My daughter has begun seeing things. I don’t know if they’re imaginary, like any child’s mind is prone to creating, or something more, like the things I’ve seen.
I’ve told you all last summer about the stories she started telling me, about the “man” who would come to her window and tell them to her… about the claw marks I found in the sill. I’ve also told you about the attack she suffered almost a year ago when I took the advice of friends and stood up to a terrifying spirit that was stalking me. To say that she’s been through more than a normal five-year-old is an understatement.
She’s gotten really good at drawing. I can identify the things she draws without her having to tell me. I’ve encouraged her by buying how-to-draw books and drawing with her from time to time.
The other day she was drawing. She had already drawn a horse and signed it when she declared, “I’m gonna draw a monster!”
“Okay, I look forward to seeing it,” I said, distracted by something I was reading at the time.
A few minutes later, she came up to me. “Here Daddy,” she said, handing me her latest creation. I looked at it. The thing on the paper looked more like a person than a monster. It had a torso like she draws when she draws people, and it had legs and feet. But it had four lines coming off it like arms, and the head was a circle with a jagged line through it.
“What is this?” I asked.
“It’s a monster,” she replied.
“It looks like a person,” I said. “Is it a zombie?” She knows what zombies are. Sometimes when we’re playing outside and it starts getting dark, I mention that zombies come out at night as a means to get her to want to go in. Works like a charm.
“No,” she said, and then began explaining the features to me. “That’s its arms, and that’s its legs, and that’s its head.”
“It has four arms?”
“Where’s its face?”
“Its just got a big mouth with sharp teeth.”
“Oh, that’s scary.”
“Its mouth is big so it can eat people.”
“And what’s this rectangle beside it?”
“That’s my closet.”
My arms suddenly felt heavy and a chill ran up my back. I looked at the drawing again with open eyes. The rectangle beside it was her closet. There, behind it, another rectangle… her bedroom window. There, her toy buckets. There, her dresser. It was a drawing of her bedroom.
“You know there’s no such thing as monsters, right?” I asked. She looked at me quietly, not responding. “Have you actually seen this?”
She still didn’t answer. Her eyes seemed to be looking past me, staring off into space. It suddenly occurred to me that she looked extremely tired. Our daycare provider had been saying that she had a tendency to fall asleep in the morning, well before nap time.
“Honey, have you seen this? In your room?”
She didn’t say anything; she just nodded at me silently.
“When have you seen it?”
She nodded again. “It comes out of my closet.”
“You must be pretty brave, to have something this scary come out of your closet and not scream! I would scream.” I would scream, probably. That drawing was too freaky. I was still unsure whether or not to believe her.
“It says if I scream, it’ll kill whoever comes in my room.”
That got me freaked. My daughter isn’t one to talk about killing and death lightly. The last time she’d done it was when she’d told me one of those bedtime stories from the man in her window. Thoughts of that came flooding back, and I started wondering if the two incidents were related.
“It can talk?” was all I could think to ask.
“Well yeah, it has a mouth. See?” She pointed to the jagged line across its head.
“I thought that was for eating. Why doesn’t it eat you?”
“Nippy protects me from monsters, remember?”
Nippy is her stuffed toy dachshund. When she used to get scared and talk of monsters before, I had told her that Nippy was a special dog who no monster could get past. At the time, it was just a way to get her to go to sleep. But now I wonder if she didn’t believe in it so thoroughly… no, NO… monsters don’t exist!
As I thought that, I heard the creek of a door come from the hallway where the bedrooms are. I thanked my daughter for the drawing and asked her if she could draw me a horse for me to take to work and she went off to do it, having already forgotten all our talk of the monster.
I went into the hallway and listened. Our duplex is old, and I’ve become attuned to the sounds it makes. I know which floor boards squeak, and how they sound when you apply pressure to them. At that moment, I heard the soft shuddering groan of a board in her bedroom. The door was shut. My wife and I had insisted on keeping the bedroom doors open to help keep them warmer.
I walked over, grabbed the knob, and wondered if I was going to be eaten. Part of me wanted to just walk away, but the other part of me had to know. I opened the door quickly, almost flinging it open and stepped back just in case.
The room was empty. Her toys were all over the floor, but that’s normal. Her bed was a mess, but that’s normal. The closet door was open, but that’s… wait. That’s not normal. And as I stood there, looking at it, I realized the door was moving as if someone had just been in the process of opening it.
I grabbed a toilet plunger from the bathroom to swing at anything that might come at me. Obviously it was filthy and germ-ridden and, being made primarily of rubber, was a dumb idea, but it’s best not to linger on it in hindsight. I crept up to the closet, but there was nothing there. And more over, there wasn’t room in it for something to fit, especially something as large as the monster in her drawing.
On my way out, I spotted a piece of paper on her bed. Or rather, I spotted a torn strip of paper on her bed. There was nothing on it but one wild, crazy scribble. It looked like one of my daughter’s attempts at writing. She knows how to write her name, but at times she’ll just drag her pencil in a loopy, rollercoaster of a scribbled line and tell me she wrote something.
I took the scrap to her in the living room.
“What’s this?” I asked.
She looked up from her partially-drawn horse. “Looks like words,” she said.
“Not really, but it does look like something you’d write.”
“Do you know what it says?” I handed her the scrap. She has a curious way of being able to decipher her own writing, even though it’s not actual words. It’s as if the scribbles mean something in her mind that other people can’t see.
She looked at it, mouthing the words silently. She handed the scrap of paper back to me and went back to drawing her horse.
“Well?” I said, “What does it say?”
“It says, ‘I told you not to tell anybody.’” she replied.
That afternoon I went into her bedroom and took some precautionary measures. I removed the doorknob from the inside of the closet. I installed a small latch on the outside (ineffective against brute force, but it was all I could find without running out to Home Depot). I took several of the heavier bins of toys and shoved them up against the door. I haven’t had to block off her closet in almost a year. She looked at it with curiosity when I put her to bed that night, but didn’t ask. I think she knew what it was all about.
I asked her the next morning if she saw the monster that night, and she told me she hadn’t. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this solution is permanent. I don’t know what’s going on… what she saw, if it’s real or imaginary, but from the things I’ve seen, and the things that have happened in this past year, I just can’t be too careful.