Chapter I : the first (of many) monsters inside this book.
October 30th, 1995
The new carpet felt crunchy on three-year-old Layla McGraw’s tiny bare feet.
A faint scent of fresh paint on the hallway wall she hugged kept her somewhat present as she slowly crept toward her brother's room.
The worst thing she could do was let herself believe she wasn’t home. Her path to safety was a long loft style hallway that overlooked the living room.
Flashes of bright light came in chaotic intervals from several skylights along its high sloped ceiling. Each time Layla would stop and look back toward her own room, and each time she would see the shadows. Then the booms would come and she could start moving again.
It was an unusually rainy night in Hollywood California and Layla was trying to do as she had done many nights before, sneak into her five year old brother Coby’s room. Especially since the shadow monsters came.
Most of the time she would get caught by Coby who was often under his blanket with a flashlight reading classic books. His reading level was well beyond his years and the common beginner ones his peers were into were no longer a sufficient challenge to him.
An I.Q. test his parents had done on him a year before categorized him as “Immeasurable by any known standards.”
Tonight, though, the storm was calming enough that he laid down early to sleep.
Again, another flash of the lightning lit up the dark house. Layla’s long black hair, that her daddy had tied back with his braided leather wristband whipped around as she looked back again. It matched her dark brown eyes which glowed like new copper pennies with each strike.
Again, the shadows grew larger, and now she could hear them which she had never been able to do before. They breathed, or sniffed. She wasn't sure which but this was too much to bear and Layla turned and ran as fast as she could toward Coby’s room. The door was closed causing her to look back to see if the monsters were following her.
Suddenly the sky outside let loose a series of lighting bolts that illuminated the hallway like a strobe light. It lasted several seconds and Layla froze in terror as several shadow monsters came stretching from her room along the wall, floor and ceiling closing in on her with each rapid burst of light.
It was like a stop motion series of two-dimensional drawings being flipped through a three-dimensional world, and it briefly hypnotized Layla.
They were like black elongating humanoid figures, with white eyes and their arms grew longer as they reached for her. Past her parent's bedroom, across her mommies paintings of each family member. They were inches away when the light show stopped and so did the assault.
Layla remained unable to move and could feel the shadows icy breath in the dark. It was so cold it hurt her face and seemed to steal the air from around her. Another flash of lightning came and she now saw them on every surface around her. So close she could see every detail as they morphed and changed their shape with each gleam from above. Spiders, rats, dragons. Whatever Layla thought of as scary they became shadows of, but never touched her.
Finally, something else caught her attention. Behind the monsters, standing just outside her parent's door was a man. She could only see his figure, but he wore a wide-brimmed hat. He stood there looking at her for two flashes before he was gone and the bedroom door was now open. Blue light from inside flooded the hallway and the shadows began to withdrawal and Layla felt released. She didn’t wait to see what was next and opened her brother's door.
Once inside she ran around the side of the bed and climbed in with her brother, pulled the covers over her head and closed her eyes tight.
After a few moments, Layla pulled the blanket down just low enough to where she could see the end of the bed. When she was sure there was nothing there she laid her head down and stared at her sleeping brother. She then reached out and put her hand on his arm which made her feel even safer.
Another flash and boom.
Her eyes began to feel heavy and she started to drift off to sleep. Suddenly she was jarred back wide awake by something pulling at the foot of the bed. Again her heart began to race, but she had to look. She gathered the courage to lift her head again only to witness reaching over the end of the bed a long fingered hand followed by another.
Layla inhaled deeply wanting to scream but nothing would come out. The skinny arms attached to the hands kept pulling a yet unseen body onto the bed when another flash of light showed her whatever it was had lost it’s head. Just a severed neck and body climbing at them.
Finally, she was able to scream louder than she ever had ever before which bolted Coby wide awake, causing him to begin screaming as well. He reached over, turned on his flashlight, pointing it to the end of the bed and the creature vanished.
"Peanut! Peanut! Stop screaming.” He yelled at her, grabbing her shoulders and turning her to him. She stopped and looked at him. Her eyes were tearing, and her skin was as white as his sheets.
“What’s wrong with you? Why are you screaming?”
“Bubba, da monsters.” She replied, lips quivering.
Coby rolled his eyes. “There’s no monsters here Peanut. Your just dreaming again.”
"No no Bubba. Dems weao.” She replied hugging him.
He hugged her back and giggled for her. “Besides you know just like in the book that monsters aren’t mean and scary anyway. Here I’ll show you again.”
Coby reached over and picked up Layla’s favorite book. It was a children’s story called “The Monster Inside This Book. about a giant blue fuzzy puppet like figure called George. The story had George, along with Mrs. Goodpickle and other colorful characters, teaching the reader that monsters can friendly and only wanted to show us how to share and be nice to each other.
Layla finally calmed down and listened to her brother read from the book. His voice began to lull her back to sleep but Coby decided to finish it anyway. He continued to read aloud but when he got to the end where it says, “And remember, the only bad monster is the one we let out of ourselves,” a loud bang like a slamming door came from the hallway and they both jumped.
Layla grabbed Coby's arm and said. “See Bubba. Monsters.”
“It’s just daddy Layla, stay here.” He slid out of bed and began to walk slowly to the doorway. He looked down the hall and saw the blue glow coming from under his parent's door. He started down the hallway taking each step carefully until he was just outside the door. He reached up, grabbed the doorknob and slowly turned it pushing it open. The glow he saw from under the door was the television that his dad had left on and lay down, but his eyes were open and looking right at him. He was naked and uncovered.
“Dad?” Coby finally said, but his father didn't answer. “Dad?” He said again, this time walking closer to him. His father's skin was pale like Layla’s was, but the look on his face frightened Coby. He could see a woman lying on the other side of him, equally undressed, but it wasn’t his mom. As he looked at his father's arm, he could see a needle sticking out of it. There was also something tied tight around his elbow. He reached out to touch him and his flesh was clammy and cold. Coby began to back away when Layla’s voice came from behind him.
“Bubba?” Her little voice peeped.
“Go back to bed Peanut. Right now.” Coby ordered. But Layla didn't obey.
“Bubba, wass wong wiff Daddy?”
Suddenly another voice came from somewhere Coby couldn't identify
“Be quiet.” The voice said. Coby looked around but couldn't see anything.
“Go back to bed you little shits.” It said.
Coby turned and grabbed Layla by the hand and ran quickly with her out of the room, shutting the door behind him. He kept moving faster as they got back to his room. The whole while Layla kept asking,
“Bubba, wass wong wiff Daddy?”
He slammed shut his door and they climbed back into the bed and Coby grabbed his flashlight and Layla’s storybook pulled the blankets back over their heads and began to read. They could hear the floor creak like someone or something was coming down the hallway toward them. Then a pounding came at his door.
Bang, bang, bang. They jumped and Layla squealed.
Over and over, the loud banging came at the door. Whatever it was, knocked so hard, toys and books jumped off shelves. Pictures hanging on the walls fell off their nails and crashed to the floor scattering shards of glass.
Coby kept reading from the book as Layla cried. Suddenly the door sounded like it was smashed off its hinges. Then just as it seemed it was about to get them, a blinding light shot out of the open book, engulfing them both.