Flash Fiction: The Monster In My Closet

About two hours ago, I thought to myself, "'There's a monster in my closet' would be a neat way to start out one of those scary short stories I loved to read when I was in middle school."

I wrote it down, then wrote a little more and a little more. Right around the time I realized I had no idea how it ended, the ending tapped me on the shoulder and said "boo!"

I've never done this before, but I thought it would be cool to publish it here without the usual editorial and rewrites I do on everything, because the idea of conceiving, writing, and releasing a short story in just a couple of hours is intriguing to me.

Added on 10/19: I made free-free and DRM-free ePub and Kindle versions of this story. You can get them at my virtual bookshelf if you like.

So, without any further introduction, here is my scary short story that I hope 12 year-old me would enjoy…

The Monster In My Closet

by Wil Wheaton

There is a monster in my closet. It’s standing in there behind my clothes, and it wants to come out. I don’t know where it came from, I don’t know how it got in there, but I know that it’s been there for a long time, waiting.

Mum and dad don’t believe in monsters (and until yesterday, neither did I), but during dinner tonight, I had to tell them.

“A monster,” dad said, wiping mashed potatoes off his beard. “Like, with claws and fangs? That kind of monster?”

“I haven’t actually seen it,” I said, “but I know it’s there.”

“How can you know it’s there if you haven’t seen it?” Mum asked.

“It’s like…” I thought for a moment. “It’s like when it’s cloudy, and you can’t see the moon, but it sort of glows behind the clouds, so you know it’s there.”

“So your closet was glowing, eh?” Dad said.

I shook my head. I could tell that they thought I was making the whole thing up. “No, dad,” I said, “but I could feel it in there, and –”

“And what?” He said.

“And if it comes out,” I said, carefully, “It’s going to kill us.”

“Well, I should expect so,” dad said. “Monsters are usually very serious about that sort of thing.”

Mum scowled at him. “Richard! Don’t make fun.”

Then she looked back at me and said, “you can have a night light in your room to keep the monster away.”

“And keep your closet door shut,” dad said, gravely, “everyone knows that monsters can’t open doors.”

“But –”

“But nothing. Now stop all this chattering and eat your peas before they get cold,” mum said.

I’m trying to deal with a monster, and all mum cares about is me eating my peas. Typical parents.

They walked me into my room when it was time for bed. Dad made a big production of opening the closet and looking inside. “Well, it looks like we scared it off,” he said. He didn’t notice that the lid of my toy chest was lifted up slightly, and I didn’t bother telling him. He pushed the door and it shut with a click. He shook the knob and pantomimed looping a chain around it that he secured with a pantomimed pad lock. He swallowed a pantomime key and rubbed his belly.

Mum brought in one of my old night lights, the one with the blue pony on it, and plugged it into the wall next to the bed. “There, sweetheart,” she said as she turned it on, “let’s just leave this on tonight.”

She kissed me goodnight. Then dad kissed me on my forehead.

“There’s a good girl,” he said, “sleep tight! Don’t let the monsters bite!”

“Richard!” Mum smacked him on his arm. “Sorry, sweetie, he’s just having a bit of fun.”

“Good night, mum,” I said. I tried not to frown too much at dad.

I heard them talking as they walked down the stairs.. “She just has a wonderful imagination, doesn’t she?” Mum said.

“She’s a dreamer, that’s for sure,” dad said. I heard ice clink into glasses, then, a moment later,  the creak of their armchairs as they sat down to watch television. 

I was starting to fall asleep when I heard it.

“Psssst.” 

I thought that maybe I was dreaming, but I pulled the covers up to my neck, as tightly as I could, and listened. 

“Psssst.” 

It came from the closet. “Psssst. Hey, kid. Come and open the door, hey?”

I felt my eyes widen, as a chill ran down my spine.

“Come on, kid, I won’t hurt ya, I just want to get out of here. Open the door and I’ll be on my way.”

The voice — its voice — was gruff, but not as gruff as I thought it would be.

“No,” I said in a small voice, barely a whisper. “You… you just stay in there.”

The handle shook a bit, and I screamed. Mum and dad were in the room before I knew it.

“It’s in there!” I cried, “it’s in there and it told me to open the door and let it out!”

They looked at each other. Mum walked across the room to me and sat down on the edge of my bed. “There, there, sweetie,” she said, “you just had a bad dream is all.

“Richard, open the door and show her that there’s nothing inside but clothes and toys.”

“No! Dad! Don’t open it!” I practically screamed.

“Fear not, my petal,” he said, gallantly, “Any monsters inside this closet will get the thrashing of their lives!” He walked to the closet and knocked on the door. “Anyone in there? Hmm?”

He winked at me and shadow boxed the air in front of him.

“Richard, stoppit and just open the door. She’s had an awful fright.”

“Daddy, don’t do it,” I said, suddenly feeling like I was seven years-old again. “Please.”

He smiled and said, “it’s all right, sweetheart. Daddy’s just going to show you that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and then we can all go back to sleep.”

Mum squeezed my hand. An audience laughed on the television downstairs. Dad turned the handle on the closet door and opened it. “Now, see? There’s nothing to–”

The monster was covered in dark scales, like a lizard. Its eyes were jet black, but reflected something red in their centers. It grabbed my dad by his shoulders and bit into his neck with long, sharp, white teeth.

Dad screamed and struggled against it. Clawed hands held onto him and a spray of blood shot across the back of the closet door, black and shiny in the dim light.

It slurped and gurgled and crunched, and in a few seconds, dad stopped moving. I realized that my mum hadn’t made a sound, but had let go of my hand.

She stood up, and walked toward the monster. It dropped my dad’s body to the floor and grinned at her, dad’s blood dripping off of its teeth and running down its chest. They stood over my dad’s body and embraced.

“I’ve missed you, darling,” the monster said to my mum.

“I missed you, too, my sweet,” she said, in the same gruff voice.

“Mu– mum?” I said. She ignored me.

“I would have come sooner, but you know that we can’t open them from the inside,” the monster said.

“Everyone knows that!” Mum said, and they laughed together. She turned to face me. Her skin was starting to crack on her face, revealing dark grey scales beneath it. Her eyes were turning black, reflecting something red in their centers.

“Come on over here and give us a hug,” she said, as sharp white fangs pushed her teeth out of her mouth and onto the floor where they bounced around like marbles. “Come and be mommy’s little monster!”

“WHAT IS HAPPENING? I screamed.

“Stop that horrid racket and say hello to your dad — your real dad,” she said.

I reached around for something, anything, to use as a weapon to protect myself. When I stretched out for the lamp on my night stand, the skin on my arm cracked and split open. There were grey scales underneath it. 

“Oh no. No no no no no,” I said.

I reached up to touch my face, and pulled the soft pink flesh away. I felt the rough scales underneath.

“What’s happening to me?!”

I looked at my mum.

I looked at my dad.

I looked at the body on the floor.

I realized that I was ever so hungry, and my food was getting cold.

I got out of bed and joined my family for dinner.

Copyright 2011 Wil Wheaton. 

Creative Commons License
The Monster In My Closet by Wil Wheaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

178 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: The Monster In My Closet”

  1. Simply awesome storytelling. A nice, easy read, which a colleague of mine has a quote about as decoration for his blog, Viewfinder Blues at http://www.lenslinger.com.
    “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”-Nathaniel Hawthorne
    If you care to read about the ‘thrilling’ life of a news cameraman, his prose is filled with pith and vinegar, and I doubt you’ll be disappointed. If I’m wrong, hey, it’s free.

  2. How fun! I looked you up because I’ve been rewatching the first season of Star Trek Next Generation and remembered that my young tween girl heart was set quite aflutter by Wesley Crusher. I thought I’d see where life has brought you since your Wesley Crusher days. Ok, well, first my tween daughters and I had a laugh because I *married* a tall, thin, brown haired, ethically strong, science geek who was very Wesley Crusher as a teen. After I recovered, I found you through google and thought I’d stop by and read your latest post. I love your story; it’s like the stuff of the great Omni magazine (must be flashback week).

  3. My pre-teen self would love this story, especially since short stories were like air to me back then. Short stories and out of print books like “Lizard Music”. Odd how things from back then are still things that make us happy today.
    Well done, Wheaton, well done. ;)

  4. What a fun story! Now I know what my 11, 12, 13 year olds are doing for writing next week. Your story will be the model, and then I’ll give them a similar prompt to work with themselves.

  5. “Right around the time I realized I had no idea how it ended, the ending tapped me on the shoulder…” — Gotta LOVE when that happens!
    I enjoyed the read. Not my usual genre of choice, but in flash doses, I like it. You may have edited it since posting, but here’s my two-cent crit anyhow. My biggest issue, is that we don’t learn that the narrator is a girl until pretty late in the piece. Rather, I imagined the narrator to be about a 7-year-old boy until I was told otherwise. I still would like to have a better idea of her age. Maybe she could fiddle nervously with her ponytail at the dinner table or something. You wouldn’t need to spell it out, of course. (Look at me, the one-chapbook poet telling the pro how to write. )
    No offense intended, but something about it brought Troll 2 to mind, not in the totally cheesy sense, but with a sense of nostalgia. I was totally freaked out by that movie when I saw it as a kid.

  6. I do not like horror stories, because I’m just like that, and I totally was “ew” at the end of this one, but I AM going to print up some copies and have them on hand for any kids that look over 12 that come to my door this Halloween.
    I am also going to get a copy of There’s A Monster At The End Of This Book, because I can’t find mine and I have to read it to my little boys RIGHT NOW.

  7. That was great! For some reason, I really enjoyed the line, “An audience laughed on the television downstairs.” It really was the turning point and set the depth and tone of the scene in a wonderful way.

  8. This was an amazing story so I had to share it with other via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr! Thank you for sharing, Wil. It made my day a little brighter and I, in turn, made others people’s days brighter too.

  9. i LOVE this. i was just reading a column in the new yorker about basil twist who creates puppets – and had talked about MBU – the monster under the bed, for the addams family. serendipity! and what an ending!

  10. Fun story. I’m the publisher of Bewildering Stories web magazine, which is a compendium of short, medium, and long “speculative fiction” — SF, fantasy, horror, written by some up-and-coming writers, as well as the occasional pro. It’s a “4theLuv” zine, as we have no money, but we do have a world-wide audience. I’d like to run this by our editors and see if they’d like to publish it. Just in time for the Halloween issue, I’d say.
    Obviously, you’ve already given the “Creative Commons” type persimmon, but I much prefer to run it by the author before I grab ANYTHING.
    –Jerry Wright
    http://www.bewilderingstories.com

  11. I like your style – flowing naturally, wanting me to read more -even though I know that I will definitely check my closet tonight. Man, short stories are awesome. YOUR short story is awesome!

  12. PS Your story stuck in my mind… being a scenario/filming/editing etc student I can’t help but analyze it a bit (damn studies, since day one revealing the magic behind stories… sometimes it’s awesome, sometimes you fricking learn the ending to a movie you haven’t seen yet, aka FAIL) I can actually sense a spontaneous three-act/A Thousand Faces/McKee’s Story going on in there… or am I off road totally?!

  13. ‘Mummy’s little monster’ would also have been a great title, although it would have given your twist away. That’s the best thing here, actually – I really enjoyed the story but your gloss on that phrase is so logical that I can’t believe (to my knowledge) that no-one has used it in this way before in a horror story.
    I’m also loving reading horror short stories in general today! Thank you internet! Makes up for lack of halloween activities today. I’ve decided to join in the fun and start my own, if anyone wants to read another (not sure on your linking policy Mr. Wheaton, please delete this if you don’t want links in your comments) — http://gregbuchanan.co.uk/2011/10/30/the-tunnel-1/

  14. I am suddenly so glad I don’t have a closet in my room.
    …But I do have the door to the attic. Thanks a lot, Mr. Wheaton. Now I need a padlock!
    This is better than Goosebumps, sir. I commend you.

  15. Well now,
    Is it only me that thought, “..and the reason you can’t open them from the inside is that they want you to stay, so they can digest you..” ?
    I liked that. Now to scrawl down something about closets being alive, and devouring monsters..

  16. Dude… that was awesome. I didn’t see the ending coming. Well done, sir. I have a question: I’ve been out of the loop for abit… so, whatever happened to Hunter? Did you plan on expanding it? It was a great story and sounded like a cool place to build characters and worlds. We can haz moar? =-D

  17. K, I’m going to have to stop defending you to my friends when they say you have issues.
    Instead,I’ll just tell them “Yeah, and his are a lot cooler than yours”.
    That ought to shut ‘em up.

Comments are closed.