Carrie heard the strange scratching sounds in the walls of her bedroom again.
“Mommy! Daddy!” She screamed out to her parents for the third time that night.
Daddy trudged into her bedroom. It had been an exhausting week. For the past five nights, Carrie kept swearing something was making scary noises in her walls. For the past five nights, her parents Bill and Sandy came in, but they could never hear anything.
Sandy thought there might be a mouse in the walls. Bill thought that moving to the new house a month ago was harder on their seven-year-old daughter than they thought it would be.
“Daddy, I’m so scared.” Carrie leapt out of her bed and jumped into his arms. He held and comforted his little girl.
Finally, “Okay, let me have a listen.”
“But you won’t hear anything, Daddy. You and Mommy never hear anything.”
“Unless it’s your imagination, we should be able…”
“No!” Carrie jumped out of Bill’s grasp. “It’s real. I can hear it, Daddy. I can!”
Bill walked over to the wall by her bed. “This one?”
She nodded tearfully.
Bill leaned in and listened. He wasn’t pretending. If there were something in the walls, he wanted to know about it. It was just after five days, what were the chances he and Sandy listened only when it was silent?
“Sorry, sweetie.” He kneeled down and hugged little Carrie. “I just don’t hear anything.”
“I told you you wouldn’t. I’m the only one who hears it. It’s coming to get me.”
“Baby, even if there were a mouse in the walls…”
“No, it’s not one mouse, it’s like a million of them, bunches and bunches.”
Bill hugged his daughter and then looked her solemnly in the eyes. “It’s not there now, Carrie. It’s really late and you have school tomorrow. Try to get back to sleep, okay?”
He could feel the little girl trembling in his arms. Sandy wanted Bill to let her sleep in their bed for a few nights, but he didn’t think encouraging her behavior would help her get over this.
“Okay, Daddy.” She was speaking in a tiny voice. Then she hugged him. “I love you, Daddy.”
She said it as if it were a farewell.
“Good night, darling.” Bill stood, helped Carrie back to bed, tucked her in, and kissed her forehead. “See you in the morning.”
Carrie closed her eyes, but the last thing on her mind was sleep. Daddy walked back into the hallway, leaving her door half-open. The night-light, which was normally so soothing, only cast scary shadows.
Fifteen minutes later, the scratching started again, but this time, it was louder. The scratching wasn’t coming from the whole wall this time. It was moving, moving through the walls, moving behind her dresser drawers, shaking her dresser drawers.
Carrie was too terrified to scream or to get out of bed. She stared at the now vibrating dresser, eyes attentive to any movement.
Then it came. Then they came.
It was a horde of big, ugly bugs, hundreds and hundreds, thousands and thousands, swarming out from behind the dresser, scurrying along the floor, heading for her bed.
Carrie took in a deep breath, but she couldn’t make any sound come out. She was sitting up, clutching her blankets against her chest. She thought they were coming to eat her.
In an instant they all ran under her bed and there was terrible screaming and yelling. Her bed bumped and jumped, and Carrie thought it would break or she’d be thrown to the floor with all those horrible bugs.
Finally she screamed and screamed her loudest scream, one of pure terror. She stared down as bunches and bunches of bugs dragged a monster out from under her bed. They were crawling all over it, eating it. It was like watching a bunch of ants eating thrown away food in the garbage can, but really, really fast.
Her bedroom door burst wide open as Daddy and Mommy rushed in. Carrie had never screamed like that, not during the past five nights, not ever. Bill flipped the light switch on and both adults were transfixed by the scene on the floor in front of them.
Skin, flesh, organs, and finally the bones of the Monster Under Carrie’s Bed were consumed. What was actually several hundred insects similar to locusts were patting each other on their backs in congratulations, belching in gastronomic satisfaction, waving at Carrie, and smiling.
One of the bugs separated himself from the group and walked toward Carrie’s bed. All three human beings were staring at him with a mixture of horror and fascination. He was wearing some sort of clothes and had what looked like a crown on his head.
Bill was about ready to rush in and rescue his little girl, even if these locust things tried to eat him too. Then this “royal bug” spoke. His voice was high-pitched like a cartoon character, but it was very clear.
“Greetings. Don’t be afraid. We knew about the monster under your bed and came to protect you.”
“Monster?” Sandy’s voice was quavering with fright.
“This house has always had monsters under the beds, one for every boy or girl who’s ever lived here. When you moved in, we knew your monster wanted to get you, Carrie. The Dark Evil of the World makes the monsters to get children. The Light of the World made us to get them and save you. By the way, monsters are delicious.”
“Thank you.” Carrie’s voice still sounded very small.
“You’re welcome. I am the King of the Backyard Locusts. We actually live under your backyard. If you ever need us, my subjects and I will return.”
The King then deeply bowed to Carrie, turned, and then bowed first to Sandy, and then to Bill. Then he whistled and shouted in his cartoony voice, “Okay, gang. Time to hit the road.”
With a bunch of whistles and victory shouts, hundreds of locusts scrambled back behind the dresser and were gone…
…except the King. He peeked around one edge of the dresser momentarily. “We’ll fix the holes in the walls, too.” Then he was gone.
Bill and Sandy ran to Carrie and hugged her and hugged her. Everyone was crying and laughing.
No one got any sleep that night. Sandy called school the next morning to say that Carrie wasn’t coming because she wasn’t feeling well. The poor kid finally fell asleep. She really needed the rest.
Based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, I wrote a 100 word piece of flash fiction called Tahji’s Freedom. However, I wanted to write something longer today, and decided on another tale that is also “insect based.” This is it.