By B. J. Bourg

I was dreaming about something, and then suddenly I was awake. I don't know what woke me, but I did feel a little strange. I eased my eyes open and started to panic. The room was completely cloaked in darkness. My night light was no longer shining in the corner of my room, and the friendly rays from the moon were not filtering through the shades.

I closed my eyes and prayed to be asleep again, but it didn't work. I knew I had to do something. I couldn't stay in there. My mom and dad's room was just down the hall. Maybe twenty footsteps. If I ran, I could probably cover the distance in a couple of seconds. I leaned a little off the bed and felt around on the floor for my Light Saber, which had been a comforting constant at my bedside since my last birthday party. It wasn't there. My tiny heart started to pound heavy in my ears. What should I do?

I had just about summoned enough courage to make a run for it when I heard a rustling noise in the corner of my room. I jerked the covers over my head. My breath was now coming in trembling gasps, and the heat from my mouth filled the small space beneath the covers and made me sweat. Or was it the sheer terror strangling me that made me sweat? I don't know. I just tried to tell myself there were no such things as ghosts and, like my dad said, all monsters are locked in the TV and can't escape. The noise had to be from my toys shifting in the toy box. They did that sometimes.

That's exactly what it was. Just my toys. I sighed and peered over the covers. Still dark. I couldn't explain that. What could it--

A deep growl close to my bed caused me to jump up in fright. That was no toy! I started towards where I believed my door to be, and a large light suddenly blinded me. It was between the door and me. The growl seemed to be in the light. It disappeared and then came back. Each time it came back, it stayed longer and seemed to be closer. Squinting severely, I tried to see through the light but couldn't. I punched and kicked, just like my dad had taught me, toward the light, but I didn't make contact with anything. It seemed to be dodging my blows. A brilliant flash lashed out at me and connected with the left side of my chin and sent me sprawling. I struggled to my feet and a second flash knocked me back to my knees.

I could feel something leaking down my face. The light loomed over me. I began scooting backwards, away from the light, and my hand brushed against something on the floor. I recognized the feel of it--it was my Light Saber. I snatched it up, shook out the plastic blade and squeezed the activator switch. The blade lit up, and I could feel the power vibrating through to the handle.

Holding the Light Saber in both hands, I swung violently at the light. Swish, swoosh, swish, swoosh! The blade screamed through the air. We battled fiercely for what seemed like forever, and I guess my onslaught was too much for the monster to handle because the growling ceased and, as suddenly as it had appeared, the blinding light was gone.

With peace restored to my room and my night light beaming again, I turned back toward my bed. I could still feel something leaking down my face, so I wiped it away with my hand. I looked at my hand, and my heart stopped in my chest. There was something wet and bright red on it. I touched my face again. There was more of it. I was bleeding! The only time I had seen people bleed was on TV--and then they died.

I was too scared to move. I screamed as loudly as I could, and my tears began to mix with the blood dripping down my face and onto my chest. The next thing I knew, my Mom was rushing through the door with my dad right on her heels. She screamed when she saw me, and this made me more scared.

"Get a towel, hurry, get a towel!" she said to my dad.

My dad grabbed a towel from the bathroom and crouched down in front of me, wiping blood away from my face. "What the hell happened, Brandon?" he asked.

My Mom crowded in. "Do you see where the blood's coming from?"

My dad shook his head. There was worry in his eyes. He was scared. In my five short years, I had never seen my dad scared. I knew I was a goner. I cried even more. "It's okay, Brandon," he said. "Stop crying, it doesn't hurt. Be a man, stop crying."

I couldn't believe he was telling me it didn't hurt. "It does hurt!" I yelled, and, to my horror, blood sprayed onto my dad's bare chest.

He pressed the towel firmly against my face. God, did it hurt. He pulled the towel away, squinted, dabbed the towel in my mouth, held my mouth open, looked inside...

"Oh, my God!"

"What?" my mom asked. "What's wrong?"

"There's a huge cut on his chin, a bruise on his cheek, and the inside of his mouth is chewed up. He looks beat up!"

I nodded, still crying. "I was! I was! A monster beat me up!"

"Sure, buddy," my dad said. "Let's get him to the emergency room."

My mom held the towel to my face while my dad pulled on a shirt and shoes. "What time is it?" she asked.

"I don't know," my dad called from their room. "The clock's blinking. Power must have gone out during the night." He returned and held the towel so my Mom could put on her robe. They wrapped me in a blanket and hurried to the car. My dad raced like a demon to the hospital.

"Slow down," my mom complained. "The roads are wet. I don't want you to wreck."

My dad didn't even acknowledge her. I caught glimpses of his face through flashes of lightning. His expression was intense. The thunder seemed to be echoing his thoughts. I had never seen him this serious.

When we arrived at the hospital the doctor made a nurse clean my face and then he looked at it. "What happened?" he asked my mom and dad. "We don't know," my dad said. "We heard him crying and found him bleeding in his room."

The doctor looked at me. "What happened, little fellow?"

"A monster beat me up!"

"What monster?"

"I don't know," I said. "He was big, big."

The doctor laughed at me. He laid me down on a hospital bed and started putting something called Derma-bond on my cut. It burned, and I kept trying to make him stop, but my mom and dad held my arms and legs. I was helpless. "Just hurry up! Okay, you guys?" I pleaded.

"We're almost done," the doctor said. When he had finished, he put a bandage on my cut and then let me go home. By that time, the lightning, thunder, and rain had stopped.

"What really happened, Brandon?" my dad asked on the drive home.

"Oh-h-h-h! But, daddy, I already told you!" Why didn't anyone believe me?

"Brandon," my mom said. "Remember the other day when I was telling you the difference between the truth and a lie?"

"Yes, but...this is the truth, mommy!"

Back home, my dad got on his hands and knees in my room. My mom and I watched from the doorway. "Look," my dad said, pointing to a big spot of blood on the carpet. "This is where he was standing when we found him." He followed the bloodspot trail to a pile of toys at the edge of my bed. My toy castle was sideways on the floor in the midst of the other toys.

"The blood stops, or rather starts by the castle," my dad said. "Look at the way the castle's made...the blanket's dragged from the bed... That's it!" My dad jumped to his feet. "The storm woke him up, it scared him. He got out of bed half-asleep, and started to walk to our room, but his feet got tangled in the blankets. He stumbled and fell into his toys. The castle's high off the floor, and his face--look how the bruises and cuts match up--fell right into here."

"No, daddy," I said. "I got beat up by a monster!"

My dad started laughing. "The monsters are only on TV, Brandon, and they can't get out."

"Go back to bed, honey," my mom said. "We're going to clean your room so this doesn't happen again."

I stomped to my bed. Why wouldn't they believe me? What if the monster returned? I grabbed my Light Saber and jumped into bed. I watched my mom and dad clean my room and, when they finished, they tucked me in and went back to their room. I pulled the covers over my head and clutched my Light Saber. I'll be ready next time...