Echoes in the Hall (2012 Winning Entry)

By David Copeland (North Carolina)

“Creak!” This was the sound of the floorboards, which was conspiring with the entire house, it seemed, to keep little Rae awake. “Creak,” it went again. Little Rae clutched her bear (cleverly named Berry), who could protect her from monsters. Well, that’s what Mommy said. “Creak,” it went a third time; this time a little louder. Little Rae hid behind Berry which was much bigger than her. She spoke softly to it, “Protect me Berry.” It must have said something back, because she nodded her head after a few seconds, but it was too soft for me to hear from my hiding place. She talks to Berry a lot, but no one ever seems to hear him saying anything.

Little Rae got out of bed, still holding Berry, with a newfound courage. I felt like I was shrinking a little. That usually happens. When she’s not afraid, I become very tiny, as small as a mouse, but tonight was one of those nights where I could barely hide anywhere because I was just too big. She stepped towards the door, dragging Berry with her, and opened it very slowly and warily. She peered into the hallway which was dark beyond reason. It took her a minute to reassure herself that the floor was still there. Then, she stepped out into the dark, dragging her bear, and I had to remind myself that she was even there. “Creak, creak, creak,” went the floor. “Oh no,” I thought. “She’s been eaten by the hallway! Swallowed in the floor!” I stepped out of my hiding place, pulled on by an unknown force. I have never been able to leave Little Rae’s side, but I have never been seen by anyone but her. It was my duty to be with her all the time, to make sure she’s careful, and to protect her from scary things. If there was something to fear out there, then I needed to go too.

My talons scraped against the hardwood of her bedroom floor. My tusks hooked unto the stash of clothes that construct the walls of my hiding place–the smaller room, inside of her room. My purple, polka-dotted tail knocked things over as I scuffled across the room. I peered outside of the room into the dark as I started growing bigger and bigger. This was a kind of dark that I had never seen before in my life. It swallowed light like a snake eating her egg, instead of the light just cutting through it. A small shriek came from the hallway, and echoed throughout the silent house. Little Rae was still alive! “Stay away, you Monster!” she said. I rushed into the hall to find her, my talons and tusks making very loud noises as they scraped across everything. I still couldn’t see, but it seemed that Little Rae was crying out now, and I was growing larger and larger. At this size, I figured that nothing in this hallway could possibly defeat me, and swallow up my Rae. With this in mind, I let out a loud roar to scare the monster away. Suddenly, I bumped into a soft lump of child with my talons.

Little Rae was crying and cowering behind her bear, which was now pointed towards me. That must have been a mistake. “Why would she be afraid of me?” I thought. “I’ve been following her for her entire life, and I have never done anything to her to make her afraid of me. She’s just being childish.” I forgave her and resumed my search for the monster. I was far too big to fit with my head straight up in the hallway now, and I still seemed to be growing. Luckily, my spine is flexible, like a snake, so I just got down on my two talons and my two paws and crawled around the hallway, hissing and growling, trying to find this Monster who dared to scare Little Rae.

Then, I heard footsteps, and lights cutting on in the house. Her parents were awake. Finding Little Rae’s monster would have to wait for another day. I couldn’t risk being seen by her parents, so I dashed back to the room, which thankfully had a nightlight in it. The dark frightens me, after all. I was shrinking by the second anyway, and I probably wouldn’t be able to fight any monsters in this condition. I dove into my place in the closet. Mommy entered the room carrying Little Rae in her arms.

“Little Rae, there are no such things as Monsters.”

“But, Mommy, I saw him this time. He looked kinda like a crocodile with talons and a polka-dotted tail!”

“You only dreamed it honey. Now, can you be a big girl for Mommy and go to sleep?”

“Okay.” She wiped her eyes at the last part. She was tired, and I was down to the size of a mouse now. I hid under a piece of clothing on the floor of her smaller-room-within-a-room. Mommy walked over to the closet. “I just washed this, and it’s already on the floor. Ugh…” She picked up the piece of clothing that was my hiding place and looked directly at me, but she didn’t seem to notice that I was there. Maybe she just wasn’t paying attention. Who knows?

From my hiding place, I didn’t see the monster in the room or hallway, but I could tell from Little Rae’s face that there was, in fact still a dangerous monster lurking around. I promised to myself, “As soon as the lights are out, I will find that monster.” She left the room and cut the lights off, including the hallway lights. Rae looked in my direction as I started growing again….