Monsters -Meaghan Menzel

There are monsters in the dark, he thinks as he curls up for the night, his fiery gold eyes wide open. He glances this way and that, waiting for something to jump out at him and scream in his face. A storm cracks the sky open with light and explodes outside. He flinches, ready to call for his mother. He doesn’t though. He hears a creak and a pop inducing him to shut his eyes tight. He trembles as his spiky tail curls securely against his nose, accidentally pinching it. He squeaks but keeps his eyes shut. He decides he doesn’t want to see what is lurking around to gobble him up like the creatures sung in stories and cruel jests. But the monsters he sees behind the curtain of his scaled eyelids are just as bad, perhaps worse.

            They wear no scale armor or fur mantles. They have no wings, no horns, nothing. They’re sickly bare and skeletal. They’re pink and brown and everywhere in between. Their eyes glint like sparks as their faces crinkle, their mouths opening and screaming. They stand on their hind legs while their forelegs extend into metal blades. They decorate their bodies with their dead prey.

            He opens his eyes and cringes, expecting to see something looming over him, arms outstretched with curling fingers. Shadows of ghouls dripping slime and goblins with pointy heads flash off the stony cave walls. Everything is black and blue as rain creates a silvery sheet outside. Lightning flashes. He sees a black figure behind the white light standing on its hind legs. It wears a long sheet around its neck and extends its forearm into those metal blades he’s learned to fear. He scurries backwards on his belly, hunching himself closer together like a spring. Lightning flashes again making him flinch. He sees another shady monster behind the white illumination reaching out for him. He closes his eyes but sees two glowing spots. He’s certain they are narrowed eyes. He opens his eyes again not knowing which monster to be more afraid of— the imaginary ones behind his eyes, or the imaginary ones outside.

            With another trick of light, he sees shadows on the walls, some five times his size with giant jaws and round heads. Some roar with hunger. Some are small but appear in horrible irritating clusters. He hears squeaks like a witch’s laughter which makes his fangs chatter. The cracks on the cave wall form an angry dark eye he wishes would stop staring at him.

            He feels sticky and cold, breathing heavily with whimpers. His heart rate speeds up while his eyes water. He finally throws his head up and lets forth a piercing, raspy roar for his mama.

A family of mice scatters at his cry, two of them running in circles before finding a new hiding spot. One however is blinded by a flash of lightning and stops right in front of him, shivering and staring wide eyed.

            He sees the furry little rodent and wants to cry. The rodent and the winged lizard stare at each other, one of them trembling with fear while the other is frozen with remorse. There is a rustle from the other side of the cave. Mama dragon is up having heard her baby’s cries. The mouse finds the will to move and scurries away from the potential predator. Mama dragon drags herself closer to her little one and her clawed hand slithers around him, pulling him close to her breast. She lays her long neck around him so her face is right next to his.

“Why so afraid?” she hisses.

            “The monsters are back,” the baby dragon whimpers. Mama dragon snorts, her eyelids drooping with sleep, “There are no monsters here. If anything, we’re the scariest thing there is. Just ask that mouse. Now go back to sleep.”

            “What about the naked two-leggers with metal arms?” the baby dragon asks looking up at his mother. Mama dragon sighs drowsily, “They don’t live around here. They won’t catch you. Go to sleep.”

            Mama dragon’s scales are rough and warm like worn leather armor. Her three fingered hand is roughly the size of his entire body. Her wings drape forward, shielding him from the cold and horrible tricks his eyes play on him. He turns around to nestle his head against her breast before settling down, pressing against her. He finally falls asleep, dreaming away the monsters on the opposite side of his reality.

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