I believe in monsters.
Always have. Always will. When I was a child I even proved the existence of monsters. It wasn’t easy. The casualties included my mother’s foot and my father’s sanity. But it was worth it. Monsters do roam the land, seeking human prey. This is the story of how I proved monsters exist.
It all started when my parents brought me a sister.
The house where we were then living was much too small. Mom and Dad decided to move to Newton, where they currently live. The only house in their price range, however, was a slightly decrepit, unfinished hovel whose carpet was installed during the Harding Administration.
The basement wasn’t finished. Bare studs lined the soot-stained concrete walls (there had been a fire several years before) and an ancient furnace belched smoke ominously in the corner. In short, this house would have been an excellent on-site location to film a successful horror movie.
My parents cared not a whit about any of that, though. They had a home to call their very own and that was all that mattered.
For a year or two I was able to have a bedroom upstairs. I avoided the basement like the plague; I was convinced it was haunted. Every time I went down there I could hear moaning and what sounded like heavy footsteps. The furnace clanked like it had been possessed by off-key demons and the yellowed glass in the old windows lent the whole basement a dark, sepulchral aura. I successfully avoided going down there for over a year, until I was almost six years old.
Then my parents had another baby. It too was a girl.
It was decided that my new sister would get my room, and Kate (my other sister) and I would be exiled to one of the only finished rooms in the basement, a room sharing a wall with the possessed furnace and in a hallway where specters and ghouls could easily cut off our escape.
I wept. I shouted. I begged for mercy but Mom and Dad ignored my pathetic pleas. Mine and Kate’s stuff was shoved into the room and we were left to face our doom alone in the dark November night. Kate, at the age of two, fell asleep almost instantly. I, however, sat with my back pressed against the wall staring at the door. I knew the monsters would come and I would have to fulfill my brotherly obligations and defend my sister from their satanic claws. It turns out I was right about the monsters, but wrong about the door. The monster was already here. In fact, our bedroom was his lair.
The hideous wallpaper that had been installed by the previous owners had hordes of garish flowers prancing sickeningly about on the fading backdrop. One flower in particular stood out among the rest on the wall. It was bright red, the color of fresh blood, and I could see it clearly near the door in the dim glow of the closet light.
I threw a shoe at my sleeping sister and dove under the covers with a baseball bat, all brotherly devotion vanishing like a lightbulb blowing, still screaming about the Flower Monster. Kate had no idea where this alleged monster was but ran screaming from the room towards the stairs.
My parents were woken out of a dead sleep thirty seconds later by a blubbering, incoherent two year old.
Mom calmed Kate down while Dad thundered downstairs to talk to me.
“Stop scaring your sister! There are no monsters!” he shouted while I was cowering under my covers. “Do not send her upstairs again!”
Mom brought Kate downstairs and both my parents returned to their bedroom over my protests that the Flower Monster was just waiting for them to leave before it came out of the wallpaper again. They knew the first night or two would be bad, but I don’t think they understood HOW bad.
Fifteen minutes later, after Kate had fallen asleep, the Flower Monster came back.
I knew better than to let Kate go upstairs again, so this time I chucked the baseball bat at her shouting “STAY HERE AND FIGHT!” while I ran screaming up the stairs.
My parents were not amused.
They dragged me screaming back down the stairs and deposited me back in bed. I was told if either one of us came up the stairs again I would be grounded for a week.
Kate was now too scared to fall asleep again, and we both sat in our respective beds, staring at the flower.
This time we both ran shrieking up the stairs, Kate whacking me and the walls with a baseball bat.
This happened every twenty minutes for the next eight hours. By the time the sun rose Mom and Dad were catatonic from exhaustion and I had been grounded for sixty years.
Mom staggered around in a daze most of the day and Dad wound up coming home early from work to take a nap. Surely tonight, they consoled themselves, would be much better. The first night was bad because we were sleeping somewhere new, but certainly by now we would have calmed down and be able to sleep through the night.
They were wrong. Twenty minutes after we were put to bed my parents were woken up again.
This time I was summarily spanked and my newspaper-reading privileges were revoked for a month. “There are no such things as monsters!” Mom shouted, her exhaustion reducing her to hysteria. “Do not come back upstairs for the rest of the night!”
Twenty minutes later I came screaming up the stairs again.
And so it went on, night after night, week after week.The Flower Monster was relentless. He never stopped. No punishment my parents inflicted could keep me or Kate downstairs once he appeared, exactly every twenty minutes like a German train.
My parents tried everything: corporeal punishment, groundings, appeals to logic and reason…absolutely nothing worked. Dad started falling asleep in meetings at work. Mom could no longer speak in coherent sentences. Their lives existed in a haze of exhaustion.
One night they decided to barricade our door to keep us in, figuring that a few hours in the same room as the blasted flower would desensitize us to its existence. They forgot that they slept in the room directly above ours. We started chucking things at the ceiling the moment the Flower Monster appeared.
Another night Dad decided to lie to his children.
Was it wrong? Yes. Despicable? Yes. But he didn’t care. He hoped this would keep us trapped in our room, paralyzed by fear long enough that my parents could get a good night’s sleep.
It failed. We crawled out our window.
One night my Mom was dragging us both back downstairs to the Flower Monster’s lair. We were kicking and screaming, crying and shrieking, and successfully distracted Mom enough that she missed a stair.
She wound up breaking one of her toes.
Dad at the time was the Elder’s Quorum President in our ward and when it was his turn to teach the lesson he had a breakdown in front of the class.
Nothing worked. Every night was the same sad cycle. The Flower Monster was depriving my parents of their sleep, their sanity and their ability to walk without pain.
Until one day in early mid-March. That was when it all changed.
Mom and Dad dragged us screaming to the basement, flinging us onto our beds and staggering out towards their own without even a cursory “good night.”
Kate and I huddled together against the wall, shivering in fear as we waited for the Flower Monster to come out of the wall and destroy us.
And so he was! The Flower Monster had departed, never to return. Clearly our advancing maturity had driven him away. For the first time in months our family got an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Mom’s toe eventually healed and Dad regained his sanity.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realized who the monsters really were. It wasn’t Flower Monsters who lived in the wallpaper. It was me and Kate. We were the true monsters. We had deprived my parents of months of sleep and had nearly killed them. Those two months had proven a fundamental truth of life:
Children are the real monsters.