When the thing under her bed starts talking back to her one day, a girl’s life takes a slow but sure downward spiral.
Do you remember what it was like to be young?
I sure don’t. At least, not very clearly. The memories of my childhood all seem clouded by some neural fog. They were fuzzy; broken into pieces. And whatever I held on, all that was left, the few clear fragments, always, somehow, had stories or images to support them. The shouts of my grandmother as she yelled at me for having broken my little sand doll I had made in class on our marble floor; the rumbling of thunder as my mother and I waited underneath the bridge that ran over the road-like swimming pool of a hotel whose name I haven’t spoken in years. But memories are not the focus of this story. They are, though, a crucial part of it.
The first time I met her, I was five.
And I’m using the pronoun ‘her’ very loosely here. I’m not sure it has a gender, even, but I feel better thinking that it is a she, rather than a he, that hides under my bed and sleeps in the dark crooks and angular little corners of my closet.
I’m sure you’re a little confused.
I’m writing this as fast as I can now. I don’t know when she’ll come back. But here’s the gist of it.
Like I said, I met her when I was five. I was home alone, my mother having gone to buy some soy milk at the street corner where the same old man who had been selling soy milk to her since she was my age was waiting, as always. I don’t exactly remember what I was doing, but most likely, I was lost in my head. That was the kind of child I was; always needing to be reminded in class to listen to the teacher and pay attention or stop daydreaming. That wasn’t the case anymore, of course. That’s what growing up does to you.
I had dropped something under my bed. Chances are, it was a pencil. I was quite the little writer back then too, albeit less…sensical, and a lot more disorganized. That’s how kids are.
Anyway, I bent down to pick it up—let’s say it was a pencil, for simplicity’s sake—and that was when I saw it, saw her, for the first time.
A pair of eyes, shiny and glowing in the pitch black of the no man’s land that was the underside of every piece of furniture I could fit under as a five year old.
We stared at each other for a while, unblinking.
Then, the words that I remember the clearest, in the entirety of the measly amount of years I’ve been alive:
“Here, kitty, kitty.”
I had thought it was a kitty.
If only it was. I wished it was. But alas.
“I’m not a kitty.”
Kitties didn’t speak.
“Then what are you?”
And I was just a kid, convinced she had found a magical fairy friend under her bed. The conversations continued for a few more years after that; late nights where I laid awake, tossing my words out into the dark because it started to answer. But that was all it was, up until the day I turned eight. That was when Kitty, as I have decided to call her, started talking to me outside my room for the very first time.
I still remember that moment, as clear as day. In fact, it is one of the clearest moments from my childhood. I was brushing my teeth with a bright neon-red toothbrush—ironically it had a Hello Kitty pattern on the stick—and looking into the mirror at my own reflection, very focused. That was when I heard her.
“You’re not doing it right.”
That voice, as soft and lilting as smoke in the sun.
I turned so fast I knocked my glass to the floor. It shattered into small pieces that bounced everywhere, but none hit me.
“What?” I said to the empty room.
“Here,” said Kitty, “over at the bath. I’m behind the curtains.”
I had pulled them shut earlier. I was starting to have a problem with empty, dark, spaces I could see, back then.
“How are you in my bathroom?” I asked, watching the very still curtains from its reflection in the mirror in front of me.
“Because I’m getting better.”
I walked over to snap open the curtains, stepping carelessly on the sharp glass. I don’t know what happened after, but I was told I had had an episode, crying and screaming so hard I was taken to the ER. Later, when the doctors tried to get me to tell them what happened, all I was told I said was: “Kitty, kitty…it was a kitty,” like some madwoman deserving of being thrown into an asylum’s special ward.
Because it was not a cat I saw.
And that wasn’t even the worst of it. When I was eight, Kitty hadn’t even started moving things around yet. That only began when I turned ten.
First it was little things. An eraser. The gel pens that I used to take notes in a loopy, scrawly handwriting. A packet of sugar. The salt shaker. But then she got more ambitious. Some days I’d wake up and find my bed touching the wall on the opposite side of my room it was on when I went to sleep. Or I’d come home from school and see my furniture completely rearranged. And Kitty wasn’t the best interior designer either. Sometimes she’d put my bed in the smack centre of the room and I’d have to sleep there for days before I got to be alone in the house and move it; the noise would be too loud otherwise, and I didn’t want to answer any questions I didn’t want to.
Again, that was it for a while. She plateaued, as she did every time she discovered something new she could do. It was annoying at times, of course, but one fact remained true: she was never violent. Irritating, yes, but always more or less peaceful and docile.
But that was only until the day I woke up with a kitchen knife balancing on the headboard of my bed. I yelped. The knife fell blade-first into the spot where my head used to be before I turned.
So here I am now, on the rooftop of an abandoned building that used to be a huge condominium project before the recession, my great-grandfather’s pistol in one hand and a pen in the other.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
Before all this, there was the incident.
In the dead of night when I was thirteen, my mother fell down the stairs in our family home.
I was there when it happened, so she was able to get medical help quickly, and she survived, fortunately.
That was when I broke down and tried to tell my father about Kitty. But the only thing he did was look at me strangely and told me that he heard all those moving noises from the furniture she’d rearranged, and the last time he checked, it wasn’t some eldritch creature, what he’d seen in my room.
My mother refused to speak to me after that. She wouldn’t even look at me.
Now, I am sixteen years old, and I have come to the conclusion that Kitty is simply a figment of my imagination.
I had been so lonely, back then.
I am confident that under different circumstances I would have made some friends at school and been something close to normal. But with Kitty, that could, and would, never happen. Because with her, I was never alone.
The year before I had attempted to burn down my house. I bought some oil and splashed it everywhere, still thinking then that Kitty was some thing I could fight; a visible and possibly very defeatable foe.
Then my father woke up.
He’d yelled at me; called me a psychopath, a sociopath, and every possible combination of names under the sun. I was ruining his life, he said. I had ruined his wife’s and now I was trying to kill him. Always the over-imaginative child. Always the one with something inherently wrong with her.
That was when I realized that Kitty hadn’t just appeared out of nowhere. She was within me all along. She was me. She was my mind made whole, a manifestation of my inner psyche. And the more I believed in her, the more power she had over me; over us all.
I’ve been trying to find a way to run from my own mind, but now I know. There is no running. But there is a stop. And here I am.
The colt awaits in my hand, and the black chrome of its finish looks oh so inviting.