I was in a nice, warm room. The walls were light pink. A white carpet covered the floor. Across the room was a desk cluttered with paper and crayons. The closet was a nice pearl white with pretty diamond knobs. They weren’t real diamonds, though. Next to me was a white nightstand with a lamp. The lamp was silver with a cream-colored shade that had butterflies on it. I like butterflies. Their wings are beautiful. I wish I could be a butterfly, flying from flower to flower, not a care in the world. I want to be pretty like a butterfly. The bed frame was white. The sheets were pink with purple butterflies on it. I was curled up in the bed, clutching my stuffed unicorn, Rainbow. Rainbow’s fur was as white as a cloud. I yawned and rubbed my eyes. I no longer had my mask on. I heard a knock on the door. It was Mommy. She smiled and sat down on my bed.
“Hey sweetie,” she said warmly, “are you tired?”
I nodded sleepily. “Can you tuck me in?”
“Of course, honey,” she responded. She stood up and tucked the pink sheets in. Mommy kissed the top of my forehead.
“What about Rainbow?” I asked sleepily. She laughed and kissed Rainbow on her forehead.
“I love you, Ash,” said Mommy.
“I love you too,” I mumbled. Another person came in the room. It was Daddy. “
I hope I’m not late,” he whispered.
“No, you’re not, Daddy,” I said. Daddy walked over and kissed me on the head.
“That’s good, or else I couldn’t kiss you goodnight!”
I yawned again. My vision started to blur.
“Goodnight sweetie,” said Mommy. Her face blurred and slowly turned red.
“Sweet dreams, my little monster,” said Daddy. His face distorted and the claw marks started to show. Claw marks? Wait, this isn’t right. Mommy and Daddy are perfectly fine. They’re not hurt. They’re not dead. The room became a big bold of colors as I slowly blacked out. No, wait! Mommy! Daddy! Don’t leave me! I need you! I need you … I need …you r…
Startled, I woke up and almost hit my head on the bed frame. Where am I? I was under a bed in a room that was not mine. Then, today’s events flooded back. I had just reached the state humans call Florida. It’s definitely brighter and hotter than it was in Minnesota. It was broad daylight at the time. I had to find a place to stay for the night and fast. I wasn’t near the coast, but swamp monsters still roamed the area. If they heard who I was, they’d kill me. I took shelter underneath a car. I was hungry, but there was no food around. I spied a dog and its owner walking across the street. The dog would smell me and blow my hiding place. Before the two could cross, I made a break for the nearest hedge. The hedge laid against the wall of a house. I could make my escape there. I lifted myself over the wall and landed in a patch of purple hydrangeas. “Sorry flowers, I had to,” I whispered to the crushed flowers. I stepped out of the now smashed flower bed and looked around. It was a small backyard, but the owner added a bunch of flowers and bushes. There was a rose garden, an azalea garden, a morning glory garden, and a lot more. It was beautiful. I probably would have stood there all day if I didn’t hear the barking of the dog. To the right of me was another wall. I ran up to it and hoisted myself over it. A cloud of dust rose from the table I landed on. Apparently, it hadn’t been used in a while. I stifled a sneeze. This backyard wasn’t as pretty as the other one, but at least I had some cover for now. There was an apple tree in the center of the yard. My stomach growled. I wouldn’t hurt to take one apple, but this is stealing. What if the owner of this house sees me steal an apple? I’ll get caught and have to run away. My presence will be known to all the swamp monsters. It’s not worth it. I looked back at the apples. My stomach growled again. Steal the apple! It screamed out loud in my ears. Feed me! You’ll die if you don’t! Steal the apple! Steal the apple! Tears welled up in my eyes. I clutched my stomach tight. I couldn’t take it anymore. I clawed my way up the tree and ripped an apple from its branch. I stared at it, imagining its sweet and juicy taste in my mouth. It took a great amount of effort to not shove it all in my mouth. I took off my mask and took a bite. I never felt so relieved in my entire life. The screaming stopped and my tears retracted. Shame crept up my spine, but I didn’t care, I hadn’t eaten since yesterday.
As I sat in the tree eating the apple, I took a gander at the nearby houses. All of them were some sort of peachy color. Three houses had those weird indigo glass panels on the roofs. I could see a pine tree growing from a house across the street. You could do so many things with trees. You could climb up them, sit on a sturdy branch and just admire your surroundings. You could pluck some fruit from certain trees and eat them. If you sit still for a while, a bird or two might land on a nearby branch. As long as you don’t move, they’ll start chirping. Sometimes, it’s just random chirps. Other times, you get to listen to a beautiful bird melody. If no humans were around, I’d sleep in the trees. If I was ever chased, I could climb up a tall tree. Most monsters aren’t good climbers. Maybe my kind is naturally good at climbing. I don’t know, I’ve never seen another of my kind except for Mommy and Daddy.
You could tell your entire life story and struggles to a tree, and it won’t criticize you. It won’t give you advice either, but it feels good to let all your problems out. I wiped the apple juice from my mouth. There was still a bit more apple left. I took another bite and looked up at the sky. The sun had already passed above. One time, I climbed up a palm tree on a cliff that overlooked the ocean. I was getting some coconuts when I noticed the sunset. I was high enough that the houses and other trees didn’t block my view. The sky to the right of me was a dark indigo color, but to the left, it was a glorious array of colors. The indigo slowly turned a light purple, a rose pink, a brilliant orange, then a bright yellow from the sun. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on. I wish it was sundown now. I’m pretty sure I could get a decent view of it from here. I looked down at the apple core. What should I do with it? I heard laughter from the neighboring backyard. I instinctively jumped down from the tree and hid against the wall. I could hear the voice of children from the other side of the wall. Maybe I could sneak into their house for the night. I waited by the wall for what seemed like hours until I heard the voice of a woman. I heard the kids run across the yard and a door closing. I took the chance and lifted myself above the wall. Sure enough, the kids were gone. I silently dropped down the wall and scurried over to the other side of the yard. I looked for an open window to crawl through.
The sun was low in the sky now. This wasn’t the ideal view for watching a sunset, but at least I could see some of it. I watched as the sun slowly descended, turning the sky into warm shades of orange and pink. I almost fell asleep. I sat underneath a closed window. The curtains were drawn, preventing me from viewing the room. Most of the sky was indigo now. I haven’t had my mask off for this long before. It felt nice to feel the air on my face again. The window above me opened. I forced myself to freeze right where I was. I heard footsteps exiting the room. I took the chance and peeked through the window. The door was opened by a crack. I quietly stepped through the window and into the room. The room looked almost mysterious with the lights off. Shadows seemed to grow from the corners, swallowing the wooden furniture. I still had the apple core in my hands. I exited the room and went to an open area in the yard. I dug a hole and buried the apple core. “I hope you grow into a beautiful tree,” I whispered to it. I went back into the room. The shadows seemed to have grown. Shadows with claws and red eyes and sharp teeth and with rotting breath ready to tear my face off and eat my flesh. Just like what they did to Mommy and Daddy. I shook my head. No, no, no, they’re just shadows. Still, I put on my mask so I could feel safer. That’s what it was for, to protect my already ruined face. Feeling much safer, I peeked through the crack at the doorway.
The door leads to a hallway with decorations hanging on the wall. I heard the clinking of utensils coming from the right. They must be eating right now. I could try and find the kids’ rooms while they busy themselves. I gathered up my courage and exited the safety of the room. I silently scurried over to the nearest room. It was the room with those loud machines. These rooms were usually small and cramped. The walls were cream white and the floor was tiled. There were two baskets, one filled with clothes and the other empty. One of the machines was on. Curious, I peered into the small window on its belly. These things always have fascinated me. Inside, some clothes were being tossed around. I picked up the sound of footsteps coming closer. I searched the room for a place to hide. There was an empty corner by the washing machine. I pushed the basket with clothes by the machine and covered my body with as many clothes as possible. I heard the footsteps come into the room. I peered through a hole in the basket. It was the adult woman. She grabbed some white clothes on top of the other machine and walked out, leaving the door ajar. I waited a minute or two to make sure she wasn’t coming back before silently stepping out of the basket. I made my way down the rest of the hall and came across a flight of stairs. In most houses I’ve been to, the kids’ rooms are on the second floor. I checked my surroundings before silently hopping up the stairs. The floor was covered with a white carpet and the walls were light gray. To the left of me was a room populated with toys. Beyond that room was a small hallway with one door. The door was covered in stars and rockets. To the right of me was another small hallway with two doors. One of the doors was decorated with hearts and flowers. The other door was blank. I walked over to the door with the hearts and flowers. I slowly turned the knob and opened the door.
The walls of the room were light pink. The carpet from the hallway extended into this room. I walked to the center of the room. The bed was at the corner furthest from the door. The bed frame was white and the sheets and pillow were a bright pink color. To the right of the bed was a yellow doll house. I shuffled over to it and crouched down. I opened the dollhouse and found some small dolls in it. There was a dad doll, a mom doll, and two kids dolls, a boy and a girl. It was one happy family. I picked up the girl doll. She had a pink dress with pink shoes. Her hair was black with a big pink bow. I looked down at my own clothes. I had a white shirt, but it wasn’t really white now. It was covered in stains. There were food stains, drink stains, and dried blood stains. The pants I wore were tattered and gray from use. The bottoms on the pant legs were worn away, revealing my ankles. I didn’t have any shoes on. A doll has better clothes than me. I placed the doll back in the dollhouse, slowly closed it, and stood up. I noticed a small bookshelf against the right wall. Only one of the shelves contained books. The other two contained random things. I saw a piggy bank, a box of crayons, some pencils, a small stack of paper, even another larger doll. There was mirror closet embedded in the wall across the bed. I never liked mirrors. I hated looking at myself, yet here I was walking closer to the mirror. It has been a while since I actually saw myself. My dark gray fur was matted and tangled. I could see some places where dirt was clearly visible. The claws on my fingers and toes were uneven and chipped. Even my mask was dirty. The eggshell white it used to be was becoming more of a light gray. Despite all the dirt, I could still see the face. I recalled when I first found this mask.
I was somewhere in Canada, near the States border. It was nighttime. I remembered leaning against a street lamp for a while before noticing the shop near me. I pressed my face against the window to see the inside of the shop. The entire shop had masks. There were some with feathers, others with gems, some even had metal, but each mask had a unique design. They all looked so pretty. I remembered thinking how a mask would be great for hiding my face. The thought of breaking into someone’s store haunted me, but I still carried on with the plan. It was actually quite easy. One of the windows was open wide enough so that I could crawl in. I was now in another, smaller room. The floor was a dusty brown color. I looked up and saw that all four walls were covered in masks. These masks were only half painted, missing accessories, or just blank. There was a chair and a table in the middle of the room. A blank mask was on the table. Several brushes and small cups surrounded the mask. There was a door to my right. I was eager to get a pretty mask. I looked at the mask on the table. The mask had two holes for eyes, but the shape of the mask was the shape of a human face. It wouldn’t fit me. There were some masks that covered only half of the face, but the shape of the nose was too narrow. None of these masks would fit me even if I tried to force it on. Defeated, I slumped down into the chair. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a box near the table. The box had masks, but they looked different from the others on the walls. They were rejects, the masks that didn’t turn out right. There was a mask with too big eyeholes. I saw a few masks with no face at all. Then, I saw it. I gently lifted the masks covering it and placed them on the floor. The mask was an eggshell white and covered the whole face. The eyeholes were alright, but the shape of the nose was too wide for a human. The person didn’t even bother to finish with carving the lips. Would this mask fit me? I placed the mask on my face. The mask pressed against my snout a little, but I could still breathe. I noticed two small holes at the edge of the face for the string. I found some string in one of the table’s drawers and tied it to the mask. I looked at the paints and brushes on the desk. I opened the tube of black paint and squeezed a bit into a cup. I dipped a brush into it and drew a smile on the mask. I squeezed some rose pink paint into another cup, dipped another brush into it, and painted some cheeks near the ends of the smile. I studied my newly made mask. It wasn’t as pretty as the other masks, but it was my mask and I was proud of it. I placed the masks that I took out back in the box and jumped out of the window with my newly-made mask.
I smiled at the memory. It was one of the few things that made me smile. I looked at my face once again. I noticed how cat-like my ears were. It just struck me that time, and I’m still not sure why I never noticed the similarities before. I had no horns, yet. Mommy had told me that they should pop in when I’m older. I remembered that Daddy had big, black horns that curled outward and Mommy had small horns that didn’t curl at all. I shook the memory of Mommy and Daddy out of my head and turned my attention towards my wings. I always found it funny that the wings of my type were on our head and not on our backs like they should be. I used to believe that I could fly with them until I tried to a few months ago. Bad idea. Even if I couldn’t fly, it helped with feeling the wind. They also helped shield part of my face when climbing through trees with a lot of small branches and leaves. My wings were also dirty, their white feathers fading into a drab gray. When I relaxed them, my wings reached my shoulders. I wished I could take a bath right now. The only things that were clean were my light blue eyes, staring right at me. I turned away and headed towards the bed. I had enough time looking at myself for a while.
I surveyed the room one more time. It seems like something I would have, except less pink. I imagined what my own room would look like. Maybe the walls could be light pink, a closet outside of the wall, a desk to draw on, a lamp next to the bed, and Rainbow would be there. The thought of Rainbow brought a tear down my cheek. She was the last thing Mommy gave to me before she left me, and I lost her. I dropped her when I was running away from some monsters. I didn’t dare try and get her back. She’s probably all alone or ripped to shreds by those monsters. I sat on the bed and crossed my legs. The bed was soft, welcoming me to sleep on it. If I did fall asleep, the owner of the bed would see me. They would scream and the adults would come with guns and knives. Besides, monsters aren’t supposed to sleep on beds, we sleep under the beds. Then, we feed off of the child’s brainwaves. That’s how we’re supposed to eat. I never fed like that, though. Feeding off of the children hurts them, I could tell. That’s why they scream and cry about a supposed “monster” under their beds.
The door swung open. I quickly crawled under the bed. I’ve done this so many times, it’s like a nightly routine. The bed was low enough to cast a shadow over me. There were two pairs of legs, one with small feet and the other with big feet. That must be the child. I heard the bed creak above me. The child was on it now. I felt tired. It wouldn’t hurt if I took another nap … would it?
The bed above me creaked with weight. Did I wake the child up? Please don’t get up, please don’t get up. My heart was pounding so loud I bet the child could hear it. The creaking slowly came to a halt. I quietly crawled out, careful not to bump the bed frame. There was a nightlight near the bed, illuminating that side of the room. A mother once said to her child that the nightlight kept the monsters away. While it does keep the shadow monsters away, it doesn’t keep other monsters from coming. I stood up and looked at the child. The child appeared to be a girl. She had dark skin and long, dark hair. Her sleeping position was a bit awkward, one leg was not covered by the sheets, her left arm was resting on top of her chest, and her head was tilted slightly to the right. How odd. I could eat my full right now. I could just feed off of her and nobody would be affected, except the girl. No, no, no, I can’t. It’s not right. It violates the kids. I don’t want to hurt them, yet I still feel the need to eat. My stomach growled, making the girl stir. I quickly dove under the bed. I retreated to the darkest corner underneath the bed and held my breath. The bed creaked some more before returning to its still state. Why am I getting so scared of a child? She’s not going to hurt me, right? I inched my body away from the corner. Right before I could peek out, there was a flash of movement. I recoiled in surprise. The girl’s head was staring right back at me.
I let out a gasp as I retreated back into my dark corner, but the girl had already seen me. It was no use hiding now. I have to get out of here before she starts calling her parents. How can I escape, though? The gaps on the sides are too small to squeeze through. I’d have to make a break for it by squeezing between the girl’s face and the only wide opening. Oh, this is not good. The kid is gonna go to her parents, and then they’re gonna capture me and roast me and eat me alive just like they did to all the monsters in the stories. Wait a minute … I turned to the girl again. She wasn’t crying like I thought she would. She tilted her head curiously.
“Hi monster,” she whispered to me, “is the bottom of my bed warm?”
What? Is she talking to me? I nodded shakily.
“I bet it is.” She tilted her head again. “What a nice mask you have there. I like the smiley face painted on it.”
What do I do in a situation like this?
“Why don’t you come out?” the girl said. “I wanna see what you look like.”
I shook my head frantically. I was scared out of my wits. Surely this was the end of me.
“Are you scared?” she asked. “I never thought monsters could be scared of me. It’s OK monster, I don’t bite.” The girl lifted her head, opening the gap. Is she really letting me go? No, obviously this is part of a trap, but if I run fast enough I might be able to get away. I slowly crawled out from the bed and looked up. The girl was sitting cross-legged on the bed. She smiled and did that gesture human do when they greet each other. I always found it funny. Who greets someone by waving your hands left and right. “You’re smaller than I thought you would be.” the girl said. “Are you a kid monster?”
“I didn’t know monsters could be kids. Everyone always says they’re big and scary.”
I could say the same thing about humans.
“It’s weird how you have small wings on your head. It’s funny but really cool.”
Cool? I touched my wings. They’re not cold.
The girl frowned. “You’re dirty. Don’t you take showers or baths?” My face turned red under the mask. I almost said something but bit my tongue. There was silence between us before the girl spoke again. “Do you have a mommy and daddy?”
I crossed my arms and avoided her gaze. I shook my head slowly.
“Oh.” I heard her mumble. The girl stood up and took a step towards me. I took a step back. “It’s OK,” she said to me. “I’m not gonna hurt you. My mommy cut my nails, see?” She held up her hands towards me. Her claws were very short, only reaching the length of her fingers. She couldn’t make a scratch on me.
A thought came into my mind. What do human hands feel like? Are they rough like the swamp monsters, or smooth like my mask? I raised my hand, touched the girl’s palm. It was like touching a smooth pebble. I never thought of human hands being so soft. The girl smiled. “Do you have a name?” she asked.
“It’s Ash.” I murmured.
“Ash?” the girl echoed. “That’s a pretty name.” “Thanks.” Does she really think it’s pretty? I mean, it is quite an unusual name.
“My name is Bailey,” the girl said. “and I’m four years old.”
“That’s a nice name,” I said politely. “I’m five years old, I think.” I lost count of my age over the years.
“Hey Ash,” Bailey said, “do you wanna be friends?”
Friends? I swear I heard this word before. I can’t quite put my finger on it. “What is friends?” I asked, hoping I didn’t sound dumb.
“You don’t know what a friend is?”
I shook my head.
“Really?” She put her hand on her chin. “Well, a friend is someone who you play with and makes you happy. I have friends at school, and we play all the time.”
Is that what a friend is? I definitely never had a friend. Everybody I met was either hostile or scared of me. Nobody wanted to play with me, or make me happy. Friends seem like good people. I want a friend.
“So, do you wanna be friends?” Bailey asked again.
My ears picked up something. Footsteps. Footsteps coming closer and closer. Someone was coming up the stairs. My eyes widened. “I-I have to go.” I stuttered.
“Where are you going?” asked Bailey.
“Bailey, is that you?” called a voice. I recognized the voice. It was the woman. “Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”
“As much as I would like to stay a bit longer,” I said to Bailey. “You found me, therefore I must move somewhere else. As much as I want to become your friend, I can’t. I’m sorry, Bailey.” To the left of me was a window. I opened it and looked below. It was a long way down, but it was better than getting caught.
“Will you ever come back?” asked Bailey. I looked into her eyes. “Maybe one day I will.” I hoisted my body over the window frame and let go. I managed to grab onto the window below, halting my fall. There weren’t anymore windows below that. I took a shaky breath and let go once again. I tried to slow down my fall by clinging to the walls. It helped, but it also made horrid screeching noises. I somehow landed on my feet. The impact caused me to topple over and fall, though. My whole body was vibrating. I couldn’t stay here. I have to get up and leave eventually. Groaning, I stood and and made my way to a nearby food place. I lumbered over to the large trash bins and sat down, too dazed to dig for food. I looked up at the sky. The stars were bright, tonight. I thought about Bailey. She wasn’t like other humans. She wasn’t scared or hostile. She was nice and kind. I wonder if there are more people like her out there. I crawled under one of the trash bins. I’ll get some food tomorrow. I took off my mask and placed it beside me. I hope I do get to see Bailey one day. Maybe then we could be friends. I closed my eyes, and drifted off to sleep.