Friday, January 7, 2011

The Bear Bed

{Alone At Night Staff Note:  Though this story escapes into the realm of paranormal, we could not resist publishing it.  The involving tale and the quality of the writing would not be denied.  Beware -- the bear bed.}

It used to happen every night, almost. I’d do all the things my mom had taught me for bedtime...brush my teeth for 30 seconds and comb my thick hair so it wouldn’t be all tangly for the next day’s ponytail...pull on the nightclothes, socks and, when I was older, the retainer I had promised to wear so my teeth wouldn’t migrate back to chaos. I managed my little dictates, if not perfectly, then at least with good intentions. Not that any of them mattered.

I remember it happening in the fourth grade, though I remember lots of important firsts that year, so maybe I’m just assigning this new beginning accordingly, and inaccurately. What I do know for certain is that when I was a very little girl, I didn’t used to get suffocated every night by the thing that lived in my bed. And then, when I was a bigger little girl, I did.

Sleep always came easily at bedtime, though I’d consistently wake up again within a few minutes. And I mean truly awake, not that twilight awareness that nurtures rude dream-compositions of falling, running and failing. I could hear my brother in the next room, playing music or talking on the phone, or I’d smell the burning candles he’d coax into arrays of maudlin, waxy sculptures. It was a comfort to me, to experience this vicarious warmth each night before the event. It got harder when he left for college, and I was left alone to wait.

It would begin with a dark presence at the foot of my bed, though when I raised my head to look, I could only see the optimistic little pyramids of my feet and the securely shut closet doors beyond. After a time, I became so intimately familiar with the invisible creature that I imagined I could feel the crush of each carpet fiber pressed beneath its impossibly dense weight. It would stand there, where my quilt draped to the floor, and after an agonizing moment I’d feel cold, iron-tight pressure around my ankles. Then I would be dragged away from my pillows, smoothly, with machine-like inevitability.

The pulling would stop when my knees reached the end of the bed. The pulling would stop and the crushing suffocation would begin, as thick arms reached up from inside the bed and clasped themselves around my chest. I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t move a single muscle in defense, I couldn’t breathe. Every night, it felt like I had escaped a horrifyingly uncertain fate only to be given over to a devastatingly known one. I knew those arms, that beast from inside the bed wanted me dead, wanted my last breath to unfurl as an invisible pressure upon an empty bedroom. My parents, my brother would only know that I had disappeared into the mattress. Though of course they couldn’t accept such an impossible conclusion. I never told them about what happened after the lights were turned off.

People talk about how enduring and resilient kids are. About how they can undergo horrific, sustained stresses upon their bodies and psyches and still rebound, still slowly unbend and form new silhouettes within the contours of fearless joy. It’s hard to believe, looking back, that I’m proof of that truism. I didn’t have an unhappy childhood. I had friends, went to sleepovers, earned the best grades and played shortstop on my local softball team. No one knew that I had come to accept the horror of my nightly ritual. Somehow, it never occurred to me that it wasn’t normal, that other little girls weren’t being dragged and suffocated every night by invisible demons.

It all stopped when we got rid of the mattress. I was a teenager by that point, getting ready to leave for college, and it was then that I first heard my mom talking to one of her friends about The Bear Bed. We’d just gifted the thing to friends of ours with a growing family, and mom was talking to my aunt about it on the phone. “Yes,” she said, “we just gave it to the Youngs. You remember what mom and dad used to call it? I know! The Bear Bed! The cousins used to be terrified to sleep in it when they visited, but we never had any problems with it. Mmm, hmmm...oh, who knows...I think they just wanted to scare us into behaving. You remember how ornery they were.”

_Allyson B.


Anonymous said...

Arghgghgh! That's scary!

Anonymous said...

What a beautifully written story. If the author isn't published, she should be!

Anonymous said...

some furniture carries bad ju ju with it...