“You dirty, stinking liar!” a little girl with pigtails screamed, holding closed a hole in the back of her skirt with one hand and pointing one finger at a little boy cutting colored paper.
“It’s not my fault you got a ripped skirt.” The little boy grinned. The little girl gasped and stomped.
“IT’S NOT A RIP! YOU CUT MY SKIRT!” she screamed at him. The little boy only shook his head and kept cutting. He had, in fact, cut the little girl’s skirt with the very scissors he was using to make Halloween decorations. He had even done it on purpose, but he wasn’t going to admit to doing it. This was more fun.
“Every time you lie you stink more. My big brother said so,” the little girl’s face was red and her eyes began to leak. “He said the monsters would get you if you lied too much.”
The little boy laughed. “Monsters aren’t real. Monsters are for babies.” He looked sideways at her and grinned a little bigger. “Are you a baby? Biggest baby I ever saw!”
The little girl told on him. His mother didn’t think it was funny at all.
After school, the boy was sent straight to bed. He lay in the dark thinking of all the lies he’d told that day and feeling proud of himself that some of them had been very good. He didn’t think at all about what the girl had said about monsters. He hadn’t needed a night light since he was five and he was a whole seven years old now. There was no reason to be afraid of monsters in the dark. Monsters were not real. He fell asleep, feeling good.
The little boy woke up in the dark. There was no light under his door from the rest of the house. He didn’t hear anyone else awake out there, but something had woken him up. He looked around his room and listened. His room was quiet. He pulled the blanket up to his chin to go back to sleep, but now he couldn’t stop listening. Something had woken him up. He closed his eyes. It only made him listen harder. He lay there for a long time listening, but nothing made a sound except the wind outside in the trees and a dog barking far away. He started falling asleep again.
The little boy was dozing; his dreams beginning to form like smoke floating out of a newly made fire. He heard a thump. He thought it was part of the dream, but it made him uneasy. He rolled over and pulled the blanket tighter around himself. THUMP. His bed shook. Dreams don’t shake your bed. His eyes shot open and he looked around for…he didn’t know what.
There was nothing there. He lay back down and thought about turning on a lamp. Maybe he really was dreaming and he just thought the bed shook.
“I’m not afraid,” he said to himself.
“You’re lying,” the dark said back to him.
The little boy froze. He peered carefully around his room. He didn’t see anything, but there was another THUMP, closer this time. He felt like his teeth rattled.
“I’m not afraid!” he borrowed farther under his blanket and wished it were true.
“Ooh! Do it, again, kid. Lie. It makes it so much easier to smell yoooou.”
The little boy felt a gust of hot air pull at him. It blew in his face. “You’re not real. I can’t see you. You’re not here!” He hid his head under the blanket.
THUMP, THUMP! The dark laughed. “You smell like rotten apples!” THUMP, THUMP, THUMP! “And vinegar and old socks!” THUMP! “And I FOUND YOU!”
The little boy screamed, but nobody heard him. He was already in the monster’s mouth. The monster licked his lips and grinned a big, dark grin that wrapped all around to the back of his head. He has no eyes. He can’t see you, so of course, you can’t see him. But he has a great big nose. It’s for sniffing out great big liars, and small ones, too. He’s not picky.