The teleportation experiment had almost been a complete success, with only one pressing issue. As he stared at his copy standing atop the other platform, he realised only one could take the credit.
There are no monsters underneath the bed. It’s too obvious: the best monsters take the place of pillows and blankets.
He had always made the most realistic shadow puppets, each creature coming easily to him. But as he created the outline of a dog to pretend to eat the spider on the wall, he felt a crunch between his fingers.
Though he would never tell her out loud, he was certain that his wife’s book needed some drama to spice it up. As he scrolled through her phone’s contacts, he thought carefully about which character’s death would make her autobiography more interesting.
It was a terrible accident, everyone commiserated, but at least some good had come of it. After months of encouraging her son not to wear his helmet, he had finally been injured badly enough that she could tell the doctors to transplant what was needed for her favourite child to live.
There was someone breathing quietly under the bed, he realised as he shakily pulled out a pocketknife. He had thought this house was empty when he broke in, but was willing to put in the work to get a quiet night’s sleep.
As the MRI machine started up, he hoped they would finally put their finger on the cause of his digestive issues, so that his spouse would stop bothering him to get tested. Hours later, the workers cleaning the viscera from the machine scraped together dozens of tiny ball-bearings.
She had bragged to everyone about her well-stocked bunker, so it was no surprise that when the sirens rang the entire neighbourhood piled in. After the sirens shut off, they realised one-by-one that their benefactor was not among them and that the door was locked from the outside.
He ran through his list once again: doors locked, windows shut, alarm on, family in bed. This house would be a challenge, but he’d crack it.
It was absolutely mortifying, coming home from preschool with the wrong child. Still, looking at the label on their clothes, this one’s parents could afford the ransom just the same.
She wasn’t sure what kind of creature ate the scraps she left in the backyard, but she liked the gifts they left. Her favourites were the bones, spending hours comparing them against her mother’s human anatomy textbooks.
Hearing the echo in the cave had been fun at first, but now he was in loop: “Help!” “Help!” “Help!” “Help!”
He swore that as he stayed in the dark, his replies quieter and quieter, that the echo was now moving towards the exit.
I would have lost my mind in grief when my oldest son disappeared, but at the time I had to focus on my newborn baby daughter. But now she is the same age her brother was, describing the same imaginary friend.
The trick to finding your way through any maze was to keep your hand on one wall and follow it all the way around. But now he noticed the wall ahead already had dried blood on it, at the same height that his raw and bleeding hand had been for hours.
The laptop screen went black and despite her best efforts, everything was gone: her photos, her novel, her thesis. Words appeared on the screen, asking what she was willing to do to get them back.
I had wished to be safe from all physical harm. Immobilised in soft restraints in an endless void, my last sane thought is that I probably should have included mental harm too.
There is a face pressed against my bedroom window. This would be scary in and of itself normally, but it is held aloft by a hand, not a neck.
When I told my parents that I trapped a monster in a chest, they pretended to believe me, even giving me a padlock to keep it shut. It was months later that they finally got around to clearing out the attic and found the bones, safely locked away.
She checked her buzzing phone and saw the alerts and messages warning citizens to not look at the sky. As she walked into the kitchen her husband turned to face her from the open window, with an expression she could not understand.
He could not stop, despite the pain and exhaustion he felt in every inch of his body. But his decaying body shambled forward, his mind aware but unable to stop himself from tearing down the barricaded door.
She had told him she had a skeleton in her wall, which he thought was an odd joke but laughed for the sake of their first date. He woke up to see her filling in the gap on the other side of the wall, telling him he would prove her right eventually.
There was yet another “help wanted” sign in the butcher’s window. This time it went unanswered, as word spread that they never took deliveries.
He plunged the knife into the blanketed figure on the bed. He realised too late that the recipient was far too soft to be a real body: he already felt a knife stab through his foot from under the bed.
It is so much cheaper to pay out a life insurance policy than to pay for a lifetime disability. For this reason, each bottle of wine was accompanied by a “Get Well Soon!” card had an imperceptible syringe hole through the cork.
The child pulled at one end of the cup-and-string phone, but the other end was stuck under the bed, irretrievable behind all of the junk he had hidden there. He felt the cup vibrating in his hand, and as he pulled the string taught to put the cup to his ear, he listened.
For years the birds would bring her gifts they thought she would like, usually small trinkets, in exchange for food. Lately they had been bringing doll eyes and as she wiped a tear from her eye, she made certain she did not forget their payment this time.
I thought it was odd when my new friend moved away after only living next door for a few weeks. Then the missing posters went up, showing a photo of her with different parents.
I can’t get into the locked and boarded house, no matter how hard I claw and beg. Once the moonlight reaches me I know I will get inside easily and they will wish they had let me hide.
My mother always bragged about having raised her child well using corporal punishment. As I watch her growing frailer and weaker over the years I look forward to being in charge of her care.
The dinner party was going wonderfully until my guests found a photo album under the coffee table. As they start wondering why their host looked nothing like the family inside I wished I had searched the house better and had put the poison in the canapes.