It's finally dark outside, the family is beginning to settle down and head off to bed. He lays her in bed the same as he's done every night for the past few weeks. He pulls the comforter back and lovingly places her under it. He wraps it tight around her and kisses her on the forehead.
"Goodnight, my sweet princess."
He calls her his princess because she refuses to wear anything but her costume ball gown to bed.
"Please check for the monster, daddy. He's been really mean to me the past few nights. I don't like being scared anymore."
"Allie, you've been doing this for 3 weeks now. You're going on 9 years old. It's time to confront your monsters and see they aren't real."
Her father climbs onto one knee and peers underneath the bed at me. I peer down behind his eyes and into his soul, its so bright that I have to retreat back into the mattress where I hide during the day.
As usual, he doesn't see me. He stands back up and says,
"Baby girl, there's nobody down there."
"Yes there is! He's big and mean and he touches my hand when I fall asleep. Its scary!"
"It's your imagination getting the best of you. Get some rest, I'll see you tomorrow morning. Goodnight and I love you, princess."
The door clicks closed and that's my queue. I contort my body out from the mattress and expanding myself to the size of the space under the bed and begin my evening as the darkness under her bed. I see some small bouncy brown curls dangling off the edge of the bed, then slowly a set of baby blue eyes appear. I just stare menacingly back into her eyes and smile. This usually scares her enough for the night but tonight was different.
"Why do you do that?" She says with only her eyes peeking under the bed.
"I know you're down there, can you please just answer me?"
Its a rare occurrence for a target to engage in conversation with me.
"D-do what, exactly?"
"Why do you always try to scare me. Daddy says you're not real and I'm almost 9 now, so I can't be afraid of you anymore."
She climbed off the bed quietly and was now sitting cross legged on the floor in front of me.
"Well, uh- you see-- um... The reason I scare you is--... Honestly, Lia, I don't know what my purpose is for scaring you"
"Are you real?"
She started to reach out to touch me. I recoiled back to the corner near the wall.
"W-what?" I snarled back, "Of course I'm real!"
"Well, Daddy says you're not. I just wanted to make sure myself."
"Don't come any closer, Lia. I will eat you!"
It was an open ended threat. I don't eat humans.
"No you wont." She said.
She laid flat on her stomach and reached as far as she could under the bed. I immediately deflate myself back to my normal size and sink back as far from her as I could.
She pulled her hand back and sat back up.
"If you're not going to prove you're real, I'll just go back to bed." she threatened. "I'm not afraid of you anymore so there's no sense in being here unless you want to be my friend."
My life for the past 200 years has been scaring children. In one second this little girl has made me question my entire existence.
"All I've ever known is scaring children. I bring them the fear I experienced when I was a child. I was always afraid, always angry and I hated that after I... left... nobody even remembered me."
"Are you a ghost?" the little voice asked.
"I'm a spirit." I replied, weakly. "I passed sad, cold and alone. I was made fun of by all the other kids for being different. I ran away from my town and ended up lost in the woods that used to be this city. When I came back as an apparition I made it my sole purpose to scare all the children with happy lives."
"What was your name?" She said with kindness behind her eyes.
"I-I don- I don't remember anymore..."
After all these years I let my blind rage take over. I couldn't remember anything specific about my life. I could only remember the pain and being alone in the woods. My whole memory was only of me exacting my "revenge" on these children.
"I think you do remember. Sometimes when I can't remember something my mommy has me sit down and really think hard about it. If you come out here we can do it together. I can help you." She explained.
"If I come out, you'll be afraid of me. I'm a monster!" I cried
"No you're not. You're just a sad little boy who needs a friend and I want to be your friend." she said, convincingly.
"Ok, I'm coming out. Please don't be afraid."
I crawled myself out from the corner and out from under the bed.
"YOU'RE NOT SCARY AT ALL!" she said, much louder than she should have. "You're just a normal little boy in weird old pajamas." she giggled.
I looked down at my hands. Where my claws used to be were just small human hands. I had changed back into the boy I used to be.
"You let your sadness and rage turn you into something you're not. I like this version of you best. Would you like to use my chair to think?" she pointed across the room at a small white wooden chair. "It's a lot more comfy than it looks, I promise!"
"O-Ok" I said hesitantly. "I've never had a friend before. What am I supposed to do?"
"Well, I usually just think really really hard and it comes to me." she said with confidence
While sitting in the chair I thought back to my old life. First about how I had passed. It was cold, much colder than normal. the walls were wet and covered in some kind of vines. I remember my legs hurt very badly.
"I fell. I fell into a hole in the ground and nobody could find me." I said.
"What happened before that?" She urged me to continue.
I thought harder.
"I remember running from the village. The kids were being mean to me because my father had left to fight for the minutemen and never came home" I explained. "They would always say 'Adam's got not daddy!' over and over again."
"So your name is Adam?" she said.
"Oh-oh yes! My name is Adam!" I remembered now!
She closed her eyes for a second, yawned and stretched her arms out. Then she placed them at her side and looked at me seriously.
"Adam, you've spent so much time here scaring kids because your daddy left you. Don't you think that since you're both spirits now that you'd be able to see him again and be a happy family?" Her eyes were heavy and I could tell she was sleepy now.
"I've never thought that way before Lia. I need to see him. Thank you so much for helping me remember who I am. I've always wanted a friend like you." I thanked her.
"Adam, go see your daddy. I'll always be your friend" she smiled.
She stood up sleepily and climbed back into bed. I tucked her in and she drifted off to sleep.
"Thank you for setting me free." I whispered "It's time for me to go home."
And just like that. A monster made a friend.