The girl knew it was there. She knew in her bones, even though everyone else dismissed it, told her she had an overactive imagination, that monsters were only pretend.
That was why she always checked the wardrobe, even after her mother had put her head right in, and made sure that the door was really shut.
That was why she took a deep breath and looked under the bed as her father knelt with her, face against the carpet, and shone the torch around before he tucked her in.
That was why she peered behind the curtains and why she pleaded for light; to have the hall light on, the nightlight on, the bedroom door open. They agreed, yet she knew it made little difference in the end.
The shadows were patient, you see. The shadows waited until her parents turned off the hall light and went to bed.
Darkness terrified her but, in fact, the semi darkness was worse. The streetlight outside her window cast a fuggy dimness through the curtains. She would watch the shadows slip across the ceiling and slither down the wall, sharpened by the nightlight, a growing, writhing mass that she thought would swallow her whole. When she closed her eyes against them, she was sure she heard the creak of the wardrobe door and something crossing the room. She lay rigid and still, trying to give no indication that she was there, living, breathing prey, waiting to feel the hot breath of the monster as it snouted around her.
She counted until she could no longer bear it. Then she hid beneath the duvet and told herself stories to fend off the terror.
Every night. For years.
Until she was old enough to convince herself that monsters really didn’t exist. Well, not that kind anyway.
She stopped checking behind the curtains and in the wardrobe. She learned to sleep with the light off.
But she was still scared of shadows. And the ones that had gathered under her bed, well, there were almost enough of them now. In the wardrobe, something was stirring.
Not much longer…