Anthony Creel had tried everything he could think of to keep the boogeyman away.
His mother had assured him that no monster lived in the house. She grabbed his hand and led him on a tour through each room. Closets and cabinets were opened, area rugs were lifted up, and the shower curtain was pulled back to expose only mildewed tile and soap scum.
“Nothing,” she announced. “Now can we go back to sleep?”
“What about under the bed?” he pleaded, pointing toward his room. “That’s the last place I saw him.”
“Jesus, Anthony,” his mother sighed. She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. She looked down at her seven-year-old son’s pitiful brown eyes and smiled. “Okay,” she said, forming an imaginary gun in the shape of her fingers. She approached his bedroom door, and bravely kicked it open.
“We got you surrounded, Mr. Boogeyman!” she yelled. “Now come out with your hands up!”
Anthony giggled. Sometimes his mother could be so funny.
She stepped into the room, and motioned with her head for Anthony to follow. He threw his hands around her legs, and tilted his small head out from behind her left hip.
Prying him loose, she got down on all fours, and crawling, stopped in the center of the room. When she touched the navy blue bed skirt, Anthony shivered and let out a tiny gasp.
“Showtime,” his mother whispered, pulling back the fabric. She thrust her hand under the bed and screamed, “Bang! You’re dead!”
Anthony almost collapsed.
His mother just shook her head. “See, darling,” she turned to him. “There are only dirty shoes down here. But far more disturbing,” she frowned, “way too many dust bunnies.”
Anthony used his mother’s back as a springboard, and dove into the bed.
He had his body tucked under the bedding and his head pressed into the pillow before his mother had a chance to stand up.
“Everything okay now?” She was still seated on the floor, resting her elbows on the edge of his bed.
“It will be,” Anthony admitted, closing his eyes.
Preparing to stand, his mother caught the faint odor of something foul.
“Whew,” she said. “You smell that, honey?”
“Yes, mommy,” Anthony said. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry?” She repeated quizzically. “Sorry for what?”
“I was supposed to bring you back here,” he confessed, sitting up. The odor was stronger now, and he was feeling slightly nauseous. “He told me that if you want to catch a mouse, you have to use cheese.”
“What are you talking about? Who told you that?” She asked, looking around the room frantically. “And where’s that smell coming from?”
From the dark, imperceptible chasm beneath the bed, the boogeyman slowly stretched out his cold, gray hand.
Angel Zapata was born in NYC, but currently resides just outside of Augusta, Georgia. His flash fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Microhorror.com, ShadeWorks, AlienSkin, and Anotherealm. He is husband to his lovely wife of two years and is also father of four hyperkinetic boys obsessed with all things ninja.