The Lesson

Hey, remember in my last post where I wondered what it would be like if the Boogieman were a good guy?  I wrote a little something starring the guy.  I don’t know if it’s the beginning of a novel, a short story, or just something I wanted to write, but I thought I’d share it here.  Hope you enjoy it.

It’s a bit creepy, I hope.  Or maybe not.  Either way, have a read.  And let me know what you think in the comments section.

 

The Boogieman slid across the room like a snake.  Low to the ground.  Slithering through the dark.  He could’ve been silent as death.  Although Death was actually a bit of a chatterbox, but silent as Ecstasy didn’t quite have the same ring to it.  But the Boogieman wasn’t silent.  He dragged his fingernails against the carpet, making a muted scraping sound.  He wheezed, ever-so-slightly.  And as he rose to his full height beside the child’s bed, the Boogieman chuckled, long and low.

The kid was not impressed.

It was usually around the age of ten that the kids stopped being frightened of him just because he was something they were supposed to fear.  Some kids learned earlier.  Some later.  But as the Boogieman stared into this kid’s eyes, he saw that familiar disdain, that dismissal of childhood fears of something lurking under the bed, in the back of the closet.

“I’m not afraid of you,” said the boy defiantly.

The Boogieman slouched.  The toothy snarl disappeared from his long, gray face.  He hated when they grew up.

Emboldened, the child sat up in his bed.  “Go away.”

The Boogieman reached out with a long, long slender arm and turned on the bedside lamp.  It flooded the room with a soft white light, and he covered his eyes for a moment, grumbling.

“Son of a bitch,” he said.  “Excuse my French, kid.”

The boy’s puzzled expression said it all.  The Boogieman had seen it before.

“Oh, yeah, you were expecting me to maybe dissolve away in the light.  Maybe something like this?”

He shrieked and writhed, melting into a blackened puddle that slurped its way under the bed.

The boy clutched his blanket tightly and sat their quietly on the bed.  He almost called his mom, but he was too big for that now.  He had to be brave.  He mustered up his courage and peered under the bed.

There was nothing there.

Then from above came that terrible wheeze.  The boy fell out of bed, peering up at the shadowy figure clinging to the ceiling.

“Doesn’t work that way, kid.  People think that fear is in the dark.  But fear is everywhere.  If you could banish it by just turning on the lights, this world would be a very different place.”

The Boogieman dripped from the ceiling like a figure made of dirty wax.  He reformed on the bed.

“Oh, yeah, and the blanket thing . . . ”  His arm whipped out and snatched the covering from the child.  “That’s bullshit too.”

“I’m not afraid of you,” said the boy, sounding not entirely convinced.

“Why do you think I give a damn if you’re afraid of me?” asked the Boogieman.  “Fear of the Boogieman is not from whence the Boogieman spawned.  I’m not like your imaginary friend, kid.  I don’t want you to believe in me.  I don’t need you to believe in me.  I am.”

“But . . . . “

The Boogieman put one claw-like finger to his lips.

“Let me ask you a question.  If you were walking through the woods and a bear jumped out onto the path, would you tell the bear you didn’t believe in him?”

The boy shook his head.

“Exactly.  I get so sick of this I don’t believe crap.  A bear doesn’t give a shit what you believe.  The Black Plague didn’t give a shit.  The Spanish Inquisition, murderers, car accidents, war, falling rocks, earthquakes, those goddamn little Lego blocks that get everywhere that you step on and hurt like hell.  None of them give a shit.  What makes you think I do?”

He cleared his throat and for the first time, his body actually looked like a body, not just a gray blob.  He was long and thin.  He had no hair on his head, and his eyes were gone.  There was nothing where they should’ve been.  Not even sockets.  He touched his face where his nose wasn’t.

“Ah, damnit.  Do I not have a nose again?  Ever since those damn Harry Potter movies . . . “

He strode across the room on his long, spider-like legs and examined the pictures and toys scattered throughout.

“What’s your name, kid?”

“Harry.”

The Boogieman paused, a teddy bear in his hands.  “You’re shittin’ me.”

The boy shook his head.  The Boogieman chuckled.

“Here’s a trick then, Harry.  I want you to close your eyes and think of something funny.  Something that makes you laugh.  Something that fills your heart with joy that could never hurt you.  And don’t think of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  That never goes well.”

“Who?”

The Boogieman shook his head.  “Never mind.  Just do it.”

Harry did so.

“Now open your eyes,” commanded the Boogieman.

Harry did and found himself staring into the grinning maw of his nighttime visitor.

“Didn’t work, did it?  Didn’t make me go away.  Didn’t make you unafraid.”

He reached out, touched Harry’s nose with one ice cold finger.  “Maybe I should rip off your nose.”

Harry screamed.

The Boogieman screamed with him.

The bedroom door flew open, and Harry’s parents rushed in to find him soiling himself in the corner.  He tried to explain, but it all came out as gibberish, and while they tried to calm him down, the Boogieman, grinning his pointed smile, hovered silently behind them.

When he was assured enough fear had been sown, a suitable amount of terror distributed, he slithered out the door, down the stairs, and into the street.  He could still hear the boy crying, and the shouts of the parents no longer able to calm him down but awash in his hysteria.

It was easy to scare little kids, and it was even a bit fun to pretend like they could wish him away simply by being brave.  A fun little game that helped them sleep at night.  But his job wasn’t to make kids feel better about themselves.  His job, at the end of the day, was to remind them that fear wasn’t something you wished away.  That the light was no safer than the dark.  And that sometimes, too many times, simply being brave wasn’t enough.

It was why he hated when they grew up.

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12 Comments

  1. Kyle White
    Posted November 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I’ll give you a DFWWW critique.

    I did not like the opening, it’s too cliché.
    The first three paragraphs seem unnecessary and the kid should speak sooner.
    More into the story, I really enjoyed the banter between the Boogieman and Harry. It’s well done.
    The Boogieman melting only to reappear and drip off the ceiling is a great image.
    The missing nose was funny.
    The spider-like legs are a little horror-movie standard.
    The tension builds nicely up to this line ‘He reached out, touched Harry’s nose with one ice cold finger. “Maybe I should rip off your nose.”’ It would be scarier if he’d said “You have a nice nose” just implying he’d rip it off.
    The ending isn’t as strong of a gut punch as it could be.

    Overall, I really liked the Boogieman. He’s not creepy, he’s funny and sorta endearing. I’d be interested to read about more of his adventures.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted November 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the comments, Kyle. I don’t know where it’s going, but glad to have your feedback, as always.

      Normally, at the workshop, we don’t rebut, but I will go ahead and do so here because it’s my site and I can do what I want.

      The beginning is deliberately cliched. That’s kind of the point. It’s the expected beginning to a Boogieman story, followed by a subversion. But I appreciate the feedback, and we’ll see where it goes. Maybe I’ll read a longer version next week at DFWWW. We’ll see.

  2. Sarah
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    Please continue this story! It is a bit creepy, and funny, which is an awesome combination.

  3. Roscoe G.
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    To rebut the critique a bit, I believe that “Maybe I should rip off your nose.” is perfect and blunt. It encapsulates to me impatience with having to change to adhere to peoples fears and expectations along with how someone dealing with children for a long time would speak. I say this as a child who would have wondered why he was complimenting me. I think it ends well for the start of a novel less so as a stand alone story. I might be biased however as I would dearly love to see this as a novel.

  4. Gabe
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Nice work. You had some really good imagery going (something I think you’re particularly skilled at since you create strong images with just a few words), and just enough detail to let me imagine the boogey-man crawling on the floor as I imagine him. The ending left me wondering what the point was: if it was just a small slice-of-life style anecdote (which is how they end..very European :p), or if it was a small teaser for something larger. Not every story needs to be tiedied up and have an over-all point to it; but, if it fits, and if it’s what you want for the story, an impact ending would nice instead of a walkinging-off-in-the-distance ending.

  5. Gabe
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Oh, one more thing. As for the beginning: I couldn’t find why it was cliche. What hooks me in a story is interesting imagery and good cadence, and you had just that.

  6. Jo
    Posted December 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    First, I liked the first paragraph.
    Second,. After the boogieman reforms from the ceiling. He has takin a different form. When he says “must be a harry potter fan” after realizing he had no nose, I take that he’s changed form into what scares the kid most; from Harry Potter: voldemort when he has no face or hair, and the giant spider, thus him having spider legz now and not a slithering snake body.
    And I like the the last bit “maybe I should rip off your nose?” again because it’s feeding off the kids fears, and also because it’s like, well, your fears changed mine, so I’ll just take yours.

    I might be totally wrong, either way, I liked it.

  7. Jason
    Posted December 2, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    I like the concept of the boogieman being a good guy. I love those kind of outside the box ideas. I don’t know how to have a story with the boogieman without having him scare kids in their beds, but… I guess I just visualize Monsters Inc. whenever I think of it. I’d like to see how the plot pans out.

  8. JB Sanders
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    How about one where the boogie man is agoraphobic and is afraid to come out from under the bed. Never mind, I think I’ll write that. (Good start, loved the death was a chatter box line damn you.)

  9. Posted December 5, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    i think its very interesting. would like to see where it goes.

  10. Scott
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I teach high school English in Montana and I have been tearing through your books. The best part is that I get to distribute them to my students when I’m done!

  11. A
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    It’s a great start. Great creepiness. Knowing ahead of time that the Boogie Man was supposed to be a good guy might have made me biased when I read it though. The biggest thing I was left with was wondering why that was his job. Why is it that he is supposed to teach children these things? So it’s a perfect opening really if you can figure out where to go with it next. One thing though, I get that he hates it when the kids grow up because it means he has to teach them this lesson so brutally, but the extent of his regret at having to do so is unclear. Perhaps seeing them so upset could rip at his guts a little more if that’s the way you want to go with it?

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