Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Monsters Are Real: The Town That Dreaded Sundown

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It’s one of the most coveted and referenced films in horror. Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan) compared Woodsboro to it in Scream. You’ve heard the name “Loomis” in Halloween, Psycho and Scream. Why? Because it’s true. Because though the killer known simply as “The Phantom” is not the most fancy or terrifying culprit, it is the widespread panic and dread caused by his reign of terror that really hits home. He doesn’t have knives for fingers. He’s not really known for his snappy one-liners. He’s not very creative. He’s far from supernatural. He generally kills his victims quickly and without much fanfare, save for the occasional burst of creativity and/or perversion. His power lies in that rising sense of dread you feel in the pit of your stomach when you turn on the evening news and all you hear is that YOU ARE NOT SAFE. Fear is the one emotion that can break through the walls of apathy.

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The original 1976 film, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, was based on actual events: “The Moonlight Murders” of Texarkana, a small town on the border of Texas and Arkansas. In the spring of 1946, The Phantom stalked the back roads of Texarkana, attacking young couples in their vehicles and is suspected of attacking one couple in their own home. He ultimately claimed five lives and injured several others, committing sexual assault on most of the women. The lack of technology and “hush-hush” standard of the time regarding these types of assaults may have contributed to the killer having never been identified. More than 300 suspects were questioned. None were detained. To this day, no one has been convicted and the crimes remain unsolved.

Post-World War II Texarkana was recovering from conflict and hopeful for the future as many of our soldiers returned home. Throughout the war, Texarkana was a soldier’s town, and still had its share of seedy areas lined with rough bars and strip clubs. Fights and murder was not entirely uncommon in the lower avenues of Texarkana. Yet most of the town which boasted a population of approximately 44,000 was all white picket fences and well-kept homes.

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The Phantom (officially given the moniker by Calvin Sutton, managing editor of the Texarkana Gazette) made his first attack on Mary Jeanne Larey and Jimmy Hollis near midnight on February 22nd, 1946, while they were parked on Richmond Road, the local “Lover’s Lane.” Both victims survived their injuries and spent the next several months in a local hospital feverishly answering questions for frustrated law enforcement officials.

His second attempt, on March 24th, resulted in the murders of Richard L. Griffin and Polly Ann Moore. Both victims were shot in the head and left in their 1941 Oldsmobile on Bowie County Highway 67. Both Polly and Mary were sexually assaulted. However, this being 1946 and common knowledge being as antiquated as a right wing state senator’s knowledge of the female body, this information was not released to the press, nor was it investigated in any great detail. That would be just too much. Sex is dirty. We don’t talk about sex. Ignore it. It never happened.

The Phantom committed his third atrocity on April 14th, and just to show he meant it – it was his most brutal to date, and law enforcement could no longer deny certain details to public knowledge. I’ll spare you the details of the actual murders of Betty Jo Booker and Paul Martin, as the film’s depiction of The Phantom’s third rampage was entertaining enough. Who can forget his resourceful use of a trombone?

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The fourth and final attack is where it gets interesting, yet murky, because it barely fits the modus operandi of The Phantom. The weapon, though similar, did not even match those used in the previous attacks. This guy used a .22 caliber semi-automatic as opposed to the .33 that The Phantom was synonymous for using. In my opinion, it screams copy cat. But I digress… On the evening of May 3rd, Katy and Virgil Starks were enjoying a nice quiet evening at home when Virgil, who was reading in his favorite chair, is shot twice in the head from a nearby window. When Katy found her husband and panicked, attempting to call for help, her jaw was blown off. Somehow, she managed to make it to a neighboring farm house and survived. Her description of the assailant, though vague like the first couple’s, described The Phantom. Other than that little fact, and the location being in rural Arkansas, near Texarkana, little else about the case points to the same killer.

Even in the film, though finally calling upon the classic imagery of a final girl scratching and clawing her way to survival as the killer walks leisurely toward her, I’m sitting there going, “Okay, but why are we attacking older couples at home in their granny panties now?” To  help suspend disbelief, the role of Helen Reed (based on Katy Starks) was played by the irresistible Dawn Wells (Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island). She filmed it in 1 1/2 days and lent an air of motive for the attack. Because everyone knows that psychos prefer Mary Ann over Ginger.

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First of all, BITCH…

 

Now, to be honest, I think this film is overrated. I don’t get off on true horror. And the movie is one of the few based on true events that I’ve seen which comes rather close to what actually happened, save for changing the names and there’s no evidence that Betty Jo’s trombone was actually used in her murder. That we know of. Second, and this is an amendment to my aforementioned disinterest in true horror, The Phantom was the most boring killer I’d ever encountered in the genre. Ugh. Seriously dude, you want go down in history for shooting young lovers with a burlap sack over your head? Nothing screams MOUTH BREATHER quite like that. Boring. Leave it in the daily paper. It’s not interesting enough to make a horror movie out of. Barely made available on VHS, with sporadic late night TV airings, and a 20-year hiatus until finally becoming available on Blu-Ray and DVD, The Town That Dreaded Sundown survived mostly in bootleg form and cultivated a strong underground following. So basically, it’s like V/H/S for your parents’ generation. All marketing and no bite. Seriously, if you’re going to dangle a horror film just out of my reach and make me salivate at the chance to devour it, it had better be worth it. Do not toy with me.

TTTDS (9) There was one aspect of the film that did interest me, and it’s blatantly obvious where I’m going with this by the title. The complete and utter pandemonium caused by these events, law enforcement with little or no answers, and the blood-thirsty press. By early evening, the once-busy and bustling streets and byways of Texarkana were deserted. Unfamiliar passersby were met with suspicious gazes. The county and surrounding cities completely sold out of ammunition. Families were setting booby traps with clanging pots and pans and exposed nails on their porches. Out-of-towners were followed in their vehicles until locals made sure they were just passing through. Vigilante groups emerged, intruding on police stake-outs and investigations. Some young couples even went to “Lover’s Lane” armed and waiting for The Phantom to try something.

The psychology of fear is not difficult to understand, but the effects of fear on a community as a whole are unpredictable and often more dangerous than the initial reason for their existence. When we face uncertainty, we crave explanations. If we cannot explain something away, we feel out of control and our fear escalates. Suddenly even supernatural explanations are acceptable rather than the complete unknown. In a heightened state of anxiety, victims often misinterpret normal goings on. Paranoia sets in. Vulnerability is at a dangerous level. If anyone wants to take advantage of you, this is their time. And they do. Don’t think for even one second that every single ad and/or news story wasn’t tailored to the citizens of Texarkana’s fear and vulnerability. Other factors come into play, such as “mob mentality.” The anonymity that this creates can sometimes make an otherwise normal person believe that they can act a certain way without facing the same consequences that those same actions would elicit if they had acted alone. Hence, vigilantism and copy cat killers.

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The Phantom did not just claim five lives, but the lives of thousands. With the help of opportunists and the media, he became the poster child for emotional terrorism in 1946. It’s a fine line, because you want to be made aware of danger. You want to learn how to protect yourself. You want to be present and aware of your surroundings. And by god, you should look out for your fellow man as well. But you have to keep your wits about you because there are plenty of people around you who won’t.

I would have liked to see more of this in the original film, but with it being a mockumentary and centered on actual events that were, indeed, terrifying, that’s not the path it was going to follow.

Fast forward to 2014 and the remake.

I don’t know about you, Horrorland Heathens, but I thought this one was a blast! Yes, there are weak points, gimmicks, and plenty of clichés, and we’ll get to that. But first, can we just talk about how, in this age of remakes, refreshing it is to at least have filmmakers who understand that yes, there are bills to be paid, but selling out doesn’t necessarily mean you should just phone it in? Here’s the link to the iMDB page: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014). Go there and bask for a moment in the people involved in this film. You’re going to see a lot of familiar faces from Horrorland, like Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project), Edward Herrmann (The Lost Boys), Dennis O’Hare (American Horror Story), Spencer Treat Clark (The Last House On The Left 2009); and many other recognizable faces trying their luck in Horrorland. Impressive, to say the least. And Addison Timlin is a very promising Final Girl. The director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, is a virtual unknown, but his body of work which includes many episodes of American Horror Story and second-unit direction in films like Argo, let alone the stylish remake of this horror classic, speaks volumes of his talent. I look forward to seeing more of his work. I’m a little shocked to see that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is behind the screenplay, as he is responsible for another 2014 remake, Carrie, which I found to be the biggest waste of an opportunity ever. But I’m trying really hard to reserve judgment because who knows if earlier drafts were great and business got in the way of pleasure, right? That’s usually how this crap goes.

TTTDSRM (6) Anyhow, so here we have a slick, clever remake of a beloved horror classic. Did you hear that? That was the sound of a billion horror hounds rolling their eyes all the way down to their asses. But wait… would you rather sit and watch (because you know you will, don’t deny it) them rehash the same old shit, only dumbed way down and sexed way up for the current generation; or would you find it mildly interesting to watch something that comments on the classic and builds from there? That’s what this remake does. These guys did their research. They know all about the original film and the people who worked on it. And they did their research on “The Moonlight Murders” perfectly melding together fact and fiction. No, there is no amazing revelation to boast, nor is there any ground being broken in the genre with this entry. However, it is just what it needs to be – and that is both an homage and a fresh take.

Jami is a sweet teenaged girl just trying to get a boy to like her when they are attacked and he is brutally murdered. Barely escaping with her life, she must now figure out if this is truly the return of The Phantom of Texarkana’s famed Moonlight Murders, or something even more evil. *gasp*

That’s the slow and skinny of it, but it actually interprets the lasting effects of the panic and fear inflicted upon the town 65 years prior, including those who were involved in making the first film. There are missing pieces of the puzzle to continue solving and a ton of easter eggs if you’re anything like me and have done some research regarding the true story behind The Moonlight Murders. I found the remake to be an intelligent tribute and strong story with legs of its own that gives maniacal horror fans something to chew on while at the same time, providing a sleek and stylish reimagining of a boring old 70’s flick for the young ‘uns of today - those little bastards with their dubstep and lack of respect.

 

Love & Screams,

Malice

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

King of Horror: MR. MERCEDES

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Stephen King has a way with cars. He understands the bond between driver and machine, psychotic or not. Either way, it’s a sacred thing. One of my favorite works of King’s is Christine. The killer Plymouth preferred by most King fans in movie form, rather than print, but I digress… She was a real bitch. This time around, though, the blame can’t be placed on the car. This time, King gives us a peek into the mind of a whole new kind of monster for the times: the rampage killer.

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True evil lies in the heart of man. Sociopaths, psychopaths, friends, family, lovers… whatever you might currently be calling them. And it seems that in recent years, you there in Wonderland are seeing a lot more of Horrorland than you bargained for. These days, you can’t even go to the movies without worrying that some psychopath is among you and planning to do as much damage in mere seconds that he or she possibly can before shuffling off that mortal coil. It’s a terrifying thought. And a tragedy. While I’m quite comfortable here in my world of relentless fear, you, my dears, were not meant to live in a world of perpetual horror. Try to rest easy knowing that the good guys outnumber the bad in your world.

Which brings me to Stephen King’s recent nod to the hard-boiled detective novel, Mr. Mercedes.

In the wee hours of the morning, in a peaceful Midwestern town, destitute folks line up for a spot at the local job fair in the hopes of changing their luck. Suddenly, a mystery driver in a Mercedes plows through the crowd, backs up, and charges through the sea of innocents again, killing eight and wounding many more. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the killer escapes, leaving nary a shred of evidence other than a clown mask wiped clean, the stolen Mercedes covered in everyone’s DNA but his own, and a smiley face sticker in the center of the steering wheel.

Detective Bill Hodges, recently retired, lives a life of lonely dread. Haunted by the cases he never cracked, especially that of Mr. Mercedes, his days are empty and meaningless. That is, until he receives a letter from Mr. Mercedes. Bill springs into action, joined by Janey Patterson, sister of the stolen Mercedes’ owner; Jerome, the lawn boy destined for Ivy League; and Holly, the unlikely sleuth.

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Brady Hartsfield seems like a nice enough young man, working two jobs and taking care of his alcoholic mother. You would never guess by looking at Brady as he hands you a cool treat from his Mr. Tastey ice cream truck that he was capable of mass murder. And he’s planning an even bigger attack. Will Hodges and his band of merry sleuths be able to stop him in time, saving the lives of thousands? Or will yet another sad little mama’s boy grab headlines and go down in history for killing the most people in not just one, but two fell swoops?

Listless and lonely, Det. Ret. William K. Hodges is a nice nod to the hard-boiled detectives of the genre’s past, complete with fedora for a quick, but poignant portion of the story. The fedora is as much a wink from King as it is a middle finger from the author when its abrupt disappearance signals a jarring departure from the clichés of the genre. As in all detective novels, the detective – our hero – remains a constant. This is a strong, steadfast character with a mission to save lives. Nothing, and I mean nothing will stop him from solving the case. Which is what excites me about the fact that Mr. Mercedes is merely book one in a trilogy featuring Bill Hodges.

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Which is all well and good, but I’m a weirdo, so I want to gush about Brady Hartsfield. This little bastard is a special kind of crazy. You can’t tell he is unless you really pay attention. And in today’s world of social networking, smart phones, tablets, and constant stimulation, no one is ever actually paying any real attention. You see, not only did Brady savor the crunch of bone beneath the tires of the Mercedes, but he’s looking to take the time to destroy the lives of anyone peripherally involved in the case through mind games and torture. Oh yeah. This guy is a monster in every sense of the word. And just when you think he’s done the most damage he could possibly do, he tops it. Right to the end. Which is nuts because he’s a weak, scared little boy at his core. This is the type of nuanced villain I always look forward to when reading Stephen King. Bravo, sir.

As if these fantastic characters weren’t enough, we also have the treat of Stephen King’s dark humor woven in through a less fatalistic standard, as so often seen in hard-boiled detective novels, and more of a bigger, more realistic worldview. King gets it. Nobody’s perfect, even the evil ones. Both Brady and Hodges suffer losses and victories by mistake. It’s brilliant and terrifying all at once. You might even slap yourself for laughing at times it may seem are not so appropriate.

 

I highly recommend you allow yourself to be pulled into this trilogy, friends. You will not be disappointed.

Love and Screams,

Malice

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

King of Horror: REVIVAL

I was no more than ten years of age when I ventured to begin exploring my mother’s bookshelf in a dusty corner of the basement. I thumbed through the volumes, a great many of them science fiction, some of them classics, much information on music and musicians, even a section teaching meditation and peace through Hare Krishna. The one that caught my eye seemed simple enough by the title. I pulled it from its place on the shelf. The picture on the front was interpreted by me very differently than it is now. I didn’t read the synopsis on the back. I didn’t even read the short blurbs and praise. I opened it up to page one and dove in, never to return to the melodramatic world of young adult fiction until curiosity got the best of me in my adult years. That book was Cujo by Stephen King. And that’s how I’ve read King ever since.

STEPHENKING I don’t read the synopses. I don’t read the reviews. The most you’ll see me tease myself with is if there’s an official book trailer. For me, the lure of an author as prolific as Stephen King is in knowing I’m in the hands of a mad man. A master storyteller. I also never watch the movie before I read the book. Ever. I’m perfectly happy having no idea what to expect, where this will lead, or how it will influence my thoughts and emotions. I just let go and let the King of Horror take me away.

There’s something infinitely more exciting about diving in head first. It’s the only way to go. Also, when you consider the influence of King and the sheer volume of work he has published, it’s easy to begin forming an opinion about his latest work, comparing it to his best, and ostracizing any effort he makes to venture into new territory before you’ve even read one chapter. Disappointed that this isn’t a continuation of your favorite of his works. I don’t even read the book jacket. I stare at the cover and I ponder the visuals presented there, I look for small details, and I enjoy the artwork. And then I just begin. That’s exactly what I did with King’s 55th novel, Revival.

If you’d like to experience it the same way I did, I suggest saving the remainder of this blog for when you’ve devoured it in its entirety.

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Jamie Morton met Charles Jacobs, the new town minister, as he sat playing with his toy soldiers in his family’s yard. Jacobs’ charm and relatable attitude made him a favorite in the town. It didn’t hurt that he was a good-looking man with a beautiful wife and adorable son. Jacobs taught the children lessons of God through the tangible phenomena, electricity. It was interesting and effective, especially for Jamie and his family. When Jamie’s brother suffers an injury with permanent consequences, Reverend Jacobs performs one of his tricks with electricity, restoring the boy completely and solidifying Jamie’s adoration for the man.

When Charles Jacobs suffers unspeakable pain at the loss of his wife and son, he loses faith in God and in people. After a tirade renouncing his faith, he is excommunicated from the town, and seemingly, from Jamie Morton’s life forever.

Fast forward several decades. Jamie is a traveling musician with a heroin addiction and no discernable direction in life, when by chance, he finds the Reverend Charles Jacobs has continued his work in the carnival circuit. The Reverend has not renewed his faith, but found a conduit for his obsession with electricity and the mysteries of the power which it holds. The Reverend Jacobs has a mission. He is determined to solve the mysteries of life and death. He wants to know what happened to his wife and son. And nothing will stop him from learning the truth. Jamie Morton is merely his pawn.

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After receiving a jolt to the brain for the purpose of curing his addiction, Jamie is pulled into a web of insanity and obsession that consumes him for a lifetime.

Revival is very much King’s answer to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, even so far as naming some of the characters accordingly. King referenced a lot of interesting works of horror, science, and faith, both fiction and non-fiction alike. First of all, it’s good to know that the study of electricity in relation to the divine was called “Galvanism” in the 18th century. Science and Religion – the feud to end all feuds. The intensity of the two theories when clashed together is palpable, to say the least. King refers to Thomas Edison’s work at Menlo Park, New Jersey, where he revolutionized the process of invention, itself; Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code; the popular television show The X-Files; The “Forbidden Books” (banned and burned by the Catholic Church), particularly Ludwig Prinn’s The Mysteries of the Worm. And as you may know, that particular grimoire served as inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. We’re delving into some serious occult reading here. Color me intrigued.

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All of King’s signature fictional elements are present: a small town in Maine, the broken addict, a mad genius, and the hope of transformation. However, this book was billed as having King’s “most terrifying ending.” While it is a suspenseful build to a most impressive glimpse into worlds you could never possibly imagine without King’s coaxing, I found that the Reverend, himself, was lost a bit in the ending. He’s a formidable man, no doubt, but the depth of his lunacy was better illustrated when he targets an individual outlet, such as Jamie Morton. Jacobs still holds his own as one of King’s most frightening villains. The sadness that he began as such a kind-hearted, spiritual man with an interest in electricity was snatched from the graces of his family and congregation into the mouth of madness to a level of obsession that easily matches that of Dr. Frankenstein, is the driving force behind him. Jamie Morton’s own family tragedy and life of loneliness and turmoil rival’s that of Jacobs’. And yet, like the best of King’s protagonists, he pushes forward, overcoming more than his share of loss, in the name of saving us all from The Reverend Charles Jacobs.

 

 

 

Love and Revival,

Malice

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Friday, October 31, 2014

No One Believes Me

Hello Heathens!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, don’t give me that holly jolly crap. It’s Halloween. The veil between us is thin. Welcome to Horrorland. As it is my calling, I’d like to pull you in just a little further. Allow me to remind you of a simpler time. A time when suspension of disbelief wasn’t such a task and the line between your Wonderland and Horrorland was easily blurred. Childhood. Oh, the nights when bedtime felt like the end of times; when the basement held more mystery than stuff; when every shadow was a threat. What a gift you’d been given with your fantastically overactive imagination… or was it even your imagination at all? Do you really know for sure?

 

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The clacking of her new shoes on the hardwood floor of the empty house was the best part. With blonde pigtails bouncing on her shoulders and the new dress she had earned for her patience on the long ride to her new home swishing about, Lucy bounded up the staircase to the second floor. She peered in every room, wide-eyed and curious. She had never lived in such a large house in all of her eight years.

“Lucy!” She heard her mother calling, but continued her investigation. Only one more room to go. She stomped down the hallway to the last room and pushed the door open to get a better look. It was smaller than the other rooms, and the ceiling was oddly slanted. There was a large window on the other side, and to the right… a very small door. Strange. She went to open the tiny door, but it was locked. “Lucy, get down here!” The tone in her mother’s voice gave warning and Lucy turned to run back downstairs to meet her.

“Everything stacked right here is yours. Your room is going to be the last one on the right upstairs,” her mother instructed, “start taking your things up there.”

“No, I don’t like that room, it’s weird.” Lucy protested.

“Lucy, don’t argue with me,” her mother warned as she struggled with another heavy box toward the kitchen.

Lucy’s father came in the front door, “Take your boxes upstairs and put them in that room for now, Lucy. We’ll get settled soon. You’ll love this place.”

With a grunt of protest, Lucy grabbed a box and hauled it upstairs to the room with the strange ceilings and the tiny closet.

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The sun hung low, casting lengthy shadows from the tree limbs just outside the window across the floor of Lucy’s new room. Daddy had just finished putting her bed in place and she had begun the task of finding a new place for all of her things. She lovingly placed her favorite toy, an oversized stuffed teddy bear, on the rocking chair her mother gave her. As she emptied the contents of one box into a dresser drawer, she heard sounds like scratching coming from the tiny closet. She stopped and listened for a moment before making her way across the room. The sounds continued as she got closer. A mouse, maybe? Lucy tried to turn the doorknob, but to no avail. It was still locked. She got down on all fours and peered under the door. She couldn’t see it, but there was definitely something there. She reached her small hand as far as she could under the door.

“Lucy!” Her mother’s call startled her, and she stood up. The scratching noises ceased. “Dinner time!” Her mother beckoned. Lucy went downstairs to eat with her parents for the first time in their new home.

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It didn’t take long for little Lucy to fall asleep that night, what with the long drive, the task of helping Mommy and Daddy carry the boxes, and beginning to put things away. Lucy lay peacefully tucked into her bed and the room was still. Still, but not quiet. Skittering and scratches could once again be heard coming from that tiny closet on the other side of the room. Then, the doorknob began to turn this way and that. Lucy stirred. With a click and a creak, the tiny closet door opened just a bit. Lucy rubbed her eyes and sat up in her bed. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness of her new room, but when they did she saw it. The tiny closet door was ajar and within it was darkness… and a pair of glowing red eyes looking back at her.

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The following night, after dinner, Lucy sat with her parents in the living room while they watched their evening news. Daddy yawned and a feeling of dread came over Lucy as the news anchors bid adieu. She didn’t want to go to bed. She had avoided her room all day and paid no mind to Mommy’s frustrations that she wasn’t helping to unpack her things. When she had awoken that morning, the closet door was closed tight. She didn’t care to check if it was still locked. She didn’t care if what happened last night was nothing more than a dream. She just never wanted to go through that ever again.

“Well, I’m zonked, honey. Bedtime, what do you say?” Daddy swooped her up in his arms.

“NO!” Lucy yelled.

“Hey!” Mommy was shocked by Lucy’s tone. “No arguments out of you. Bedtime.”

After she was tucked tightly in beneath the covers, Lucy begged Daddy to read her a story. “Sweetie, I’m too tired. It’s been a big day. A big week! I’ll read you one tomorrow, I promise.” He kissed her on the forehead.

“This will help you feel more comfortable, sweetie.” Mommy clicked on a tiny night light next to Lucy’s bed. She leaned over and kissed her daughter goodnight. They went to their bedroom, leaving the door to Lucy’s cracked slightly. Lucy fought sleep as hard as she could for what seemed like an eternity. Hours passed and she could resist her heavy eyelids no more. Lucy drifted off to sleep.

Something soft brushing up against her skin awakened Lucy some time later. She slowly opened her eyes. It was just her teddy bear. The bear she had left on the chair by her dresser. Lucy snapped awake and looked to where she had seen her bear. There was nothing there on the bed with her. She looked at the rocking chair. There was no bear. She looked at the closet. The door was open. There was a rustling to her left. She whirled and saw her teddy bear climb onto the bed near her feet. But it wasn’t her teddy bear. It was alive. It had glowing red eyes and sharp teeth. Lucy screamed and pulled her legs to her chest, shutting her eyes as tight and possible, desperately trying to will it gone.

She only opened them when the light came on and Mommy and Daddy were in the room.

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“They told us to take her in if she became hysterical again,” Mommy was arguing with Daddy. Lucy sat quietly in the living room, staring blankly at the television, unable to focus on anything in particular due to the sleepless nights of the past two weeks. She was only able to nap for minutes at a time before the nightmares began again. Mommy and Daddy had taken her to the doctor. That seemed silly, she wasn’t sick. She was just tired. But sleep was dangerous. Especially in her room.

“That’s ridiculous, she’s not sick. She’s scared. It’s completely normal. This is a strange new house. She just hasn’t gotten used to it yet.” Lucy knew she could count on Daddy.

“It’s been two weeks. It shouldn’t carry on this long.”

“Just let me try something tonight, okay. If she still hasn’t gotten a decent night’s sleep tomorrow, we’ll take her in. Deal?” Daddy bargained.

“Alright,” Mommy agreed.

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Lucy gripped Daddy’s shoulders tight as he carried her upstairs and into her bedroom.  He carefully set her down and helped her get comfortable under the covers. “Daddy?”

“Yes, honey?”

“Daddy, can you put a box in front of the closet door?” Lucy looked at him pleadingly.

“Of course,” Daddy pulled the biggest box and positioned it up against the closet door. He came back to her side, and climbed onto the bed to lay next to her for a moment. “Lucy, I think it’s high time I let you in on a little secret.”

“A secret about what?" Lucy asked.

“The Boogeyman,” Lucy looked at him, her eyes wide. “Honey, you have nothing to be afraid of, did you know that?”

“No.”

“It’s true. You have all the power,” he continued. “All you have to do is take the power away from whatever it is that’s trying to scare you.”

“How do I do that?” Lucy asked.

“You stop believing in it,” he got up from the bed and leaned down. “It’s as simple as that, sweetheart. You take back the power and you stop the fear. Never let it win,” he kissed her on the cheek. “Think you can do that?”

“I don’t know,” she looked at the closet.

“Get some sleep, pumpkin. You’re safe.” He turned on the night light before turning off the lights. He left the door to Lucy’s room wide open and she watched as he strolled down the hall to their bedroom and turned off the lights there.

Lucy lay in silence for a great long while. She barely had to fight off sleep anymore, as it just wasn’t an option. But she closed her eyes anyway. She didn’t know how long she had been lying there, cozy under her blankets, when she heard it. The click of the door and the rub of cardboard on hardwood flooring as the door of the closet pushed against the box that was supposed to block it. Lucy opened her eyes, but she didn’t dare move. She didn’t dare breathe.

There were footsteps and scratching sounds as tiny feet with long nails crossed the room to the bed where Lucy lie frozen in fear. She could feel it at the foot of her bed. Watching her. It’s almost too much for little Lucy’s heart to handle. The fear was overcoming her and she couldn’t scream. She tried so hard. She willed herself to sit up. Remembering, what Daddy said, she did. She bolt upright and faced her fear. The thing at the foot of her bed was no bigger than she was, but that didn’t make it any less terrifying. It’s eyes were sunken holes in it’s face and its mouth was full of razor-sharp teeth. it’s arms were long enough to touch the floor and they were reaching for her now. Reaching for her with clawed fingers, sharp enough to rip holes in the comforter that was the only thing between her and it.

She willed herself to speak with all of her might, “You’re not real. I don’t believe in you.” It reached for her still. “You’re not real. I don’t believe in you,” she repeated over and over again, shutting her eyes tight. She felt the tugging on the covers stop and slowly opened her eyes. The thing from the closet was gone. It worked.

Lucy lie back in her bed. She was elated at her victory, but uneasy still. And with good reason. She heard it. A deep, guttural growl beneath the bed. Lucy slowly scooted over and peered over the edge of the bed. Nothing. She leaned a little further. Further still. Nothing. She started to pull herself upright when a clawed hand grabbed her by the hair. Lucy screamed louder than she ever had in her life.

10-7-19TD9

Mommy and Daddy sat up straight in bed. “Lucy,” Mommy yelled. Daddy ran from the room and into Lucy’s.

He saw Lucy huddled in the fetal position under her bed. “Lucy, what is going on in here?” he leaned down to coax her out, but she wouldn’t budge. “Why did you scream? What’s the matter, honey?”

“Daddy… There’s something in the closet,” Lucy whimpered.

Daddy went to the small closet door, now closed, and turned the knob. It clicked open. For a moment, Daddy couldn’t believe his eyes. Inside, cowering in the corner of the tiny closet was his daughter, Lucy. “Daddy… There’s something under my bed.”

DIVIDER

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