Jamie looked at the monster. The monster looked at Jamie.
He pulled his bedclothes up around his neck. The monster didn’t move. He knew it wouldn’t. Monsters never moved as long as you were looking at them. That was the thing. If he took his eyes off the monster, then you never knew what would happen. But as long as he kept looking straight at it, it wouldn’t dare move. To move would be to reveal itself as a monster, rather than just a pile of clothes on a chair in front of the window.
He knew these things. His mummy had shown him, a long time ago, when the monster had come before. She’d come into the room and explained to him how the monster was just a pile of clothes. She’d explained it all to him slowly and carefully, while they had sat in the dark. She’d explained how this bit was a shirt, and that bit was a jumper, and the bit over there was a rolled up pair of socks. And the eyes were just gaps where the light from the curtains showed through. And then she had turned the light on and he’d seen that it was all exactly as she had said, and then he’d been able to go to sleep.
And the monster had never come back again. Until tonight.
So Jamie knew that the monster was just a pile of clothes, but what he really, really wanted, was for mummy to come and explain it to him again. For her to tell him that this bit was a shirt, and that bit was a jumper, and the bit over there was a rolled up pair of socks. And then for her to turn the light on so that he could see that that was how it was.
But he knew as well that he couldn’t ask her to do that. Because mummy was upset. Because daddy had gone away.
It was a week now since daddy had gone away. Since the car accident had made him go away. And now mummy cried all the time.
They had sat him down and explained it all to him. Mummy, and Uncle Neil, and Auntie Jane. They had told him how daddy had had to go away because of the car accident. How he wouldn’t be able to see daddy again. But that daddy would be able to see him. How daddy would watch over him always, and love him always. They promised him about that part. And grown-ups take promises seriously, so he knew it was the truth.
He’d cried as well, for a while. He didn't like the part about not seeing daddy again. That was what had made him sad.
Mummy and Uncle Neil and Auntie Jane had tried to stop him crying. They’d played with him, and told him jokes, and tried to show him what fun they were all going to have. But the thing with fun, normally you just have it. Normally you don’t have to try.
And now, every night when she put him to bed, mummy smiled at him, and told him a story, and told him she loved him, and tried to show him how happy things were. But as soon as she left the room he could hear her start to cry again. So he wasn’t going to call her to make the monster go away, because he knew that would make her cry some more, and he thought that maybe she had cried enough already. So he would have to make the monster go away all by himself.
So he looked at the monster. And the monster looked at him.
And he started to tell himself what all the parts of the monster were. This bit was a shirt, he could see that. And that bit was a jumper, and the bit over there was a rolled up pair of socks. And the eyes were just…. the eyes were…. the eyes…. winked.
The monster winked.
The monster winked. And the monster couldn’t have winked because it wasn’t a monster it was just a pile of clothes, and this bit was a shirt and that bit was a jumper and the bit over there was a rolled up pair of socks and it was a pile of clothes and not a monster at all and so it couldn’t have winked because piles of clothes don’t wink they just sit there being piles of clothes and not being monsters and not winking at all except this one because this one had winked because this one wasn’t a pile of clothes because this one was a monster!
"Hello Jamie," the monster said.
Except it didn’t sound like a monster. It didn’t have the kind of voice you would expect a monster to have. Monsters should have deep voices and sound all gruff and growly, and this monster didn’t have that kind of voice at all. This monster sounded nice. It had a friendly voice, a warm voice. It almost sounded like…..
A breeze blew through the open window and pushed the curtain aside, and just for a moment the light shone on the monster and Jamie could see it clearly.
"Your mummy told you I would always be looking over you, didn’t she? She told you I would always love you."
Then the breeze died, and the curtain flapped shut again, and the monster went back to being a monster. With this bit being a shirt, and that bit being a jumper, and the bit over there being a rolled up pair of socks. And Jamie’s looked at the monster, and the monster looked at Jamie, and his eyes began to droop.
"Goodnight dad, I love you," he said. And fell asleep.