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. That was good. Given that the scariest (well, longest lasting scare) thing I’ve ever read was Stephen King’s The Boogieman, you could say I was primed for this one. The ending was totally brilliant and unexpected! Well done you.

  2. I don’t know about 12 year-old you, but that story would have given 12 year-old me nightmares for a good six months.
    (In case it isn’t obvious, this is a compliment.)

  3. I am not much one for gory creepy things (bee tee dubs – I will not be seeing The Thing), but this was short and relatively painless…for me anyway.

  4. This story cuts so deep into childhood fears. Your body becomes a mystery. Your parents’ relationship becomes a nuanced minefield instead of an assumed part of existence. Everything that was certain becomes uncertain.
    The closet and the future both open into uncertainty and chaos.
    Great story. I thank you, and the sleep I’m not going to be getting tonight thanks you.

  5. This was just great! I love the smart kid logic – “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.” And you really do capture her voice well. :-)

  6. Well…I just watched the first episode of Walking Dead season 2…and the little online thingy with the lady with no legs and how she came to be that way…so I was a bit freaked out…Decided to go to your blog for some light fun reading…and what do I find?
    AMAZING! I LOVED the bit at the end. I’m pretty good at seeing “what will happen” with stories, but you caught me off guard. Good JOB Will Wheaton! It was very good. Thanks for the extra scare…I guess I’ll see if The Bloggess has something light and funny for me now…

  7. Very cute. It was very reminiscent of those kid horror shows like Goosebumps. Very well written. The playful banter of the parents seemed very true.

  8. Kevin: Mom! Dad! It’s evil! Don’t touch it!
    [Kevin's parents explode]
    Kevin: Mom? Dad?
    The above quotes describe what I thought the ending of the story would look like.
    As much as I love “Time Bandits”, I also love the way you went with the story. Bravo.

  9. awesome. I read this from the POV of a 12year old boy until the parents started using gender-specific terms xD and I realized, wait, that’s from a girl’s perspective. and it’s funny because even now as a legally-grown-up person, I still can’t stand closets. I never sleep with the closet door being open. Or my bedroom door open for that matter. And monsters under my bed have been replaced by such things as that creepy chick from The Grudge or The Ring and then I’m mostly scared of going to or getting out of bed and have her grab my ankles….yes I check under my bed for creepy chicks….and my closet for monsters with glowy eyes. Steven King’s Boogey Man anyone? Now I need some more coffee and am really, REALLY glad that it’s bright daylight outside and that I’ll hopefully have forgotten about this little story until I go to bed. Otherwise, it’s gonna be a sleepless Night. Thanks, Wil Wheaton!

  10. I’m sorry Wil, but as I started reading your story, I saw how it was going to end.. and yes, you ended it just as I imagined.., and if I can figure it out before the actual ending, well… it’s rather weak. maybe, if you had a monster attack the parents when they opened their closet with the kid saying something along the lines of, “I told you so!”
    then it would have been different.

  11. when i was reading this i thought back to a story i read when i was about 11. thinking back, i imagine that might have been the story that really pushed me to stick with writing. powerful stories do powerful things to kids. great piece.
    by the way, that story i was talking about is called The Professor’s Teddy Bear.

  12. I am extremely glad I popped in tonight! What a great short spooky story! Kind of reminds me of reading “Goosebumps” to my kids. Thanks for forgoing the rewrite and plunging right in! Twilight Zone anyone??

  13. This is very reminicent of Goosebumps, as people have said; I believe The Girl Who Cried Monster used a similar twist, and then twisted it again when it turned in a monster-flavoured coming-to-America story.

  14. Great story, I think it is just scary enough to read to my neice without giving her nightmares, and she’ll love that the main character is a girl……at first.

  15. Like a few have already mentioned, I get a very goosebumps feel from this. That’s definitely a good thing. I loved goosebumps as a kid and I still enjoy reading them here and there as an adult. Also, you did an amazing job on this as a first draft. Keep it up!

  16. I’m'a jus go over here and gibber in the corner. Nicely written. I’m quite glad I’m reading this during the daytime.
    I liked the touch of the nightlight with the pony. It actually gave me a bit of a flashback to senses from childhood. Remember that feel and smell of plastic from the ’70s? It flooded my brain when I read that.

  17. I very much enjoyed it. It reminded me of the child I used to be who rented tonz of books from the public library and found a lot of joy in stories like these. Thanks for that memory.

  18. Loved it.
    What’s interesting is that until the narrator’s gender was specified, I immediately assumed male over female. I think I need to work on letting go of assumptions.

  19. I never read Goosebumps, but my immediate thought was “This would be a great Twilight Zone episode. In black and white.” TZ is my yardstick of creepy.
    So when do we get the backstage scoop of hanging out with Mr. Spiner at TBBT ?

  20. Terrific job! It reminded me very much of some of Richard Christian Matheson’s work, with is about the highest praise I can give a short story. I enjoyed it very much, particularly the phrase “ever so hungry” :-).

  21. Great story, Wil. I’d like to invite you to check out MicroHorror.com, a site devoted to short-short horror fiction. I’m the founder and editor-in-chief, and there’s a strict maximum limit of 666 words per story. I hope you enjoy it.

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