Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Boogeyman

                John Scanio ate 4 bagels and saw the boogeyman running up the stairs. He gave chase, bounding up the stairs 2 and 3 at a time, and helplessly watched it disappear into the dark closet. John was angry because this was the third time in the past month he found one of those things stalking about in his home. It is one thing to have roaches and fruit flies, but entirely another if the pest is as big as a person. John stood by the closet door, barefoot, and still carrying the butter knife he was using to spread Philadelphia cream cheese on the bagels. The light wood floor felt cold under his feet and he noticed the closet door was firmly shut. He walked to the door and grasped the handle, trying to rotate it, but it would not turn. Normally, the boogeyman rushes in without closing the door, but this one had the audacity to close and lock the door, thus maximizing the inconvenience. John took the locked door personally, although it was merely a survival instinct on part of the boogeyman, and left the bedroom. The closet was shared by two bedrooms, so John walked down the hallway, went into the other bedroom and looked at the closet door. It was shut. When he tried to turn the handle it would not budge. He was furious, stormed down the stairs, and decided to go online to look for solutions.
                He drank a glass of milk and put the dishes away, and then went to his office to get his credit card and laptop. While browsing pest control websites, he discovered a variety of traps, most of which were dangerous to humans as well. Nearly all of the traps were modified closet doors, some with poisonous gas and some with electrified handles. “No,” thought John, “those won’t do. I’ll end up killing myself.” After an exhaustive search of pest control sites, he decided to read random forums. One ingenious poster, bgkiller56, recommended removing the closet doors entirely. It seemed like a good idea, since no poisons were involved and it could increase the efficiency of household maneuvers by having to negotiate fewer doors.
                The boogeyman is attracted to closets because they make it feel safe. Night is an especially scary time for the boogeyman because the previously flat surfaces on four poles suddenly contain expansive mounds that move randomly. They are frightening, so the boogeyman must carefully open the closet door and walk slowly out of the room in order to feed. It is primarily a filter feeder and licks the filters in furnaces and dryers for sustenance, as well as the backs of refrigerators and ovens, when possible. People didn’t know any of this, since a boogeyman has never been caught in the act of feeding. No one knows for sure where they came from, but it has been speculated they somehow evolved in houses, since there are no historical records suggesting such pests existed previously. It is popularly called boogeyman by children, after a mispronunciation of the word bug, due to its similarity in appearance to a walking collection of bugs.
                All John could do was hope to catch this boogeyman unawares, as he had done in the kitchen one evening, several weeks ago. On that evening, it was hiding under the dinner table and darted upstairs when he walked in. He followed close behind and grabbed one of its legs as it tried to slip under his bed. The leg was easily crushed in his grip and he pulled the body proper towards him and systematically pulverized it.
                Late evening arrived and John became drowsy, fell asleep in front of the TV and awoke to a noise coming from the basement around two in the morning. Acting on a hunch, he went upstairs and found the closet door in his bedroom open. He closed it, closed his bedroom door and quietly walked down the steps. The basement steps were positioned in the living room, by the front door. He tiptoed across the living room and took several minutes to descend the basement stairs, pausing frequently and listening to the strange sucking noises. The only light came from the foyer and dimly illuminated the wooden stairs. At the bottom of the steps, he turned on the fluorescent lights, casting a thick stream of photons from the ceiling which exposed the secrets of the dark. The sucking noises abated and John saw the furnace filter lying on the floor. He also saw the feet of the boogeyman, for an instant, as they vanished in the opening previously occupied by the filter.
                He ran to the furnace and smacked the ventilation shaft, out of pure rage. A brushing noise rushed over his head and echoed dimly as it scampered through the ventilation, morphing its body in response to the path. John continued to listen and heard something snap and tear, followed by a light clang. Heedlessly he ran towards the stairs and slipped, barely catching himself before raking his chin on the concrete. He got up and slipped again, noticing a slimy substance on the bottom of his right foot. Before continuing, he violently rubbed his foot on the concrete floor until it was dry and walked back to the filter, which was fairly clean, despite the slime. Speculation was for another time, so he ran up the stairs, through the kitchen and up the stairs to the second floor. His bedroom door was still closed, but the second bedroom was wide open and he cursed himself for not checking it before going into the basement. Dashing inside, he found the ventilation cover on the floor, along with several chunks of drywall. Some of the beige wallpaper was torn from the wall and was folded over, like skin during surgery.
                The closet door was closed. And locked. A slight clinking noise could be heard from within, as if the coat hangers were moving of their own volition.
                He went into his bedroom and found the closet door still closed, as he had left it. Something wet was on the floor and he backed up, revealing a small red smear. Scraping his right foot on the concrete had mutilated the skin and he grabbed a sock from his dresser, pulled it over the raw flesh, and limped towards the bathroom. Suddenly the phone rang in his bedroom.
                “God blast that damned thing!” John roared. Picking it up, he unkindly growled one word, “Yes?”
                “John! Are you ok?” his wife Melinda asked, with unveiled alert.
                “Why? What? What is this about?”
                “The news.” Melinda stopped to catch her breath. “One of those boogeymen killed a man. It was on the news. I’m sorry. I had to call…”
                His wife was always worrying about him and John simply rolled his eyes. Shaking his head, he responded, “Ok.”
                “What! Ok!?” She was ready to stab him. “John, this isn’t a joke. Someone died and I won’t be home for 5 days. Can’t you stay in a hotel or something?”
                “Listen, Melinda, regardless of what the news says these things are harmless nuisances. I crumpled one in my hands, remember?”
                “Yes, I remember.”
                “Some guy probably had an accident in his house and the police blamed one of those things. Accidents happen all the time.” John paused. “Anyway, how’s the consulting going?”
                “It’s better than Atlanta. That was a mess.” Yawning, she continued, “I better get back to sleep and I would feel better if you left the house.”
                John simply said, “I love you.” There’s nothing like using a phrase no one understands to signal the end of a conversation.
                “I love you, too.”
                John returned the phone to its charger and went into the bathroom, filling up the tub. He removed the blood soaked sock and submerged his foot in the water, cringing as he swiped a bar of soap across the bottom of it. After bandaging his foot, he put on a pair of socks with holes at the heels and went downstairs to the garage. The door creaked open and it was dark, like the inside of a skull. Without turning on the lights, he walked in and grabbed a sledgehammer from the rack on the wall.
                He rushed back upstairs into the other bedroom and smashed the closet’s door handle decisively, breaking the lock mechanism and part of the frame. Without pausing, he yanked the door open and prepared to swing into the darkness when a long piece of thin steel thrust outward and penetrated his right eye. It made a scraping sound as it hit the rear interior of his skull. His body remained upright, twitching, while a thin arm slowly rotated the untwisted coat hanger around the border of his eye socket. A light rasping noise emanated from the closet as John’s brains were stirred. The arm retracted to the safety of the closet and John’s body fell face first into the wooden floor, quivering to the rhythm of death.


                Melinda left Sacramento one day early, in violation of the terms of her contract with Zeptron Plasmonics. She aggressively ambulated across the airport parking lot to her car after arriving in St. Louis. There were 12 more reports of the boogeyman killing a human on the news, the morning after her conversation with John. He didn’t pick up the phone that entire day, or the next. Or the day after that, either. The thought of losing John restrained her ability to focus and left her feeling like a shovel had passed through her ribcage. John still wasn’t picking up the phone as she was pulling into the driveway, while dim crunching noises of dead leaves reached through the rolled-up windows. Neglecting to open the garage door, she quickly trotted through the yard towards the front door and rang the bell. No one came. No noises of activity inside.
                She fumbled through her purse for the house keys, which were in perfect condition, despite their age. Most of the lights were on as she stepped inside and the laugh track from a sitcom eased her anxiety. “John is watching TV, as simple as that”, she thought as she placed her purse in the foyer. Her heart stopped beating for a moment when she found the living room empty, as well as all of the first floor. In the kitchen, however, she found the garage door open. The hood of John’s BMW 328i was up and some of the plastic in the engine was crudely ripped apart. There was a sledgehammer lying on top of the engine. On the floor, in a corner of the garage, she found the long cabin filter and trapezoidal shaped air filter. A strange heterogeneous sensation comprised of panic and confusion nestled in her neurons while she contemplated the disarray. Once it dissipated, she started to call John’s name aloud. There was no response and she walked up the stairs, into their bedroom. She screamed.
                Before setting foot in the bedroom, she saw the red blood streak on the floor. Backing slowly, she turned around and saw a bloody sock on the floor of the bathroom. The tub was full of water, slightly tinged with red and wrappers from band-aids were on the floor. She ran downstairs to the foyer, grabbed her purse, and called 911 while walking away from the house.


                The parrot, named Avesa, swallowed cracker crumbs without hesitation. Sarah Fowler enjoyed spending time with Avesa and mistakenly anthropomorphized her body language and squawks. She preferred to remain single, due to the endless endeavors of clueless men. The phone rang and Avesa threatened the instrument in her bird language. Sarah muted the TV and picked up the pock-marked phone, checking the caller ID first. It was not a number she recognized.
                A slow, stifled response, imbued with a sullen tone said, “The police found John’s body today.”
                Sarah leaned forward on the couch and didn’t see the room, despite existing in it.
                “Melinda, tell me what happened.”
                Melinda told her and Sarah listened, feeling a sense of relief for her sister. Sarah had never liked John’s mischievous gaze which had hinted of infidelity and lascivious cravings; he had always made her feel uneasy. Although she never told her sister, she suspected John was cheating on her without abandon.
                Sarah grabbed her purse and took out the bottle of pepper spray; she had a greater chance of misplacing her car keys. Her purse also had a false bottom which held a thin iron plate, thus allowing her purse to be swung as a weapon. Feeling secure, she stepped out of her apartment and walked to the elevator, taking it down to the parking garage. It took 45 minutes to drive from the inner city to North St. Louis and pull into the Florissant police station parking lot. After picking Melinda up, they drove in near silence back to the apartment.
                Once they arrived at the apartment, Sarah followed the advice from the police and removed all closet doors, in order to flush any potential boogeymen out into the open. Boogeymen regard closets as their living spaces and will defend them violently. If there is no door, then the boogeymen are incapable of recognizing such spaces as closets, since they look like extensions of open rooms.
                Melinda didn’t believe that John was really dead, despite having identified his body in the morgue. She sat in the living room and stared at the crimson curl patterns in the rug as her sister leaned closet doors against the wall.


                It had taken 8 minutes for the police to arrive at Melinda’s house. They had found her sitting in the middle of the street. One officer stayed behind to question her, while 3 officers cautiously investigated the interior of the house.
                John’s body was discovered in the second bedroom, face down, and slightly bloated. The closet door’s handle was on the floor and some of the frame was damaged. Whatever had been used to damage the door was not found in the room. The officers approached the closet from both sides, guns drawn, and opened the doors at the same time. Inside was a long piece of metal on the floor, presumably a straightened coat hanger, pairs of shoes, boxes, and hanging shirts and pants. The air was unusually dusty and smelled like the inside of a dryer.
                 They checked the basement last and found much of the furnace crudely dismantled, as well as the ventilation for the dryer. The duct leading outside of the house had been completely removed from the wall, giving the officers a clear view of the neighbor’s house.
                Its dryer ventilation shaft was wide open.


                This is a practice short story. My intention was to show a different type of boogeyman and experiment with dialogue, as well as characterization.
          I started writing it on 8/21/12 and finished on 8/29/12. The word count is 2,461.
          This is not in any way connected with, or based upon, the Boogeyman story written by Stephen King. I regard the “boogeyman” as part of the public domain, like vampires and werewolves, which are available to any writer.