Anya held her breath, the covers drawn close to her chin. She was trembling all over, her hands shaking involuntarily. Her heart beating wildly, so loud that she was surprised the neighbors hadn’t called to complain about the noise. They seemed to complain about everything else.
She had heard a noise. A soft, grating noise that had jerked her eyes open and caused her blood to freeze. She knew it didn’t mean anything, that that noise was just that: a noise. Probably the cat out and about. Or her idiot brother from down the hall who always seemed to stay up late, usually with some girl. But not even all the logic in the world could stop her imagination from jumping to other conclusions. And at night, with the darkness hiding who-knew-what, those conclusions were not happy ones.
She knew she couldn’t go to her parents’ room again. Not after the last time. Her father was sick of her climbing into bed with them over a ‘monster underneath the bed’ or ‘something in the closet.’ He had positively freaked out over her month-long reaction after accidentally seeing The Conjuring with a couple of friends.
Anya knew she was being irrational and tried to calm her breathing, her heartbeat. The noise was gone. Whatever it was, it was gone now. Which meant it was nothing. Slowly, the tension began to leave her shoulders and she began to relax again.
Anya’s heart jumped and she swiveled her head around, trying to find the source. That had been much closer than the other noise. It had almost sounded like it had come from somewhere in her room. She quickly grabbed her emergency flashlight from her desk and scanned the room with it. Nothing.
She leaned over and checked under the bed. A lot of dust and mothballs and probably one too many discarded M&M bags but no monster.
She had to stop doing this. She was almost ten-years-old, not a baby anymore. She shouldn’t be jumping with fright at any small sound that was made. She should be able to ignore it and go to sleep like the big girl that sh-
Her heart practically stopped when the creak again. And this time, that wasn’t all. It was barely perceptible but with the utter silence of the dead of night, she could still make it out. A low growling noise, as if coming from the back of a monster’s throat. And it was coming directly from her closet.
“Wh-who’s there?” she stuttered, the flashlight wobbling in her hands.
The growling came again, louder this time, and Anya eyed the door, desperately wanting to scream and run to her parents’ room. Heck, she’d even take her brother at this point. But she knew what would happen if she did. Her parents would check her room high and low and find nothing and then yell at her, saying it was a dream, an overactive imagination, and to go to sleep and not bother them again with this nonsense.
She could do this. She could be brave enough to do this. She took another step forward, brandishing the flashlight in front of her like a weapon.
“Wh-whoever’s-s there, j-just come out!” she said again, only five feet away from the closet now.
This time, the growling was so loud that her parents had to have heard it. Someone else had to have heard it. And not just that but a grating sound as well. Anya pictured the beast’s claws sliding against the closet door. There was definitely something there.
Another step. And another. She seriously considered running to her parents now but she was this close. Something inside of her just felt like ripping that door open and exposing whatever was hiding within.
“O-okay,” she mumbled. “I’m opening the door.”
She reached out and took the handle, her hand trembling so hard that she could barely get a grip. But she did. The growl came again and she almost visualize the monster waiting within. A beast with vicious claws and dripping jaws that would tear her limb from limb. A beast right out of her nightmares.
Taking a deep breath, Anya mustered what courage she had and then threw open the door, jumping back, fully expecting to see the monster charging straight for her.
What she saw was her brother, Victor, shaking with laughter inside the closet.
“Victor?” she said in confusion. “Wh-where’s the-” she stopped, realization hitting her. “You!”
“Oh that was priceless,” Victor said, holding his sides. “Your face just then, when you actually thought you were going to die. Oh, that is pure quality entertainment right there.”
Anya stared at him, anger growing inside her. “You jerk!” she said, swinging the flashlight at him which he caught easily. “You are such a jerk!”
“Hey, it’s not my fault you still think the boogeyman is real,” he said, still laughing. “You’re such a baby, you know that?”
“No I’m not!” Anya complained, frustrated tears coming to her eyes.
“Aw, is the little baby gonna cry?” he said in his punch-worthy face. “God, I can’t believe I have such a loser for a sister. I mean you honestly thought this,” he then made a sound in the back of his throat which was identical to the growl she heard earlier, “was a monster growl.”
She decided not to answer that, her face growing hot with shame.
“Whatever. I’m going to bed now,” he told her. “Night-night you little b-”
He suddenly jerked back, surprise covering his face, before his body disappeared into the dark closet. He screamed once and then there was a crunching sound. Then nothing.
Anya stared after him, determined not to buy it this time. “Ha ha, game’s over Victor. This is too much now.”
There was no response. No sign of him.
“Victor?” Anya asked, a little more hesitant now. “Victor come out now, this isn’t funny anymore.”
A low growl came from within, this one a little different than before but Anya refused to let it get to her. “Victor, I’m not going to fall for it this time. Now stop or I’m telling mom and da…”
She trailed off, her eyes drifting to the floor where a large stain was growing. A large, dark stain that spread across the wood. It almost looked like-
“Blood,” Anya muttered, her body going ice-cold and her heartrate beating a trillion miles an hour. She stared back up into the closet and thought she saw something moving inside. “Victor, please let that be you.”
She took a few steps back as the shadows swirled in the closet. She had just reached the back wall when it emerged. A large, inhuman shape, that seemed to be made from the very darkness around it.
She didn’t even have time to scream.