by Effie Seiberg
Effie Seiberg is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in San Francisco, where she works as a tech consultant and makes cakes shaped like spaceships and facehuggers. Her short fiction can be found in Lightspeed’s “Women Destroy Science Fiction” special issue, Analog, and PodCastle, among others. Follow her on twitter at @effies, or check out her other stories at effieseiberg.com.
I KEEP IT CLEAN UNDER THE BED. I go swoosh swoosh swoosh and suck the dust away. Jimmy can’t have a dusty bed. It would make him sick. I don’t want Jimmy to get sick. I love Jimmy. So I keep it clean.
Jimmy’s been gone for three nights.
Every night, we used to do our special thing. I’d slooooowly start to move. Make the whisperiest of sounds. And Jimmy would pretend to be frightened and he’d scream. His mom would come back into his room and look under the bed. “There’s nothing there, honey,” she’d say. But Jimmy and I would know different. It’s our secret, even though he can’t keep the secret even the littlest bit. But that’s OK. I always forgive him, because I love Jimmy.
One night, when Jimmy screamed for his mom, he said there was something in the closet. It was scary, thinking Jimmy had found someone else. But I pushed out an eyestalk from under the bed when his mom opened the closet, and there was no one in there. I could tell.
After she left I wanted to come up and give Jimmy a hug, and tell him that it was OK. He didn’t need anybody in the closet because he had me and I would be there forever and ever and ever. But before I could get up he screamed for his mom again. Jimmy’s right. Me staying under the bed is what’s best for us, so I stay and do my whispery thing instead.
But Jimmy’s gone. It’s been three nights. I don’t know where he is. But maybe tonight he’ll be back and we’ll do our thing. I’ve kept it so clean for him. I hope he’s back. And I can do something special for him to show him I love him and that it’s better here than anywhere else. But he doesn’t come back.
It’s five nights since Jimmy’s been gone, and I hear a soft flapping sound, like the fwap-fwap-fwap sound Jimmy makes when he hits his dresser with his t-shirt. Something comes into the room. I didn’t know there was another monster in this house. I thought there was only me. She’s pink and white and fuzzy. I wonder if she knows where Jimmy is.
She tells me that she lives in the “dryer”. She was born there, just like I was born under the bed. I don’t know what a dryer is. But she says that she eats socks and sometimes underwear, and I know what those are. Jimmy has those. Sometimes his mom puts away his clothes and complains there’s a sock missing. I tell this to the other monster and she giggles.
I ask her if she’s seen Jimmy. She hasn’t. But now that the family is gone she’s decided to roam around the house and do I want to roam around the house with her?
I’m scared. I’ve never been anywhere but under the bed. But she says it’s OK, so I come out and stand up in Jimmy’s room for the first time. There are drawings everywhere. Maybe he’s drawn me too. We love each other and you draw everyone you love, right? But I can’t find a picture of me anywhere. Instead there are pictures of superheroes and pictures of his mom and dad looking angry and yelling thick dark lines at one another. But no pictures of me. Maybe that’s OK though. Maybe that’s Jimmy keeping our secret, just a little bit.
The monster from the dryer wants me to join her, but I’m just going to stay here, I think. That way if Jimmy comes back late, I’ll be here waiting for him, and I’ll show him I love him.
Tonight I see my tail is missing. I don’t know where it went.
It’s been a week now. It doesn’t smell as much like Jimmy anymore. It’s so quiet, not like the last night he was here. He was coughing a lot. His mom came in and sat with him the whole night, so I couldn’t even do my whispery thing at all.
There are more monsters in the house. There’s one in the “garage” who dings the doors of the cars and jams the seat belts, and one in the fridge who puts tiny holes in the yogurt containers so they leak and go bad faster. With the house empty they’re all starting to explore, so they’ve found Jimmy’s room. They haven’t seen him. They want me to explore too, but I’m staying here, under Jimmy’s bed. Just in case.
I’ve lost a tentacle, too. I hope Jimmy will still love me, even if I’m missing some bits.
It’s the ninth night. Jimmy’s mom comes back into the room. She sits on his bed and cries for a while with lots of tissues. Then she packs a bag with Jimmy’s favorite plastic superheroes, the ones that protect him from the bad guys. I wish she didn’t take them. Now Jimmy has no reason to come back.
It’s been two weeks. Jimmy’s mom is back in the house all the time now. The fridge monster sneaks up to Jimmy’s room. He says that there’s lots of new casseroles in containers he doesn’t recognize, and that Jimmy’s mom takes them out, looks at them, and puts them back in without touching them. Another monster told him that she spends a lot of time in bed, crying. I’m not very interested though… I’d rather hear about Jimmy, but the fridge monster still doesn’t know where he is.
There’s not much of me left. I don’t know what’s happening, but I hope Jimmy comes back soon before more of me is gone.
Maybe Jimmy isn’t going to come back. Maybe now that he has his superheroes he doesn’t need to come back. Or maybe he’s found a better monster, who’s whole. But that can’t be it. Jimmy and I love each other. So I’ll keep waiting here, under the bed.
“Under the Bed” first appeared in Crossed Genres, in July 2014.