By Mike Carey

Billy wasn’t happy.

His parents were going out for the night, and in spite of his protests, they had called Lisa to come babysit. Billy hated Lisa. She always hogged the TV and the computer, she was mean, and she smelled weird. Worst of all, she made it sound like she was doing him favors and always wanted him to thank her. The doorbell rang and Billy shuddered. He knew that she had arrived and his best bet was to just stay in his room, but he knew what was coming next.

“Billy!” his mother called up the stairs, “come down here a minute.”

He knew the routine by heart. Dropping his phone on the bed, he sulked down the stairs.  As usual, Lisa had managed to block most of the bottom stair with that huge creepy old bag of hers.  She said she kept schoolwork in it, but Billy had never seen her open it. He tried not to look at her, but she could tell she was staring at him with her fake smile stretching across her pimply face, and her greasy red hair falling onto her bony shoulders.

“Okay, Billy,” his father started his standard speech, “Be good for Lisa. Do what she says and don’t stay up all night on your phone”

Billy rolled his eyes and couldn’t resist mumbling, “I don’t need a babysitter. I’m seven years old.”

“We know,” his mother said, planting a kiss on his forehead, “but it makes us feel better.” Without another word, his parents were out the door and heading down the walk to the driveway.

“Billy and I will have lots of fun!” Lisa called after them, lying. “Have a good time!”

The door closed and so did Lisa’s fake smile.

“I could’ve gone to a party if I didn’t have to watch YOU,” she hissed at him.

“You’re getting paid,” Billy quickly replied in his best sarcastic voice, “And nobody wants you at their party, anyway.”  Billy was very proud of this response. He felt very clever until his smirk was violently slapped from his face.  It wasn’t the first time Lisa had hit him, but it was a surprise every time.  His parents never hit him, and they would be mad if they knew what Lisa had done. He had wanted to tell, but Lisa had made it very clear that he would be sorry if he did.

“I didn’t have to spend my night watching you, you little sh–” she screamed, “You should show some gratitude!’

“Thank you, Lisa.” The words came quietly. The stinging pain on his cheek removed any desire to test her further. He turned and started back up the stairs.

“Billy,” she caught him before he could reach the sanctuary of his bedroom, “I promise I’ll never hit you again.”

“Thank you, Lisa,” was all he could think to say.

The boy walked back to his room, closing the door behind him. He was too afraid to call his parents, though he considered texting and asking them to come home.

He looked down at the empty bed, certain his phone had been there. Dropping to his hands and knees, Billy peered under the bed. It wouldn’t be the first time something had rolled off his pillows and tumbled down there. He sighed, looking hopelessly into the chaotic pile of toys and clothes that had accumulated in the dark space over the years.

He stretched one arm under the bed and began fishing, hoping that his fingers would find the easily recognizable shape of the cell phone.

“Ouch!’ A sharp pain shot through his hand. Drawing the hand quickly back, he saw blood on his thumb. He crab-walked away from the bed, staring at his hand and then at the darkness beneath the bed. He couldn’t remember anything sharp being under there. As much as he dreaded the thought, he was going to have to clean out that mess soon.

Looking down at his wounded hand, he knew he needed a band-aid, and he knew that meant going downstairs. And that meant having to deal with Lisa.

Resolved to the situation, Billy descended the stairs. The television was playing loudly, and across the room, Lisa was sitting at the computer. Strange moaning was coming from the computer speakers.

“Lisa,” he said meekly, “I cut my hand. I need a band-aid. They’re in the kitchen. I can’t reach them.”

She turned, and for a moment, her face looked different. Twisted somehow.  But then her face returned to its usual homeliness and she rose from the chair. Without a word, she walked to the kitchen and located the bandages. She tossed the box to the boy.

His parents had always put the band-aids on for him before, but he figured he could handle the task.  He turned and headed towards the stairs, eager to leave Lisa to her loud TV and moaning computer. A talon-like hand tightly and painfully grasped down on his shoulder.

“What do you say?” she hissed.

“Thank you…Thank you, Lisa,” he sighed.

As he began to walk away, Billy’s stomach reminded him of another issue.

“Um, Lisa,” he began nervously, “What are we having for dinner?”

She stared at him for a moment. Undisguised disgust in her eyes. Then she turned, walked to a cabinet and pulled out a box of cold cereal. She handed it to him.

“Take this up to your room with you and stop bothering me.”

“Thank you, Lisa,” he said, deciding that it would be smart to avoid angering her anymore.

After placing the cereal box on his dresser, Billy threw himself onto the bed and opened the band-aid box.  He fished through it until he found one the right size for the cut on his finger. Applying the bandage with his left hand was awkward for him and the first bandage ended up stuck to itself. He tossed it aside and began looking for a replacement.

A movement in the corner of his eye caught Billy’s attention.  As he looked on, silently, mouth agape, the closet door slowly began opening. Then suddenly, the movement ceased, almost as if something had just realized that Billy was watching.

Billy climbed off the bed and moved towards his dresser, never taking his eyes off of the closet door. Opening one of the drawers, he felt around until he found his flashlight. Then he reached beside the dresser and grabbed his baseball bat. He clung to the walls of his room and made his way over to the closet door.

He flicked on the flashlight and with his other hand, he reached the bat towards the door and into the thin opening.  He flung the door wide and leaped forward with the flashlight. A couple of toys fell from one of the shelves but nothing else seemed to move. As he scanned the light about the small enclosure the flashlight beam stopped short on a small jagged hole near the floor. It was about the size of a baseball, and, just for a moment, Billy thought he saw something move inside the hole.

He stared at the hole, fear freezing his thoughts. Then he heard footsteps stomping up the stairs. She must’ve heard the door slamming open, he thought.

The bedroom door swung open and Lisa burst in like a force of nature.

“What the Hell is going on up here?” she screamed.

Billy stepped back, saying nothing, pointing at the hole in the closet wall.

“What?” she angrily questioned and then her eyes followed Billy’s gaze. “Ew…You guys have mice, or rats, or something.”

Billy relaxed a little. He wasn’t afraid of mice or rats. His uncle even had a pet rat. He didn’t think that they made holes like that, but he was willing to accept that he could be wrong about that.

She left the room without another word, but her weird smell lingered.

A slight twitch of pain reminded him that he had still not bandaged his finger. So he climbed back onto the bed and, with a little work, finally got the bandage in place.  With that completed, his thoughts returned to food. He looked to his dresser.

The cereal box was gone.

Had Lisa taken it? He wasn’t sure. If she had, he hadn’t seen her do it. He decided to let it go. He could wait until his parents got home to eat something. He needed to find his phone. He had almost forgotten about it.

Climbing back down onto his hands and knees, Billy quickly decided that he wouldn’t risk cutting his hand again. He took the bat and began using it to probe the debris beneath the bed.  Then it stopped. The bat was stuck on something. Seriously stuck. Billy tugged at it. He pushed and pulled and tried everything he could but the bat would not budge.

Tiring, Billy let go of the bat handle and sat back. He stared at the bat handle sticking out from under the bed.  He was sure that there was nothing under there that the bat could get trapped on like that. It made no sense.

The bat handle rapidly vanished beneath the bed.

Billy ran down the stairs, two at a time. He began screaming before he even reached the bottom of the staircase, “Lisa! There’s something under my bed! It took my bat!”

“There is nothing under your bed, you freak. I don’t know how–”

“Please, Lisa! Please look!”

Lisa sighed loudly, “Fine. I’ll look under your bed.” She began loudly stomping up the stairs. “I can’t believe you are eight years old and you still need someone to check for monsters under your bed!”

“I never said monsters,” he weakly attempted to save face.

Lisa stormed into Billy’s room. She pushed his mattress off to the side of the bed and flipped up the box spring.

“Here! Look! Nothing!”

Billy slowly walked up behind her and peered at the clutter beneath the bed.  His bat was there. His phone was also.  He picked them up as Lisa continued to hold the box spring at an angle.

The box spring slammed down, narrowly missing Billy’s hands.

“Satisfied?” she asked.

He nodded in mute response.

“Good. What do you say?”

“Thank you, Lisa,” he whispered, distracted by the shattered screen on his phone.
Lisa chuckled, “Your parents are going to kill you when they see that!”

“It’s not funny.”

“I think it’s hysterical,” Lisa snorted, “Now I don’t want to hear another sound out of you tonight. Stay up here and be quiet.”

After she left, Billy stood silently and surveyed the room. His mattress was still on the floor, but he was pretty sure he could get that back onto the bed by himself. The closet door was still wide open. He grabbed the door and swung it closed. It slammed against the door frame and then slowly bounced back until it was, again, open a few inches. It occurred to Billy that perhaps it was just the old door acting like an old door. Nothing to be scared of at all.

He turned to the mattress and began trying to maneuver the unruly mass back onto the bed, gravity besting him at almost every turn. Eventually, after much exertion, enough of the mattress was in place that Billy was satisfied. He looked at the bed, proud of his accomplishment, and even more proud that he did not have to ask for Lisa’s help.

“No thank you, Lisa!” he said with a laugh.

And that was when the closet door slammed.

That was not just an old door acting like an old door.

Billy flew down the stairs at a dangerous pace and found Lisa by the basement door. He dropped to his knees in front of her, tears streaking down his face.

“Lisa!” he cried “The thing is in my closet again!”

Billy was looking for protection, but he found only rage in her eyes.

“I am so done with this!” she screamed, grabbing his arm, and dragging him towards the stairs. “You’re going to learn to face your fears and stop being such a baby!” She dragged him up the stairs. He didn’t know what she intended to do, but he was scared. Reaching out, he grabbed at the railing to stop their ascent. He only managed to hold on for a few seconds before Lisa tore him away.

“Do that again and I’ll break your fingers,” she hissed, “You’re going to thank me for this.”

When they reached the upstairs hall, Billy’s thrashing legs connected with a small table, knocking it over and sending a flower vase crashing to the floor. The sound of the shattering glass caused Lisa to pause for a moment.

“Moron. Your parents are going to kill you,” she proclaimed, with something that was both a smile and a sneer on her face.

“My parents are going to kill you!’ Billy spat back at her. Billy’s panic made him brave, but he regretted the words as soon as they left his lips.

Lisa threw back her head and laughed.

“Your parents will thank me for teaching you to not be such a whiny little freak.”

She dragged Billy into his room and over towards his closet door. With her free hand, she grabbed the doorknob and swung the door open.

“See? Nothing!” she insisted.

Billy did not answer. His attention was fixed on the shredded cereal box on the closet floor. Suddenly, Billy found himself being pushed into the closet. Fear gripped him like ice. He screamed his opposition, he begged, he pleaded, and yet all fell on deaf ears.

“You’re going to face your silly little fears,” Lisa coldly declared.

With one last shove, Billy fell to the floor inside the small space. Lisa closed the door, plunging Billy into darkness. He screamed like he had never screamed before.

“You can stay in there until you calm down,” Lisa yelled from outside.

Billy could hear something pushed up against the outside of the door. Something heavy to keep the door closed. Billy continued to scream until his throat hurt. He pounded and kicked at the door until he was exhausted. In time, all he could do was sit in the darkness and cry. He wished his parents would come home.

Hours passed. The night grew darker and the house was silent.

Lisa made her way back to the bedroom and pushed the dresser away from the closet door.

“Better now?” she asked in an unusually tender voice and opened the closet door. With a smile, she looked downward.

“Now. What do you say?”

From beneath a pile of picked clean bones, dozens of red eyes looked up at her.

A chorus of tiny voices replied, “Thank you, Lisa!”

You can find Mike Carey’s other work at Salem Uncommons.

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