl was growing up way too fast, but not so fast that she would give up her nightlight.
“Good night, sweetie.”
“Good night, daddy.” Pete walked out and closed the door, leaving it open a little. Tara pulled the covers up to her chin and wiggled herself deeper into her mattress. Tara wasn’t sure if she could get to sleep. The image of her sneaker with the bite mark kept creeping up in her mind. She rolled over on her side pulling the blankets up almost over her head and closed her eyes.
A small squeaking noise caused her to yank the covers completely over her head. She hoped that if there was something in her room, it would think she was a pile of blankets. There were more noises. It sounded like feet shuffling around. Tara peeked out from under the covers. In her room there was what looked like a little blue teddy bear. It opened the bottom drawer of her dresser and was pulling clothes out and throwing them on the floor. She pulled the blankets back over her and held her breath. She didn’t want to let it know she was there.
Without warning, the blue bear pulled the covers off Tara. She screamed and started kicking at it.
“Please stop,” it said. “I need your help.” Tara kept kicking and yelled for her parents.
“Tara,” she heard her mom yell back, “Go to sleep.”
“But there’s a monster in my room.” She grabbed the blankets and pulled them up over her as she backed into the corner. The bear looked at the closet and then back at Tara.
“There is no such thing as monsters. We talked about this,” her dad replied.
“Please.” she cried. Terror filled her voice. Pete got up and went to her room. When he opened the door, he saw the blue bear drop the clothes he was going through and run for the closet.
“What the…” he exclaimed as he ran for the closet door. He opened it and it was empty. He sat down on Tara’s bed and she wrapped her arms around him.
“You saw it?”
“I saw something,” he said, “but I don’t know what it was.” Pete picked up his daughter and took her to his room. He and Monica got dressed and the three of them left the house.
* * *
The moving van backed into the driveway early the next morning. Pete and Monica moved boxes while the movers grappled with the furniture. The neighbors across the street sat on their porch drinking coffee and watched the action.
“They didn’t last long,” the man said taking a sip from his mug.
“Nope,” his wife said. “Not even a whole 24 hours.”
“You think the bear showed up?” His wife nodded as she drank some of her coffee.
“Of course. Why else would they take off so fast?” The man took another sip and put his cup down. He broke off a piece of his muffin and tossed it towards the corner of the porch. A furry green hand reached out and grabbed it.
“Not everyone can handle this neighborhood. It takes a special kind of person.” The man got up with his coffee cup and went back into the house while the woman stayed on the porch. “You think they would have seen the signs.” The woman looked up at the street signs that were at the corner of their property, Elm and Sesame.