The Monster Under the Bed
Kenzan was not afraid of monsters and never had been. He liked them. He would have been thrilled to find a large scaly thing living in his closet, and would have set about trying to make friends with it. After all, he was a monster, too, wasn't he? A big roaring stomping thing like the Godzilla creatures in the movies. Monsters really couldn't be that bad if they were anything like he was. But despite patient searching, he had never seen any monsters in his closet or under his bed except for the model dinosaurs that found their way there. It had been a little disappointing, really.
There were no monsters under his bed now. He knew that because he was just now sleeping on the top bunk of the triple-decker in Juudai's room. Directly beneath him was a rather annoyed Manjyome, who, while happy enough to relinquish his room to Asuka, was not at all happy about having roommates now. He had settled in with much grumbling, tossing and turning, and complaining about the quality of the mattress. On the lowest bunk was Juudai, apparently already sound asleep. Kenzan stared at the ceiling and wondered why Juudai lived in a place like this. He was so talented, so charismatic, so brilliant... surely someone would have seen his potential by now? It was a mystery. Kenzan would ask him later. Right now, though, it was late and he needed to get some sleep. He shifted position a little, arranging himself around the lumps in the mattress so that it was almost comfortable. At least it was nice and quiet here. He could fall asleep in an instant once he got settled down...
"Shut up, shut up, shut up!" Manjyome groaned. "Just be quiet and let me sleep!"
"Huh?" said Juudai drowsily.
"That thing!" said Manjyome peevishly. Kenzan leaned over the edge of the bed to see his new roommate waving at what seemed to be an innocent patch of empty air. "It won't stop jabbering at me!"
"I don't see it," said Juudai.
"It moved. It's over on the desk now. See it?"
Kenzan waited for his hero to tell Manjyome that he was just dreaming and to go back to sleep.
"Oh, now I see it!" said Juudai. "Hey, there, little guy! I haven't seen you in a while! How have you been?"
"Quit talking to it. You'll just encourage it," Manjyome snapped.
"What's going on?" asked Kenzan.
"Oh!" said Juudai, looking momentarily embarrassed. "It's nothing. Manjyome here's got a monster under his bed."
"I do not," said Manjyome. "It's hardly important enough to be called a monster. More like an annoyance. And it's not under the bed, it's on the desk."
"I don't see why it can't stay there if it wants to," said Juudai. "I think it's kind of cute!"
"I don't see it," said Kenzan.
"Then you're lucky," Manjyome replied. He looked sourly at Kenzan, and then jerked around to glare at the desk as if it had spoken to him. "Not everybody wants to look at you! Especially not while you're dancing like that."
"So now it's a monster that... dances?" asked Kenzan. He fought back an image of a tiny Godzilla wearing a boater hat and holding a bamboo cane, doing a softshoe number.
"Yes. It's disturbing," said Manjyome.
"I'll bet," Kenzan agreed. He didn't think he wanted to see that, either.
"If it bugs you, just close your eyes and go to sleep," said Juudai.
"I can't! It keeps talking at me and it won't shut up! Just look at it!" Manjyome jabbed an accusing finger at the invisible monster. "It's enjoying the attention! ... No, I did not!" He rolled his eyes, and, presumably for Kenzan's benefit, added, "He says I woke everyone up to look at him."
Juudai laughed. "Well, you did, kind of!"
"But I can't see him!" Kenzan protested.
"Trust me, you don't want to," said Manjyome. "He's about the most ridiculous looking... oh, hell, now they're all here."
"Hi, guys!" said Juudai cheerfully. He waved at something in the general direction of the closet, but try as Kenzan might, he couldn't actually see anything there. "Glad you could make it!"
"No, no, no!" Manjyome shouted. "I am not glad! I want them all out of here so I can sleep!"
Kenzan stared at the wild-eyed boy who was now angrily shaking his fist and going slightly red in the face. As far as Kenzan could tell, there was nothing to get worked up about.
"There is nothing there," said Kenzan flatly. "No monsters, no ghosts, nothing. What is everybody looking at and why can't I see it?"
"It's a thing," said Juudai vaguely. "Don't let it bother you."
"I don't get it," Kenzan complained.
Juudai looked up and grinned at him. "It's no big deal. Just sit back and watch the show!"
"But I can't watch, because I can't-"
"That does it!" Manjyome was on his feet, glaring fiercely into the gloom. "I am not putting up with this any longer! All of you are getting out of here right now!"
"But this was our room first!" Juudai protested.
Manjyome rolled his eyes. "I wasn't talking about you, dimwit. I was talking about them."
He made a rather uncoordinated dive in the general direction of the sink, smacked at something, and then snarled as his eyes followed the trajectory of something only he could see.
"Missed!" he complained.
"Here, let me help!"
Juudai bounded out of bed and reached out to try to grab something above his head, but his hand apparently closed on thin air. "Argh! They're slippery little things! Don't worry, I'll get 'em!"
"They're mine! I'll get them before you do!"
Kenzan watched in utter bafflement as Juudai and Manjyome raced around the room, occasionally swatting or grabbing at invisible objects and more than once crashing into each other as they both went after the same thing at the same time. Juudai was laughing as if this were all a big game; Manjyome was sweating from the unwonted exertion and muttering foul things under his breath. As he scrambled by, Kenzan shot out a hand and latched onto Manjyome's collar, halting him in mid-dash and hauling him up on the tips of his toes. Manjyome made uncomfortable noises as he dangled from the other boy's hand.
"Listen, you crazy 'saurus," said Kenzan. "Is there really a monster in the room? No jokes?"
"There is definitely a monster in the room," said Manjyome. "There is always a monster in my room. There is always more than one monster in my room. I just want it to settle down and quit bugging me."
"Where are the monsters now?" Kenzan asked.
Manjyome, who was going slightly blue in the face from being choked, simply pointed in the direction of the window.
"They're all over there?"
Kenzan released his prisoner. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed, and then leaped down without bothering with using the convenient ladder, and the whole dorm shook as he struck the floor. He landed crouched on all fours like an animal. He rose slowly, so that it was hard not to notice the muscles rippling in his arms and back and shoulders. The affable boy, the gentle giant, had suddenly been replaced with a savage beast that radiated the cold menace of something that should have sunk into the glaciers and tar pits of ancient history, and yet somehow had impossibly escaped into the day of modern man. He raised his hands like claws and bared his teeth, and for a moment his eyes seemed to gleam yellow as his pupils contracted even in the dim room. A feral, inhuman growl rose up from deep in his chest, a rumble that seemed to begin somewhere in the floor before rising to a deafening roar. Juudai and Manjyome clapped their hands over their ears. Kenzan let the noise die down and stood there in the middle of the room, panting slightly.
"Are they still there?" he asked.
"No," said Manjyome. He sounded a little shaken. "I think that did it."
"Er, yeah," said Juudai. "Thanks."
Kenzan grinned cheerfully. "No problem."
He climbed back into bed, closed his eyes, and was snoring almost instantly. Manjyome and Juudai crept back to their own bunks a bit more warily. For a little while, there was silence.
"Juudai?" said Manjyome at last.
"What? There's not another monster under your bed, is there?" Juudai replied.
"No," said Manjyome, "but I'm starting to wonder if there isn't a monster over my bed."
Juudai thought about that a moment.
"Better just let him sleep," he declared.
"Right," said Manjyome.