Breath & Shadow
Summer 2020 - Vol. 17, Issue 2
There's a monster under my bed. Her name is Hermana. She's black and gray striped like a tiger, but she looks more like a teddy bear with fangs and claws.
She doesn't like her name. I told her she could use mine, but she doesn't think Chloe suits her, and it's hard to pronounce with her fangs.
I told her she can call me "E", because that's the easy part of my name.
Hermana-who-does-not-want-to-be-Chloe is best friends with the monster in my closet. Their name is Bug, but they don't look like a bug. They're round in the middle with some
spindly limbs. Sometimes three, sometimes seven, and one time, thirty-twelve.
Which isn't a real number, but that's how many there were.
They only have thirty-twelve legs when there's trouble.
The trouble won't come inside, though, because we have other house monsters too. Felix under the stairs, who nips at my toes when I go up and down. Chuckles in the chimney, who laughs or howls, depending on his mood. And Granny in the attic.
Not my real Granny. That's just her name. I hear her rocking chair, soothing me and her, when I go to bed.
Hermana told me about the last incursion. That's a fancy word for attack. The outside monsters tried to come inside, before we moved here.
The last family didn't believe in monsters under the bed, in the closet, under the stairs, up the chimney, or in the attic. And that made the house monsters sad and weak. So they couldn't stop in the incursion of the outside monsters.
I've seen the outside monsters. That's how I know the house monsters are nice. The ones outside have no skin, sharp teeth, big eyes that never blink. And they tell me they like to eat Chloes and Mommies and Daddies.
I told them no.
I believe in my monsters. They promise to keep me safe. They'll keep Mommy and Daddy safe too, as long as I believe.
I still believe in monsters, and I'm going to keep on believing.
Mom and Dad think it's just a phase, that I'll grow up someday.
But I won't doubt.
The outside monsters go to my school now. They have names like Chet and Tiffany. They pretend they're human, but I see them for what they are. No skin, sharp teeth, big eyes that never blink.
I tell Mom and Dad I want to be homeschooled, but they say no.
I hide in the library a lot and find the books about monsters. The books don't talk about my house monsters, but that's okay. I still believe.
The books do tell me enough to cobble together a plan on how to stop the outside monsters. I only wear silver jewelry. I carry bags of herbs. The outside monsters like Chet and Tiffany call me witch and freak, but I don't listen.
They stay away.
But the house monsters don't like my silver and my herbs either. It makes them uncomfortable too. They're not so different from the outside monsters, they tell me. They've just chosen to be good.
They promise they'll stay in the house, but they have to keep their distance.
No friends at school. No more friends at home.
I still believe.
It's hard to believe in monsters once you're in the real world. The people are bad enough. Or maybe the monsters have learned to pretend to be people. They wear fake skins, file their sharp teeth down, and teach themselves to blink.
I'm too busy dealing with people, and I forget about Hermana, Bug, Felix, Chuckles, and Granny.
I don't hear their voices when I call Mom. (Dad left after I did.) She's going to sell the house anyway, because she doesn't need all that space.
And in my cozy apartment in the city, with no more ties to my old house, and dealing with people who are worse than monsters most of the time, I'd forget about my
If I didn't smell Grann's lavender, hear Chuckles voice, feel Felix nipping at my toes, taste the cotton candy sweet of Bug's round middle, and see Hermana on my doorstep.
"Do you still believe?" they ask.
I'd stopped, just for a moment. And they had to find me.
I do still believe.
There are no stairs or chimney or attic in my cozy apartment, but we make do.
Hermana and Felix share the space under my bed. Chuckles joins Bug in my closet.
Granny doesn't take up space, just rocks the other chair while I watch TV.
I do still believe.
Dawn Vogel's academic background is in history, so it's not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-edits Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time for writing. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers.
Her steampunk series, Brass and Glass, is available from DefCon One Publishing. She lives in Seattle with her husband, author Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats.