(I can post this now. It won first place in the PVCC Literary Magazine's Horror Story Contest. It was first published in The Fall Line.)
When Michelle was little, there was a monster under her bed. She could hear it scratching the floor, tearing the fabric on the underside of the box springs. She could smell its mustiness and once, she could have sworn she heard it crunching the bones of its victim. (She never had liked that cat and it wasn’t missed.)
Now that she was grown, the monsters came in blonde packages that reeked of too much aftershave. The phone on her nightstand pinged and a glance confirmed it was that guy from biology texting her… again. “Monster” might be harsh, but he was definitely becoming a pest.
She punched the buttons that would block his calls. With the phone back in its charger, she settled on her pillow.
They had gone out for coffee – twice. He sat beside her in class and looked perturbed whenever there was no seat available. Recently, he had begun turning up more than was statistically likely. The final straw had been his showing up this evening at the start of her art class.
She saw him the moment she stepped around the corner. He stood awkwardly outside the studio door, looking first left, then right
“What’re you doing here?” she asked.
“Came to see you. Thought we could grab a bite later.”
“I get out at ten o’clock.” It would be dark when she got out. The parking lot was always nearly deserted when she left the building. “I’m already meeting someone after,” she lied. She would have moved past, but he blocked her path.
“Really?” Hurt, anger, then… nonchalance. “No matter. I can still see you safely home.”
“No.” Her voice was edged with annoyance. She softened. “Listen. I think you may have misunderstood. It was just coffee. You’re nice, but I’m not looking for a relationship with anyone right now. This,” and she waved a hand back and forth between them, “makes me uncomfortable.” She would forever associate the smell of his too strong aftershave with this unpleasantness.
There was the hurt and anger again. A muscle flexed in his jaw, and he turned away on a swear, not quite under his breath. She was half afraid he would be there after class, but he was not. Still, she kept looking over her shoulder until she was safely home.
Now, she punched a hole in her pillow and tried to settle. Snap. She sat up with a start. A breeze blew in through her window. Michelle pulled her hair out of its clip and resettled her head on the pillow. She was almost asleep when she heard it again. Snap.
She shuffled in bed, pulling the sheet to her neck. It reminded her of when she was a child afraid of the monster under her bed. This was irrational, she chided herself. That’s when she saw him. Her stalker pushed up the window and put his leg over the side. She sat up, tried to scream. The sound stuck in her throat.
The stalker smiled. Put a finger to his lips. She tried to move away. He took a step closer.
Just then, a claw-like hand shot out from under the bed. She would never forget her attacker’s expression. His smile twisted and his screams were silenced almost before they began. The sound of bones crunching came from under the bed, then the sound of lips sucking at the marrow.
The next morning, she woke with a start. She pulled herself to look over the side of her bed. There was nothing - just a faint mustiness and the pungent smell of Aqua Velva.
(c) Sofie Couch, October 2015. Permission to reprint with acknowledgements.