by Wes Jones

Timmy knew he needed some better covers, or the monsters would eat him. The covers he had now were barely good enough to ward off the monsters that currently lived in the closet and under his bed. If any stronger monsters showed up, he was going to be eaten.

He cried to his parents that the monsters were going to eat him, but they just told him not to be frightened, and that monsters didn't exist. Timmy couldn't understand how his parents could say such a thing. Of course there were monsters - and they were going to eat him.

When it became obvious that his parents weren't going to do anything to help, Timmy decided to talk to Aunt Alyanna. She always made him feel better. Maybe she could even help him.

Strictly speaking, Alyanna wasn't really his aunt. She had moved in next door a few months ago, and Timmy liked to think of her as his aunt. Alyanna, for her part, liked the idea of being an aunt. She didn't have any real nieces or nephews, nor did she have any children of her own, and Timmy helped to ease her loneliness. She used to have a son of her own and a husband, but her little boy had died, and the depression that followed finally drove away her husband. She had moved here in the hopes of getting a fresh start.

Timmy was a little nervous about bringing up the subject of monsters with a grownup again, figuring that she might also tell him that there was nothing to be afraid of. He decided to try, though, because Aunt Alyanna always listened to him, and never made him feel silly or stupid the way some other grownups did.

She greeted him at the door with an oven mitt still on her hand. She also wore an apron, and had her dark hair tied back in a bun. Timmy, being only about six years old, was a poor judge of the relative ages of grownups, but he was fairly certain she was not a very old grownup. It was difficult to be sure. She had smooth features and no gray hair, but her eyes seemed very old. They were kindly eyes, though.

Alyanna invited him in; she had just taken a batch of cookies out of the oven, and perhaps he might like some. He followed her inside, and after a moment's hesitation got straight to the point.

"Aunt Alyanna...I'm afraid of the monsters. They live in my closet and under my bed and I think they're going to eat me," he said. He looked up at her hopefully. She didn't laugh, and she didn't shake her head and wave away his concerns. Instead, she looked a little sad. She sat down at the small kitchen table and told him to sit down in the other chair.

"Monsters can be very dangerous. But can't you just hide under the covers?" she asked him.

"I do, but they're just regular blankets and I don't think they're going to hold off the monsters much longer. Isn't there anything else I can do?" he pleaded. Alyanna was thoughtful for a moment, and then seemed to reach a decision.

"I have something I can give you, Timmy," she said finally. "It belonged to my own little boy, and I think you should have it now." She got up from the table and went down to the basement of the small house. Timmy followed her, looking around at the boxes she had piled up in the corners. She took one of these down, opened it, and took out a large fluffy blanket. It was covered in small, cute, smiling puppies. She handed it to him, a sad smile on her face. Timmy took it from her and gasped.

"It's magic!" he said, looking up at her in wonder.

"Yes," she said simply. She hesitated for a moment, and then she dipped her hand back into the box and took out something else. It was a large, stuffed bear with big dark eyes. "You can have this too, if you'd like. I think he'd be a good friend for you."

"He's wonderful! I'll call him Mr. Bear!" Timmy said, delighted, as he took the bear from her.

"That's a good name," Alyanna said, and gave him another sad little smile.

* * *

His parents thought the gifts were a little strange, and Timmy's mother even called Alyanna about them.

"Are you sure you really want to give those things to Timmy?" his mother asked. "I'm sure they must be very important to you."

"I think he has more use for them than I do," Alyanna told her. "I have other things to remind me of my son. It seems a shame to let those two go to waste. I'm sorry if I overstepped myself by giving them to him."

"No, no," his mother assured her. "It's fine, I just wanted to make sure you really wanted to give them up."

"Yes. I think they're just what he needs."

* * *

That night, Timmy snuggled under his new blanket, hugged Mr. Bear close, and felt safe for the first time in days. He slept soundly until, deep into the night, a noise awakened him. He lifted his head a little and saw that his closet door was open a crack. As he watched, a red light began to shine through the opening, and Timmy knew that one of the monsters must have woken up.

Timmy shut his eyes and pulled the covers over his head. He squeezed his bear close to him and whispered, "Don't worry, Mr. Bear. We're safe in here." Then he heard a strange rasping noise and a thud. Then he heard it again. And again. It was the monster, plodding across the floor, dragging its long, spiky tail behind it. It was getting closer.

Timmy could almost smell its hot, sulfurous breath as it crept up to the bed. He shivered in fear and squeezed himself into an even tighter ball. The monster hissed as it reached out a horribly taloned hand towards him, and then the most amazing thing happened. Timmy heard a sizzling noise, and then a yelp of pain. The blanket is working!, Timmy thought. He heard the monster shuffle quickly back across the floor and the sound of a door closing. Timmy risked a peek outside, and discovered that the closet door was shut tight, and that the red light was gone.

"It worked, Mr. Bear!" Timmy said. "It worked!" He slept soundly the rest of the night.

* * *

In the nights that followed, a few other monsters tried to get through the blanket, but all of them failed. Obviously, it was a powerful blanket. It even killed the Something Under the Bed. One night, he could hear the Something scrabbling around below him, and he knew that if he stepped out of the bed it would grab his feet, drag him under the bed, and eat him. He looked over the edge to try to get a glimpse of it, and the end of the blanket draped over the side. The Something reached out with a scaly claw, thinking it might be a leg or an arm, but grabbed the blanket instead. It shrieked in pain, and Timmy heard it thrash around for a while, and then grow silent. Timmy found its body the next morning, cold and lifeless, its claws still stuck into the floor from the convulsive spasms it had suffered as it died. The creature's body melted when the warm beams of the morning sun touched it, and Timmy knew that the space under his bed would be safe forever now. It was all thanks to the blanket.

* * *

A few weeks later, disaster struck. Timmy was finger painting in his room, and he accidentally squeezed one of the tubes of paint too hard. A huge blob of blue paint sailed over the edge of his desk and landed on the blanket. Timmy cried out in despair, and his mother came running.

"What's wrong, sweetie?" she said, concern covering her face. "Did you hurt yourself?"

"I got paint on my blanket!" he said, trying not to cry. The blanket had become one of his most treasured possessions. The relief on his mother's face was obvious.

"Oh, that's okay, honey. Finger paint will wash right out." She wiped off most of the paint with a paper towel, and then bundled it up and headed for the door.

"But you can't take it!" Timmy howled. "I need it for tonight!"

"Don't worry, honey, it's only for one night. It'll be all clean and dry by tomorrow night, I promise," she said.

"But...but," began Timmy, but he stopped when he realized that she still wouldn't believe him about the monsters. The thought of sleeping without the blanket terrified him, though.

That night, Timmy's parents tucked him in under ordinary covers, heedless of the danger. Worst of all, there was a storm outside that night. Thunder rumbled and periodically lightning flashed across the sky. The monsters would be especially strong on a night like this. Timmy cowered under the blankets, clutching Mr. Bear close to him. They'd come out soon, he knew. They'd sense his weakness and they'd strike.

Indeed, it was not long before red light spilled out of the closet, and he heard shuffling noises inside. He peeked out from under the covers and saw a pale arm reaching out of his closet. Its taloned fingers raked across the wall, leaving deep grooves in the wood and shredding one of Timmy's finger paintings. The door opened wider, and the terrifying creature stepped out into the room. It ducked to fit out the doorway, and when it stood up its horned head scraped against the ceiling. Its body was covered in bony white spikes, and its eyes burned with a terrible red light. Its jaws looked large enough to tear off Timmy's head with a single bite. It emitted a rasping hiss as it began to stalk towards the bed.

Timmy had a death grip on Mr. Bear. This was it. The monster was going to eat him. He wanted to call to his parents, but he could barely even speak. In the tiny, cracked voice that he could manage, he whispered to the stuffed animal, "It's going to eat us, Mr. Bear."

Then Timmy blinked in surprise. He thought he felt Mr. Bear move. Then he was sure he felt it move. Timmy tore his eyes away from the approaching monster and looked down at Mr. Bear. Mr. Bear blinked at him. Timmy was stunned. He wasn't actually afraid, because he was already spending all of his available terror on the giant, horrible, fanged thing shambling slowly towards his bed. He did loosen his grip, though, and Mr. Bear wriggled free and stepped off the edge of the bed.

The approaching monster paused and looked down at the tiny stuffed animal. It seemed surprised, which Timmy could certainly understand. Then it took a step back, as suddenly Mr. Bear began to swell and grow. In seconds, Mr. Bear was seven feet tall. Its fur had become coarser, and its round, blunt arms had been replaced by long arms ending in razor sharp claws. Its snout had changed shape as well, elongating into a tooth-filled maw. The larger, more feral Mr. Bear snarled fiercely at the bony creature before it.

The pale monster from the closet just stood there in shock as Mr. Bear swung its claws and struck it in the side of the head. It recovered quickly, though, and it threw itself at Mr. Bear. The creatures grappled with each other and exchanged blows as Timmy looked on in amazement. Soon the monster had several large wounds that oozed a sickly green blood. Mr. Bear, for his part, had some painful-looking tears, from which protruded tufts of stuffing.

For a moment the monster gained the upper hand, and it threw Mr. Bear into the wall with a fierce roar. Timmy's small desk crumpled under Mr. Bear's increased weight, and the combined sounds of screaming monsters and shattering plastic were enough to wake Timmy's parents.

"Timmy?," his father called out. "What on earth is going on in there?!"

"No, Daddy!" Timmy cried. "The monster will get you!"

Timmy's father paused with his hand on the doorknob to Timmy's room. This statement seemed completely opposite from what Timmy used to cry a few weeks ago, when he actively wanted his parents to rescue him from the monsters. This time, though, Timmy's father thought perhaps a branch from a tree had been brought down by the wind outside and broken Timmy's window. It was the only reasonable explanation for the noise in his room.

He opened the door, and froze as shock numbed him. Timmy was sitting up on his bed looking at him. There was what seemed to be a grizzly bear lying in a corner on top of the broken fragments of Timmy's desk...and there was an enormous, pale creature standing in the center of the room that looked as if it must have arrived in Timmy's room straight from hell. It turned its head to look as him when he opened the door. It was quite clearly alive.

As soon as Timmy's father had opened the door, Mr. Bear had emitted a pained growl. Now, it seemed to be shrinking - collapsing in on itself. In a few seconds it was back to its normal size, and appeared to be nothing more than a stuffed bear that had seen better days. The monster, on the other hand, seemed unaffected by the appearance of a grownup who didn't believe in such foolishness. It did shift its attention to him, however, and it charged at him, roaring and hungry for blood.

"Run, Daddy!" Timmy shouted. Now, the parental instinct to protect one's child is very strong. However, Timmy did not seem to be the one in danger at that exact instant. On some basic level Timmy's father must have heard him and acted on his advice, because he spun around and ran. The monster followed him, forgetting its original quarry completely. Timmy jumped out of bed and ran over to Mr. Bear.

"Get up, Mr. Bear!" he shouted, and shook the stuffed animal's battered paw. "You have to save Daddy!" From outside the room, Timmy heard his mother call out and ask what was happening, and then a scream and a slammed door. Then he heard the periodic pounding of something large trying to break down a door. "It's after Mommy too!" Timmy wailed.

Mr. Bear blinked at him, and once again it began to increase in size. It was slower this time, though, and seemed tired. When it reached its full size again it loped past Timmy and out the door. Timmy followed, but then stopped in the hall when something occurred to him. If Mommy or Daddy saw Mr. Bear, he might lose his powers again. And that meant they'd need something else to defeat the monster. Timmy ran into the laundry room.

He tipped over the laundry basket and searched frantically it the pile of clothes for his blanket. Finally, he spotted it hanging off the edge of the washing machine and he grabbed it. He could hear splintering wood from the hallway outside, and knew that he had to act fast. He ran back out into the hall, the precious blanket held close to him.

Mr. Bear and the monster were wrestling each other in the hallway, and neither of his parents were in sight. The door to their bedroom was almost completely broken down, though, so Timmy figured they must both be hiding in there.

Mr. Bear was putting up a brave fight, but it was obviously weakened from its previous encounter with the closet monster. The monster had pushed Mr. Bear over onto its back, and the monster's claws were getting closer and closer to Mr. Bear's throat, despite Mr. Bear's best efforts to push them away. Timmy needed to act now.

"Hey, monster!" Timmy called out, acting out of the kind of courage that only comes with the ignorance of childhood. "Over here!" Both the monster and Mr. Bear looked over at him, but Mr. Bear recovered from the distraction faster, and managed to push the monster away. It crashed into the wall, but then immediately hurled itself at Timmy. Mr. Bear leapt after it and grabbed for its leg, but wasn't fast enough. As the giant terror charged at Timmy it gave another fierce roar, and Timmy was almost paralyzed with fear. But he had his blanket, so he knew he was safe.

The monster quickly closed the gap between them, charging at him on all fours. As its fanged maw opened wide to bite Timmy in half, Timmy swung the blanket around with all of his might. It struck the monster's lower jaw, and tore it off completely. It was as if the blow had been struck by very strong man wielding a sledgehammer, and not by a small child holding a soft blanket. The monster shrieked in agony, and Timmy lashed out with the blanket again, beheading the creature completely this time. As the monster's headless body toppled to the floor, Mr. Bear gave an exhausted sigh and sank down against the wall. Timmy stepped around the monster's body and went over to Mr. Bear.

"You should rest now," Timmy said. "Thank you for saving me." Mr. Bear nodded to him, and then began to shrink again. Once it had turned back into a stuffed animal, Timmy picked it up and hugged it close to him. Then he went over the door to his parents' room.

"Mommy? Daddy? The monster is dead!" he shouted. There was a scraping noise as a large piece of furniture was pushed aside, and then the door opened slowly. Timmy's mother peeked around the edge of the door and, seeing Timmy, flung the door open the rest of the way and quickly crossed the few steps to Timmy.

"Oh, thank God you're safe!" she cried, kneeling down and wrapping her arms around him. Timmy's father joined the two of them seconds later. After a few moments, both of them looked over at the huge corpse lying in their hallway. Then they noticed the blanket Timmy held, and the green blood stains on it.

"I told you I needed my blanket," Timmy said, somewhat reproachfully. Both of Timmy's parents fainted.

* * *

Alyanna got up to answer the knock at her door, and found Timmy standing on her front steps. It was the next day, and Timmy's parents were both trying to figure out if they'd gone insane, or if the rest of the world had. The monster's body had melted away with the sun, so the only evidence they had of what had happened was all of the damage done to the house and the strange stains on Timmy's blanket. They found it difficult to trust their memories regarding exactly what had happened, but it was obvious from the condition of the house that something had happened.

"Hello, Timmy," she said to him. "How are you today?"

"I'm okay, Aunt Alyanna," Timmy replied. He was holding Mr. Bear. The blanket was at home, being washed by his mother. Partly, she was washing it so it would be clean. However, she was also washing it specifically to remove the inexplicable green stains, because that way it would be easier to rationalize the whole experience away as some kind of hallucination.

"It looks like something happened to your bear," Alyanna said as she waved Timmy into the house. They took seats on the couch in the living room.

"He got into a fight," Timmy explained.

"I'm sorry to hear that. I hope he fought well," Alyanna said, meaning every word.

"Yes," Timmy said. "He helped save us all."

"That's good," she told him. "It's what he was made for," she added after a moment.

"Did you make him?" Timmy asked, curious.

"Some of him. The rest is an old spirit. A very old spirit," she explained.

"You mean like a ghost?" Timmy said, his eyes widening.

"Something like that," Alyanna answered. Timmy frowned.

"He didn't work when Daddy could see him," Timmy said.

"No, I'm sure he didn't. Adults don't usually believe in that sort of thing," she explained. Timmy understood and nodded. Then his expression turned sad.

"He got hurt really bad. Can you fix him?" He held out his treasured bear to her, and she took it from him gently.

"I think so," she replied. "I'll need to keep him for a few days, though." She looked at him critically for a moment. "Will you be okay without him?"

"I think so. I still have my blanket," he said. He looked embarrassed for a moment. "Thank you again for the presents, Aunt Alyanna."

"You're welcome, Timmy." The two of them were silent for a moment, until Timmy finally worked up the courage to ask the question that he wanted to ask the most.

"Aunt Alyanna," he began, "what happened to your little boy?" Alyanna's face turned sad again.

"Your basement isn't scary, is it?" she asked him. Timmy frowned at her strange question.

"No. It's just boxes and old stuff. It looks a lot like yours," he said.

"That's right. There's nothing scary in your basement. I noticed that when I visited your house, that first week I moved here," she said. She was staring past him, looking at something only she could see. "My old house wasn't as safe as yours."

For those who are interested, the five elements that we were asked to include in our stories were a red light, a painting, a storm, a ghost, and a family tragedy.

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