Sobs rose from the bottom bunk.
Tyler covered his ears and closed his eyes, but Mom’s words sneaked into his mind. Benny’s five, you’re eight. Look out for your brother, Tyler.
He sighed and leaned over the edge of his bed, squinting through the dark at his little brother. “What’s wrong, Benny?”
Tyler climbed down from his bunk to crawl in beside Benny. “Why are you crying?”
“There’s a—a monster in the corner.” Benny curled into a ball and hid his face in Tyler’s chest.
Pale moonlight shone across the bed but left the corners of the room in darkness. Spooky shadows lined the walls.
“See, Tyler? There’s its head with pointy ears. And its bumpy back. And a giant club!”
“Aw, it’s nothing to be scared of.”
“How—how do you know?”
“I was scared of monsters, too, way back when I was little. Then Mom explained about shadows,” Tyler said.
Benny opened one eye. “What did Momma say?”
“Whenever I saw something scary, Mom would lay in bed with me and we’d stare at that monster and talk about it. Pretty soon it turned into a funny shadow.”
“Really?” Benny’s eyes opened wide.
“Yep.” Tyler snapped his fingers. “Just like that. The White Lady—she was really creepy—turned out to be Mom’s bathrobe hanging on the door. Mom shook the robe and it looked like the White Lady was dancing. Boy, we laughed.”
“That is funny,” Benny said.
“Yep, and Bigfoot was awful scary at first. He showed up every night and stood taller than the closet, big enough to eat Dad. You know what we figured out?”
Tyler laughed. “Bigfoot was my teddy bear. When the neighbor came home, his lights shone in my room and threw this huge bear shadow across the wall.”
“Really? Wow. But what about my monster?” Benny asked.
“Simple. Super simple. Probably some toy you left out. Maybe some clothes. Shadows can be anything. Why, one time a horned robot head turned out to be my sand bucket. The horns were my shovels.”
“A baby ghost—all white and floppy—was really my underpants, caught on the heater cord!”
Benny laughed so hard he almost fell out of bed. Then he yawned and rolled over.
Tyler lay still, peering into the dark corner. That monster did look awfully real. And the neighbor was long home, so it couldn’t be Bigfoot this time.
Benny pushed his cold feet into Tyler’s leg. “You can go back. I’m not scared anymore.”
Tyler stared at the monster’s club. Was it the shadow of the bedpost, maybe? No, too short. Or Benny’s bat? No, too lumpy.
“Nah,” he said. “Guess I’ll stay with you tonight.”
Benny began making silly sleep noises.
At least he believed it was only a shadow.
Tyler closed his eyes, then opened them. The monster hadn’t moved.
But it might.
He scooted close to Benny and pulled the covers over his head, just in case.
Vila Gingerich grew up reading and dreaming about life beyond her Mennonite community in Midwest, USA. For the last six years she’s lived in Eastern Europe, where she writes, reads, and—yes—wonders what’s happening back in the USA. Find out more at her website.
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