Something was standing at the foot of the bed, just staring at him. He knew this despite the fact that he had not opened his eyes. He had heard it creep in while he was lying there, trying to go to sleep. Something had been troubling him and it was preventing him from dropping off, but that was nothing compared to what was troubling him now. A monster in the bedroom almost invariably meant trouble of some kind.
At first he tried pretending he was asleep in the hope that the thing would go away of its own accord, but he knew the ruse would not work when it started calling him by name.
“Daaaaavid,” it whispered in a voice that sounded both sepulchral and tentative.
David didn’t move or give any other indication that he had heard it. He even tried to control his breathing, but didn’t know how long he could keep it up.
“Daaaaaaaavid,” it repeated, a little louder this time and with more of an underlying growl.
David would have sighed if he wasn’t worried about giving himself away, but instead he braced himself for what he knew would come next. Sure enough, it laid a hairy paw on one of his feet and shook it gently. Of all nights for him to sleep on top of the covers.
“Wake up, David. Open your eyes.”
It was getting harder and harder for David to keep up the pretense that he was asleep, largely because the creature’s fur was tickling the sole of his foot. Sooner or later, the jig would be up.
“Come on, David,” it said petulantly, “I know you’re awake. I can hear your heartbeat accelerating.”
Busted! Resigning himself, David reached over and turned on his bedside lamp. He heard the creature jump back, slamming into his dresser, which must have caught it in the small of the back because he heard it yelp in pain. Giving himself a couple seconds to adjust to the brightness of the room, David opened his eyes and sat up. There cowering in the corner was one of the most hideous monsters he had ever seen.
It was large, covered in gray, matted fur, with gnarled horns, sharp-looking fangs and claws, and piercing red eyes. Actually, David didn’t know that right off the bat because its eyes were clamped shut and it was holding up one of its massive paws to block the light, but he figured it would be the case. David pushed himself back so he was leaning against the headboard. As long as he was up, he might as well be comfortable.
“Okay, who sent you?”
The creature flinched, shocked that it had been spoken to, but quickly recovered.
“What? Nobody sent me. What makes you think somebody sent me?”
“Because you called me by name and, unless I’m very mistaken, we’re never met before. Have we?”
The creature cursed under its breath.
“Stand up, let me see you.”
“Turn off the light first.”
“No, that’s staying on.” Realizing he wasn’t getting anywhere by being hard, David changed tactics. “Look, I know what you’re here for. Now, how can I tell you how scary you look if I can’t see you?”
“I’m… scarier in the shadows.”
“Let me be the judge of that. Please stand up. And do put your paw down. I’m sure your eyes have adjusted to the light by now.”
Slowly the creature rose to its full height and lowered its paw. Blinking its eyes a few time, it seemed surprised that they weren’t somehow being damaged by the light that, if it was being honest with itself, was not as bright as it had first seemed. David noted with satisfaction that its eyes really were red.
“There, that’s not so bad, is it? Now, let’s have a good look at you. Walk around the room a little.”
“Actually, I’m better at stalking.”
“Very well. Stalk to your heart’s content.”
The creature did so, half hunched over and dragging one foot as if it were lame.
“Uh huh. Uh huh. Now if I could see it without all the affectations.”
“Beg your pardon?”
“Just walk normally, please.”
The creature straightened up and did a couple circuits of the room while David watched appreciatively.
“Ah, yes. That’s much better. Now I can see you. Flex those claws. Oh, very nice. Those look extremely dangerous. And show off those fangs. Very scary. And I’d hate to imagine what you could do to me with those horns of yours. Okay, that’s enough. Take a seat.”
The creature stopped in its tracks, confused.
“The foot of my bed will be fine.”
It hesitated, not sure where this was going. “You’re not going to… try anything, are you?”
David laughed. “Please, you’re not my type. Besides, I would never jeopardize my business by getting personal. Not on first meeting, anyway.”
The creature gingerly sat down with its left leg tucked under it so it would be facing David.
“I’ve never been on a human bed before. It’s nice.”
“Thank you. Now, what’s your name? I always like to be on a first-name basis with my clientele.”
The creature shifted uneasily. “Umm, it’s Benny.”
“Benny? Somehow I doubt that’s the name your mother gave you.”
“Okay, okay. It’s Benmontpelier.”
“Not much of an improvement, is it? Let’s stick with Benny for now, but we’ll work on that.”
“We will? You mean…”
“Yes, I’ll take you on. I see a lot of potential in you that, if properly brought out, could take you far in life.”
“You really think so, David?”
David paused. “Er, yes. I think until we know each other better, you should call me Mr. Jones.”
“That’s all right, Benny. Now, what I want you to do is call my office in the morning and set up an appointment to come in during regular office hours. Here’s my card with the number.”
David produced a card from somewhere in his bedclothes – this was not an unusual occurrence for him – and proffered it to Benny, who was, at last, starting to get comfortable.
“Thank you, Mr. Jones,” Benny said, taking the card and holding it between two claws.
“Now, if you would be so kind…”
The monster looked quizzical until David made shooing motions at it.
“Oh, yes. I’m sorry,” it said as it rose. David saw that it left smudge marks on the bedspread where it had sat, but he was used to that sort of thing, too.
“No problem, Benny. I trust you can show yourself out.”
David lay back down and turned off the lamp. Even without the benefit of night vision, he could tell when the creature had reached the bedroom door.
“Oh, and Benny?”
“Please don’t encourage any of your friends to make any after-hours visits of their own. Next time I might not be so understanding.”
“Okay, Mr. Jones. You have my word.”
With that it left. David smirked to himself as he rolled onto his side. The word of a monster – that’s rich.