|from The Far Side|
I considered posting something seasonal and celebrating the wonderful weather we’re having in Iowa. But I wrote a short story instead, so we’re switching it up a little today. I’m an epic fantasy writer, and when I saw this image, it got me thinking. How many times have we heard something go bump in the night, and even as adults, we pull our covers over our head and pray ourselves to sleep? As a Christian, I know it’s the prayer keeping me safe. But the comic sparked an idea in me. What if there was a world where a blanket was all that protected you from the things that creep in the shadows?
Fire Under my Bottom and Bold as a Bull
I know you’ve been told to fear the monsters hiding under your bed and in your closet. But that’s a lie. I’ll admit they’re terrible. But your nightmares should be made of the monsters that stalk behind your curtains.
One week after I had learned to crawl, Mother took me to get my blanket. I was five months and thirteen days old. Of course, I don’t really remember that day, but she’s told the story so many times that I can picture it more vividly than a memory.
We took the steam train into town, walked seven blocks east, two blocks north, and arrived at Mole’s Blanket Emporium. It was a tiny shop, squeezed between Catherine’s Clothing Cache and Bit’s N Spit’s, common brass cog replacements. I’ve always thought of the Blanket Emporium as Mole’s Hole. Truth be told, calling it a shop is misleading. There wasn’t a sign or window front, just a foggy glass door and peeling gold letters that read, “Hipothecary Apothecary.” Mole never changed it from the last tenant.
We went in. Mother says the bell on his door has always been broken. And calling it a bell isn’t a whole truth. I think it was an old soup can that lost a fight with some exploding powder.
But I can be certain of this. Mole’s shop never changed and neither did he. The space was deeper than it was wide and taller than it was deep. It was filled with crooked shelves that were covered in blankets. Mole himself was a squinty, bald man with great big hands. I promise you, he didn’t own a scrap of clothing that wasn’t rumbled and some shade of brown.
That day, like every other day, Mole sat on his stool behind the counter. “And who do we have here?” Mole didn’t stutter or have an accent. But he clicked at his words when he spoke. “Is it a boy or is it a girl?”
Mother held me up. “This is my daughter, Renee Amily Mary Sarah Elise Yvette. But of course, we all just call her Ramsey.”
That’s right. Mother gave me a name so long and so impossible to say that everyone I’ve ever known has shortened it to an acronym. Ramsey.
“Well,” Mole said. “She’s a real looker.”
He was right. I was born with pale grey eyes and a wild mess of jet black hair that sprouted and grew like feathers. My hair never got any lighter and my eyes never got any darker.
Mother sat me on the floor and Mole came around from the counter.
He tugged a blanket out from the nearest shelf. “This one is very nice. Wool. Hand quilted. The tag says the previous owner died in his sleep from old age. Good way to go.”
“Very peaceful,” Mother said.
He put the blanket at my feet. “How about that one, little Ramsey?”
I never even reached for it.
Mole took it back and grabbed another one. “No? Maybe this? Knitted. Owner... died of… cancerous ulcers. I’ll give it to you at eight percent off.”
“That’s very generous.”
Mole put that one on my lap.
Mother says I picked it up, threw it at his feet and applauded myself.
“Do you have anything cotton?” Mother asked. “My own blanket is cotton. Perhaps she takes after me.”
“Of course. Let me—Oh! There she goes!”
Mother says I took off like there was a flame under my bottom.
I crawled to the far right corner of Mole’s Hole and dove into a pile of blankets.
“They’re all discount,” Mole said. “Blankets with some extra wear in them, had more than one owner.”
I emerged with a black and grey damask print blanket. I sucked on my thumb and pressed the blanket to my face like it had always been there to comfort and protect me.
“That was quick.” Mole said. “Must be a good match, bonded pretty strong.” He took the blanket from me and I wailed like a naked newborn.
Mole’s face went white.
“Is there something wrong?”
“I—I don’t know how this got here. Tag says the blanket failed its last owner. Woman, 32 years old, killed by a monster hiding under her bed.
I continued to scream.
Mother clutched her heart. “Ramsey chose a broken blanket?”
“I’m so sorry. We could give her another one, but—”
“But it’s too late. She’s already bonded with that one.” Mother took the blanket from Mole and rubbed the fabric between her fingers. It was ratty and filled with holes. “This won’t protect her. She’ll never be truly safe in the night.”
“I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to do.”
Mother gave me the blanket and I stopped crying. “What’s done is done. We’ll buy this one, but I must caution you to take stock of your inventory and remove anything that shouldn’t be given to children.”
We left Mole’s Hole. I carried my blanket and Mother carried me. She insists she maintained her composure on the train ride home and I’ve never doubted her.
And so life passed by without incident until the night I was three years, six months and two days old. Mother heard a scream from my bedroom and rushed down the hall in her puce nightgown.
When she opened the door, a shadow monster lay writhing on the floor, hog tied by my blanket. It had been hiding behind my curtains. She says that I stood above it, bolder than a bull, laughing as it couched black spots onto the floor.
She scooped me up, carried me from my room and shut my door. In the morning, the sun came and light streamed through my bedroom window. She wouldn’t let me back inside until after noon. When I went back, the shadow monster had burned away, leaving ashes on the rug. My blanket lay on the floor, still twisted up.
My name is Ramsey. This is my story as the first monster hunter.