The Thing at the Bedside, by Stanley B. Webb

Eight year old Jamaska left his elementary school at three o’clock. His ten year old sister met him outside.

“Hi, Jamayka,” he called. “Race you!”

He started running. Jamayka ran after him. She was bigger and stronger, but she didn’t catch him. Perhaps she simply enjoyed the moments that she could spend with her brother. They ran through the bright, cold November afternoon. Jamaska led her toward the waterfront.

“Mommy doesn’t want me coming down here!” She called to him.

“Daddy lets me,” he boasted. “Can’t catch me!”

The sun went behind a cloud.

Jamaska stopped on the sidewalk at the edge of the harbor. The air stank of rotting fish. The offshore lighthouse blinked at them, first with a white lens, then with a red. Jamayka caught up with him.

“Let’s get out of here,” she said.

“I want to go home with you,” he said.

“You’ll have to ask Dad.”

A bubble surfaced out on the harbor. The children went still. A second bubble rose, this time several yards nearer. A third bubble broke closer still. Jamayka grabbed her brother’s hand.

“Run!”

They ran away from the harbor, and up the hill, toward Jamayka’s house. The sun emerged from the cloud. Mommy’s neighbors were raking leaves in their yard. They called greetings to the children. Jamaska and Jamayka ran in through the gate, and up to the front door. Mommy was waiting for them. She hugged Jamaska, and cried.

“Can he stay for dinner?” Jamayka asked.

Mommy said, “Call your father, Jamaska. If he says yes, we’d love for you to stay.”

Mommy and Jamayka went into the kitchen. Jamaska called home from Mommy’s living room. Daddy answered.

“Where are you, Jamaska?”

“At Mommy’s. Can I stay for dinner?”

“My Wife has your dinner ready, here. She’s made your favorite, sausage penne.”

“That’s not my favorite!”

“Jamaska, she’s spent hours laboring on this meal. She’s trying very hard to be a mother to you.”

“She’s not–please, can I stay? I miss Jamayka.”

Daddy sighed. “It has been hard for you, being separated from your sister. All right, you can stay.”

“Thank you, Daddy.” He ran into the kitchen. “Hooray, I can stay!”

Mommy smiled. “You’re in luck, I’ve made sausage penne tonight.”

“That’s my favorite!”

After dinner, he played with his sister. The sun went down. The telephone rang. Mommy answered it.

“Hello. Yes, he’s finished dinner. You know how he loves sausage penne.” She was quiet for a minute, listening. Daddy’s small, loud voice jabbered from the receiver. Mommy offered the telephone to Jamaska. “Your father wants to speak to you.”

He went to the telephone. “Yes, Daddy?”

“You lied to me.”

Jamaska said nothing.

“Damn it, why can’t you give her a chance?”

“She’s not my mother!” Jamaska screamed. “I hate her!”

Daddy’s voice became mean. “She is your mother, now. Come home.”

The line went dead. Jamaska hung up the telephone.

“Mommy, I want to live here.”

Mommy was weeping, tears running down her cheeks, and dripping off her chin. “I wish you could, but you’ve got to do what your father says.”

Jamaska said his good-byes. When he was outside in the dark, he let himself sob. He walked down the hill. The night deepened. The smell of the harbor rose into town. His neighborhood had no streetlights. His front gate was fallen from its hinges. He waded through the rotting leaves in his yard, and went into his house. His father was waiting for him.

“You do anything that you can think of to break my wife’s heart!” Daddy screamed. “I am sick of it. She is a part of your family now. Accept that, Jamaska.”

Jamaska was weeping and wailing.

Daddy sighed in disgust. “Go to bed. She’ll be up to say good-night.”

“No, Daddy, no!”

“Go!”

Jamaska went upstairs. He brushed his teeth, and changed into his pajamas. He got into his bed, and turned off the lights. His night-light turned itself on.

He was trembling.

Heavy tapping came up the stairs. The sound came down the hall. Then, she filled his doorway. She entered his room. She came to his bedside. She had six crab-like legs. Her head looked like a giant oyster shell, with a single red eye waving on top. Her gaping mouth was lined with crocodile teeth. Worm-like tentacles hung from her chin, draping her potato-shaped body. Her belly labored in the air. In the middle of her belly there was a hole, which was loudly sucking itself. Jamaska did not look there. He would never look there.

She reached out a tentacle, and adjusted his blanket.

Her voice gurgled, “Would you like a bedtime story?”

~~

Stanley B. Webb is a retired auto worker. Although he has been writing monster fiction for nearly fifty years, he has begun working as a writer only recently. He is also a collector of monster fiction and movies, with a preference for giant creatures. He discovered H.P. Lovecraft as a teenager, and found inspiration in works such as “From Beyond,” and, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”Stanley has a flash story, “Shades,” in the 2013 Halloween contest on the website Microhorror. He also appears in the Christmas-themed horror anthology, “When Red Snow Melts,” published by Horror Novel Revues.Stanley lives with his wife and son in Pulaski, New York. When not writing, he participates in the local artist’s community. His works include driftwood sculptures, and stained glass windows.

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Posted on January 20, 2014, in Issue 12: The Shadows Only Hide the Monsters: Poe & Lovecraft Tribute and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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