I found this meme today, and it inspired me to post this short story previously published in Alternative Witness, Vol 1 - Take a read and leave a comment if you love your Teddy!
Scott ran for all he was worth and leapt to the bed, Teddy tucked under his arm. The box springs squealed in protest, but his comforter caught him in its cool, white embrace. Other stuffed animals bounced on his bed, tossed by his momentum.
The glassy eyes of his stuffed, best friends reflected the glow from the hallway. His door stood wide open, allowing the light to pour in undisturbed. Clenching his teeth, Scott threw his feet under the covers and pulled the comforter over his head. Still, he could hear it.
Fear gripped Scott’s throat as the rattling growl under him grew in intensity, reverberating in his racing heart. He felt certain he woke it by getting up to go to the bathroom. There was a reason he used to wet the bed.
“Scotty, was that you?” Mom’s quiet voice came from the hallway, silencing the rumble under his bed.
“Yes, Mommy.” Scott sounded muffled under the comforter, even to his own ears.
“You need to get to sleep, young man,” she said as she sat on the edge of his bed, “and no more running.”
She tucked the covers around his body and pulled the comforter from his grip, exposing his face. Her lilac scent comforted him as she leaned in for a kiss on his forehead. Eyes wide, Scott felt he needed an excuse. “I had to go pee.”
“I told you not to drink anything after dinner.”
“Well, get back to sleep. Okay?” The bed lifted as she stood and continued in sing-song, “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
Bedbugs were not his worry. In his fear, Scott suppressed a giggle. “Mommy, wait. Could you please check under the bed?”
In the half-light, Scott could see his Mom’s forehead wrinkled as she put on a scowl that wordlessly said, ‘really, Scotty?’ as she kneeled and lifted the coverlet. She rose, smiled at him, and said, “Nope, no monsters under there, just dust bunnies. Hmm…I’m going to need to vacuum tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder.” She clawed both hands toward him and tickled him through the blanket.
Laughter rang through the air as Scott kicked and struggled under the comforter. Half his stuffed animals landed on the floor. His mother stopped and hugged him. “Okay, Okay. Now settle down, Scotty, I mean it.”
Scott watched his mom retrieve his best friends and set them at the foot of his bed. “G’night Mommy.”
“Night, Scotty.” She said as she pulled the hallway door closed but a crack.
The shadows stretched across the room, across Scott’s face, and across his heart. He covered his head once more with the bedspread, and gripped his Teddy tighter. He closed his eyes and prayed in the silence. Scott knew God could hear him. He imagined that prayer was like a phone call, and if he didn’t say ‘Amen’ -- then the line never disconnected. With purpose, Scott left the phone off the hook. The feeling that God would watch over him helped Scott forget the rumbling under his bed. With relief, he fell into the comfort of sleep.
Teddy blinked as soon as he heard Scotty’s breathing develop a steady rhythm. His cashmere fur caused sparks of static to snap as he wriggled from under the covers. The Shadow would be coming, and Teddy needed to be on guard.
He heard the sharp whispers of his comrades at the foot of the bed as the rumbling began again. Gus the giraffe met him as he emerged from his blanketed captivity. “Teddy, hurry! It comes.”
The rattle developed a crescendo as Teddy and Gus joined the group of four brave stuffed sentries. Three of their comrades laid behind them, lifeless reminders of the danger ahead. This night, the eve of Scotty’s eighth birthday would be the Shadow’s seventh and final return.
“Steady now, friends.” Lambert, the purple lion grumbled the command, his marble eyes steady as he searched for a form in the darkness.
The six of them stood across the bed. They kept a line of guard between Scott and the Shadow. In the faded light from the crack in the door, a dark shape rose. The shade obscured the room as it consumed the light and the hallway went black.
Teddy still rendered the faintest outline as the Shadow spoke, “It is time. Your life or his?”
The bare patches on Teddy’s arms were badges worn in from seven years of sentry duty. They were caused by tumbles in the dryer, never from Scott’s ill will. One of his eyes were brown, the other replaced by a black button sewn by a loving mother’s hands while tears of sorrow dried on Teddy’s forehead. Not once did Teddy doubt Scott’s love, and the fact that all of them lived proved it. In unison, the six friends spoke, “Ours.”
A cold, obsidian hand hovered over the heads of each. For a moment it rested over Sunrise, the white horse. Teddy wanted to yell and demand that his life be taken. As the oldest, he would be destined for the trash can, regardless. But he knew that any interference could be tantamount to breaking the unwritten law. It would be interpreted as resistance, making Scott’s life forfeit.
Teddy’s sewn mouth remained shut as he watched the Shadow grip the horse’s neck and lift it from the bed. Sunrise closed its blue eyes and when they opened again, the shine disappeared. The Shadow tossed its unmoving body to join the three other lifeless ones.
Though he couldn’t see it, Teddy had the distinct feeling that the Shadow smiled. “The sister has no guard left. What will you do when I return?”
Teddy blinked and the Shadow no longer stood in the room. The light from the hallway returned. Teddy turned to his companions who already ventured back to their places at the foot of the bed.
Resting a hand on the head of the white horse, Teddy said, “Farewell, Sunrise. You served Scott well.”
“Happy Birthday!” Scott opened his eyes to the screech as Samantha jumped on his stomach.
“Oof!” His almost four-year-old sister grew too heavy for this, and Scott pushed her away with gentle hands. He smiled and said, “Hi Sam.”
“Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!” She bounced beside him on the bed, coming to a standing position.
“Gimme!” Sam demanded, reaching her hands to him.
Scott shook his head at his sister’s impatience.
“Okay!” Scott held his hands up in mock surrender. On his birthday, Samantha could choose one of his toys to become her own, as Scott would be getting new ones to replace it as a gift. He waved a hand toward his stuffed toys and shrugged as he said, “Pick one.”
For a moment, Samantha eyed Teddy. Scott pulled him closer and admonished, “No, Sam. Any of the others, but not Teddy.”
Samantha nodded, her wide green eyes searching through the remaining eight animals. Her gaze landed on the white horse. “This one!” She exclaimed as she gripped it by the neck and pulled it to her chest.
“Wait!” Scott demanded. “You can’t treat them that way. Mom told me that if you treat your stuffed animals with love and kindness, they come to life and watch over you when you sleep.”
“Oh!” Samantha’s lips parted as she held the horse in the crook of her elbow and pet it with soft strokes. “Like this?”
“Yes,” Scott answered, “if you care for Sunrise that way, she’s bound to come to life for you.”
A wide smile pulled a dimple out of her cheek as Samantha hopped from the bed. “Sunrise,” she repeated and headed for the hallway.
Scott smiled and looked into Teddy’s mismatched eyes, relieved. “Nothing’s coming between you and me, old buddy.” He promised as he pulled off the covers and set his feet on the cold hardwood floor.
Sunrise blinked in the darkness. The gentle smell of powder and lotion filled her sewn nostrils. Samantha’s soft hand gripped her foreleg. Sunrise smiled at the pink cheeks as ringlets of honey brown hair fell over Samantha’s face. The child’s love breathed new life into Sunrise, and she would not let her new charge down.
Sometimes I write a "homeless" short story. It's one I can't find a home for. So I've decided my blog will be a good home for this one! I hope you'll read it and leave a comment about whether or not you liked it. Thanks!
Ceaseless barking echoed through the woods. It came in short yips, as frequent as my own gasps. I rushed forward in a desperate search for a place to hide. Mother told me to never let anyone see me. What was I doing out in the open anyway?
“Ginger! Stop!” the voice of a young boy followed the dog.
What if the human saw me, too?
I rushed through the orange and brown leaves covering the forest floor. The smell of mold and dirt filled my flaring nostrils. The skeletal branches of tree limbs exposed me to the grey light of the overcast sky. The wet leaves clung to my iridescent green scales. I hoped it provided camouflage.
Nothing could hide from that dog. Mother told me that dogs were our worst enemy, especially the smaller ones. This one looked huge to me, but it shrank in comparison to the human. I needed to make it to the tunnel.
The barking and the voice drew closer. How did I get so slow? I leapt over the small stream, letting my almost useless wings flutter for a moment to hold me in the air before lighting on the other side. My rear leg slipped on a wet, round stone. It wrenched a little and I did my best to ignore the pain. I needed to keep running.
Almost there. I wished I never let the dog sneak up on me and gain a scent to follow. The rocky crevice came into view. A crack between the moss covered stones welcomed me and I jumped forward faster, gasping. How far had it been to the neighborhood? Mother told me never to go there. Why did I let the smoky smell of cooking fish entice me?
I desperately tried to calm my breathing and heart rate. Light from the crack cut through and pierced the dirt floor in front of me. I withdrew to the shadows. The barking muffled, but sounded closer than ever. Soon I saw a wet, black nose and the dog’s golden mane as it peeked into the crack. It barked once more, echoing off the walls of the cave, making me shudder. Snuffling noises ensued as the dog stopped barking. It tried to push itself in through the crack, but it didn’t fit. I thanked grace.
“Ginger! There you are! Stop chasing that squirrel and come on.” The boy’s voice called from just outside the cave.
I held my breath, so the boy wouldn’t hear my panting. My leg throbbed from the pain as the adrenaline of the run dissipated. My lungs burned as I waited with bated breath.
With the yipe, the dog’s nose was ripped away, replaced by a brown eye and fleshy human cheek. "Wonder what had you so worked up anyway?”
I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. I let it out slowly, hoping it wouldn’t make a sound. To my amazement, smoke oozed from my nostrils and rose toward the opening of the cave. I stopped myself from gasping and took a slow inward breath, desperate to make as little noise as possible. I’d never breathed smoke or fire before, and my body chose now to start?
“What on earth?” The boy said in wonder as the smoke rose through the crack. He had breathed it in, and coughed.
He waved his arm in front of him, clearing the air, and peeked into the cave once more. I backed further into the shadows.
“Weird.” The boy said and pulled his face away.
I took another slow breath, and more smoke appeared. I’d have to ask my mom how to control that.
“Come on Ginger!” The boy’s voice faded.
Curious, I crept forward and peered through the crack into the grey lit woods. Dragging his feet through the crunching wet leaves, the boy tugged on a black leash and forced the dog to tag along. The dog strained against the leash and jumped on its rear legs trying to keep from falling over. Soon it gave up and followed, but continued looking back until they were out of sight.
With a deep sigh I tried to breathe smoke again, but nothing came. Disappointed, I shrugged my shoulder and headed into the tunnel. I limped the rest of the way home, wishing I had not chosen today to venture out. I shook my head, but ceaseless barking continued to echo through my mind.