Squirming. The boy could not keep still. His mother held him tightly on her lap. She was afraid too. Afraid of different things, like her son’s emotional development, the painful fear he experiences every night, or perhaps, how this would affect her boy as he grew up. The boy feared one thing: the monster that lived in his room. Not an uncommon fear for a five-year-old, but this case might have been different. Less common.
“May I call you Oli?” the therapist asked as he leaned forward in his chair with elbows on knees.
The boy nodded slowly. The boy feared two things, the therapist thought. He won’t speak to me openly in his mother’s arms like that.
“You like puzzles, Oli?”
Again the boy nodded slowly. The therapist pushed a box across the coffee table and opened the lid, showing the boy all the large, colorful puzzle pieces inside. Almost instantly, the boy wriggled free of his mother’s grasp and knelt at the coffee table, digging into the puzzle. His mother smiled sadly down on her boy.
“You can play with the puzzle but I need you to talk to me while you do. Okay, Oli?”
The boy nodded without lifting his eyes.
“Can you tell me why you are afraid of your bedroom?”
Nothing but the rustling of cardboard puzzle pieces as he spread them out on the table.
“Is there something in there that scares you?”
The boy nodded.
“Can you tell me what it looks like?”
This earned a disapproving tongue click from the mother. The therapist held up a single finger to silence her.
“If you tell me what he looks like, I might be able to make him go away.”
“He’s big,” the boy answered almost immediately.
“Big like me or bigger?” the therapist asked.
“Like you,” the boy said. “And he’s shiny.”
The therapist scribbled three words on his legal pad. Man size. Scaly.
“Shiny like a snake?” the therapist asked.
The boy shook his head. “Like he’s wet.”
“Like a frog?”
Oli nodded. The therapist scratched out scaly and wrote slimy next to it.
“Does he have big eyes?” the therapist asked.
The boy shook his head.
“No eyes?” the therapist asked. This drew a questioning look from the mother.
The boy nodded. The therapist wrote salamander across the bottom of his pad and circled it. He had heard all he needed to hear. Now to finish out the hour with psychobabble and doodles.
“Thank you,” the mother said in the waiting room. “I haven’t heard him open up like that since all this started.”
Oli ran to his sister who played with one of those twisted abacus toys.
“Do you have any thought as to what might be causing this?” the mother asked.
“Maybe too early to tell,” the therapist said. “But it seems like his fears are tied to that room directly. It might do him some good to stay somewhere else for the weekend.”
“My parents have a little farm in the country,” she said. “We had been thinking about a trip out there to see them.”
“Perfect,” the therapist said. “Get him out of the city for a weekend. Go see grandpa and grandma. Chase some animals around. Let him be a little boy. That would do him a load of good.”
The mother smiled. “We'll leave this Friday.”
He had watched the house for several hours. She said they would leave Friday, but people leave late, forget things. The therapist could take no chances. No movement. Convinced they would not come back until tomorrow, he drove his inconspicuous sedan around back.
He scanned the neighbor’s houses casually as he got out. People don’t generally think home invasions would happen during the day. For that reason, it’s the best time. He opened his trunk. Garlic, wooden stakes, silver bullets, rot iron, hatchets, Molotov cocktails, flashbangs, knives, pistols, a roll of razor wire, a boat battery, jumper cables, nunchucks, and a jar of marbles. The therapist grabbed a sawed-off shotgun and loaded several shells of salt shot. He looped a sheathed machete onto his belt and stretched a set of swimming goggles and a snorkel over his head.
He walked to the back door and slipped the key into the lock. The mother hadn’t noticed he had lifted her keys from her purse and handed them off to his receptionist to make an impression.
The back door swung inward on silent hinges. The kitchen was dark though it was bright outside. He quickly moved to the stairs and stood at the bottom for a moment looking up.
The rest of the house seemed dark too. The mother must like her curtains. Slimers like them too. The therapist leaned his shotgun against the banister and lowered the goggles over his eyes. He bit down on the snorkel’s mouthpiece and retrieved his shotgun.
He picked up his right foot and carefully set it down on the first step. No creak. He slowly climbed the stairs one at a time with the shotgun muzzle leading. The last step creaked and the therapist froze. He listened for several long moments, willing his breath to be silent through the snorkel. Hearing no movement, he continued onto the landing.
He moved down the hall to the boy’s room and gently nudged the door open with his toe.
All seemed quiet. He moved into the room with his shotgun leveled at the closet. The blackest darkness seeped out of it through the slats in the door. The therapist kept the shotgun trained as he slowly reached out with his left hand. He gripped the doorknob and swung the door open as he snapped back behind his shotgun in the same motion. No movement. He crept forward again and swept his fingers around in the dark for the light’s pull string. He found it and yanked.
The bulb swung back and forth, shining on clothes, toys, and bedding.
Then something gripped his ankle and yanked back hard. In an instant, the therapist was swept off his feet and falling. The floor struck him hard enough to press the ait from his lungs, but his grip held true. He rolled over with his shotgun at the ready to find a slimy hand wrapped around his foot. It pulled him toward the bed.
The therapist squeezed the trigger and sent the salty shrapnel into the blackness under the boy’s bed. An ear-shattering scream filled the empty house. He racked another shell into the chamber but before he could fire, something wet struck him in the face. Thick slime dripped down his chin. The rancid stuff covered his eyes, nose, and mouth completely. He tried to wipe his goggles with his sleeve, but the yellow goop just smeared more and more. At least I can breathe.
He shot again and the creature released his foot. The therapist jumped to his feet and pumped the gun, loading another round. He scooped a hand under the box spring and flipped the bed over. Nothing. The creature was gone. The therapist swung around, sweeping the room to find an eyeless face staring back at him, too close for comfort.
The creature swiped the gun from his hands and screeched in the therapist’s face. The salamander’s breath snaked down the snorkel and into the therapist’s mouth. He could taste it. Rotten fish and pond scum. The therapist kicked the creature to it’s back and drew the machete from his belt. Lifting the blade over his head, he loomed over the creature, poised to end this.
The slimer kicked out with both legs. Two webbed feet struck the therapist in the chest and sent him flying through the wall into the next room. He landed on his back and slid across the hardwood floor, smacking his head into a polka-dot dresser. The machete was gone. He thought he had it when he went through the wall. The floor must have shaken it from his grasp. The therapist desperately tried to wipe the slime from his goggles and searched the room for the blade. The white, and pink polka-dot room was brighter than the little boy’s room. Probably why the salamander chose the boy instead of the girl.
There. Across the room. Under the little girl’s bed, the blade’s razor edge shimmered. The therapist crawled to it as webbed feet slapped wetly on the floor behind him. He wrapped his fingers around the grip and rolled over just as the creature dove on him. Cold, purple blood gushed out of the slimer’s neck and onto the therapist’s hands and arms. The machete had punctures straight through to the other side.
The therapist rolled the twitching body off of himself and stood up, letting the machete clatter to the floor. He removed the snorkel and goggles and gasped for air. He quickly regretted it. The room was full of the rancid odor of salamander blood and bile. He looked around at the mess they had made and pulled his cheap burner phone out.
The screen was cracked and some of the purple blood had made it into his pocket. He wiped it off as best he could and dialed.
He held the phone to his ear and someone picked up wordlessly on the other end.
“Clean up for one,” the therapist said. “Bring drywall.”
This writing prompt is courtesy of u/WorldofSilver.
[WP] You are a child therapist who treats extreme cases of children terrified of a monster in their closet. They're extreme because they're real, and you're actually secretly a demon hunter using these therapy sessions to gather intel on the monsters before killing them.
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