Thursday, September 03, 2009

When Anastasia Became a Monster

(Note: I wrote and illustrated this story several years ago, but never did anything with it. So this is it's publishing debut! I have many more ink and watercolor illustrations, but it was looking too cluttered. I'd love feedback.)

The monsters under Anastasia’s bed had been keeping her awake. Their usual growling, snarling and belching had been bad enough, but lately there had been an increase in howling, moaning and bellyaching. Anastasia had become increasingly indignant at the utter rudeness of her neighbors dwelling down there in their land of dust bunnies.

“Of course they must live,” she said to herself. “And of course they must live in their natural habitat. And they will, after all, make some noise, but I simply must be allowed to sleep!”

Up until then Anastasia had more or less ignored the monsters. They were down there; she was up here. She let them have any toys that rolled under the bed, while they avoided attacking her ankles as she got in and out of bed. Otherwise she rarely thought of them.

But now, in the darkest part of the night, she was thinking about those monsters. She pulled her flashlight from under her pillow and hung over the edge of her bed to shine its beam into the monster’s domain. “Hey, keep it down!”

The monsters fell silent.

Satisfied, Anastasia pulled her self back into bed, but minutes later the monsters were back at it.

“Hey, monsters! I’m trying to sleep up here!” she shouted.

They again fell silent before a single monster voice cried out, “Just who do you think you are?!”

“I’m Anastasia, that’s who -- the girl who sleeps in this bed. The one who keeps a roof over your head.”

Anastasia heard some scrambling, then felt something moving on her bed. She turned her flashlight in that direction and sure enough it was a very angry monster.

“Ho-ho,” said the monster. “So it’s you who keep a roof over our heads, is it? How about it’s us who keep a floor under you!”

This was outrageous. “For your information, monster, you’ve been making entirely too much noise under there. If this keeps up I’ll be forced to ask you to leave.”

The monster sputtered and putrid yellow bile flew from his lips. “Perhaps it will be us who ask you to leave!”

“Why would I leave my own bed?” Anastasia demanded.

The monster answered, “Because of that racket you’ve been making on our roof every morning, just as the babies are getting sleep. They keep the rest of us up half the day with their crying. And now listen to them. It’s the middle of the night – normally the most cheerful part of the day – and they’re howling, moaning and bellyaching.”

Anastasia reflected that she had lately developed the habit of jumping on her bed each morning before getting dressed for school. It was her workout. Who were these creatures to tell her not to jump on her bed when even her own parents allowed it?

Just then a heart-piercing wail came from below.

“This is your fault,” said the monster who stomped off in a fury.

For the rest of the night the monsters’ hideous sounds were louder and more varied.

The following morning, exhausted and bitter, Anastasia jumped so furiously on her bed that even her mother asked her to stop.

Her day was monstrous. She growled at her father. She snarled at the bus driver. She belched during a spelling test and was laughed at by the whole class. She dozed through lunch and was sent home with a note from her teacher insisting that she get more sleep.

She didn’t put up a fight when she was sent to bed early. When the monsters began their cacophony she leapt to the floor with her flashlight and presented the note.

“Do you see this?” she asked. “My teacher commands you to let me sleep.”

“Do you see this?” answered the monster, wielding a paper of its own, “This is a cease and desist order from the high court. If you jump on that bed again, we’ll call the cops!”

“You’ll hear from my lawyer!” shouted Anastasia, who bounded onto the bed and gave it a thorough jumping.

The monsters responded with yowls, caterwauls and shrieks.

The following morning came far too soon for Anastasia who was barely able to drag herself from bed. She dozed and crabbed the entire day.

That night as she lay there grinding her teeth at the monsters’ ruckus she formulated a plan. Anastasia slipped quietly into the hallway where she retrieved the vacuum cleaner from the closet. Then she directed the nozzle under her bed. With a sudden whine the machine came to life, sucking up everything in sight. “That should take care of them,” she muttered with an evil chuckle.

When she returned from restoring the vacuum to its spot in the hallway closet, she found her bed striped down to the bare mattress – her sheets, pillow and stuffed animals were gone. Then with horror she remembered, “Blankie!” Her beloved Blankie was gone!

Blind with despair and rage, Anastasia snatched up a baseball bat, fell to her stomach, and began swinging it wildly under the bed. Moments later she screamed in pain as the monsters sank their fangs into her flesh. An enormous battle ensued. Blood and bruises proliferated. Nasty things were said. Viciousness ruled the field.

After a very long battle, Anastasia lost consciousness.

When she awoke she lay amidst the ruin of her room, surrounded by the nearly lifeless bodies of the monsters. Everything had been decimated. She barely had the energy to raise her throbbing head. That’s when she noticed small bits of Blankie scattered about. She looked at the monsters with cold hatred.

It was that hatred that allowed her to finally move her hand. She picked up a chunk of ceiling tile with which to clobber her nearest enemy. As she raised her weapon over her head she took aim, then hesitated. It was a monster baby, sleeping peacefully.

She couldn’t hit a baby, could she? Even a monster baby?

The monster baby growled gently, snarled with satisfaction, and belched in contentment.

Anastasia dropped her arm. Her hatred wasn’t strong enough. In fact it was no longer even strong enough to keep her awake. She drifted sweetly asleep to the familiar sounds of the monster baby.

After a long rest, Anastasia and the monsters awoke together. As they were barely able to move from their wounds, a truce was called.

Anastasia agreed that the monsters had every right to live under the bed, but only under the condition that they avoided excessive growling, snarling and belching, while foregoing howling, moaning, bellyaching, yowling, caterwauling and shrieking altogether. For their part the monsters conceded Anastasia’s claim to sleep on their roof, but only if she agreed to relocate her morning jump to her parents’ bed.

Then a very important thing happened. Anastasia said, “I’m sorry.”

The monster smiled. “We’re sorry, too. How could we have let things get so out of hand?”

“All of this and we’re right back where we started,” sighed Anastasia.

Her room was a shambles, her body injured, and her reputation besmirched. She no longer had Blankie. And even worse, her heart felt wounded from all the rage, despair and hatred.

The monster replied, pointing to the destruction, “All of this and we’re even worse off than we started.”

They tried to laugh, but it hurt too much.

Over the next few days Anastasia’s body began to heal. The abrasions clotted and the bruises faded.

One night she pulled out her flashlight and peered under the bed. “Is everything all right down there?” she asked.

“I hurt right here,” the monster said, pointing to his heart.

“Me too,” she answered. Then without thinking she said, “I became a monster.”

“And I,” said the monster, “became a human.”

It hurt them to laugh, but a little less than before.

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Maya said...

Incredible! These sketches are amazing and the story is well told, amusing, captivating, sweet, kind hearted, intense. . . I can go on. I loved it. I can't wait to see more. Will you be posting more?

Teacher Tom said...

Thanks Maya. You've made my day!

I've written several other stories, but none with illustrations . . . Maybe I will publish a few more of them here.


Saya said...

I love it. wish i could read it to the children at school...

Have you seen any "Kamishibai" (traditional japanese story telling)? It'll need more pictures but I think you would make great one.

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