When I was small, there were monsters under my bed.
Everything was fine during the day, because they were afraid of the light. Daddy would read my bedtime story and we’d say the Lord’s Prayer (that tranquilized them for a while), and he’d turn out my light and close the door three-quarters, and I would make very sure to stay exactly on top of my mattress and not let a toe or finger or piece of hair extend past the boundary, or the sharp little teeth would snip-snip. One night I slept with my head right next to the edge, and the piece of hair from my widow’s peak had draped down, and in the morning I was chastised for cutting my own hair. I had done no such thing.
When I was a bit older and Daddy no longer read me stories and tucked me in while I stared at my stylized modern floral wallpaper until they turned into a three-dimensional optical illusion, I would have to leap into bed as quickly as possible while I swung the door closed behind me. I was grateful that my little sister still needed the light in the hallway left on. The coloured glass panels around the single bulb, red and blue and amber, were enough light to keep the monsters deep in the shadows. They would burn at the slightest light. I still said my bedtime prayers, though without Daddy’s rock solid faith to undergird them, they were less effective.
When I got older again, I stopped believing in the monsters. I stuck my leg out over the edge of my bed for a whole minute and nothing happened, ergo, they were not real. I stuck out an arm, and my whole head. Still nothing.
When I was older still, I began to hear a whisper in the back of my head, so faint I could hardly make it out. I concentrated, but I couldn’t quite catch it. One day, after a week in which I was laid off, my boyfriend dumped me, and I got in a fender bender, I finally made out the words.
You’re a failure.
I was shocked, and told the whisper to be quiet. But it unsettled me, that such a damaging statement could come from within my own brain.
Over the next few years, I heard the voices more and more frequently. Every time I flubbed a job interview, every time I had a failed first date, every time my mom phoned to ask how I was doing with that extra special tone of voice that implied that she was disappointed in me. I didn’t have to strain to hear it anymore.
You’re a failure.
Finally, broke and depressed, medicated to gills and on the edge of a serious alcohol problem, I moved home. My room was still the same. Still the same modern floral walls. Still the same textured grey-brown carpet. Still the same red-amber-blue light fixture.
Same twin bed. I looked at it through my foggy brain, in which the only clear thing I had left was the whispered voice, louder than ever.
And I knew where they had come from.