New houses are full of dark corners and dusty floorboards and creaks and groans. It's easy to let your imagination carry you away into a dreaded but often misunderstood world of long, spooky fingers and spectral whispers and things that go bump in the night. Is that how Dad phrased it?
Yeah, I know. I know monsters aren't real. But can you just look in my closet? Please? I'm afraid to open the door. That's how I responded, right?
Go to bed, John. Goodnight, I love you, son.
Love you too, Dad.
I'm going to be a man one day. I'm going to lift cars over my head and drop pianos out windows for the sole purpose of being comedically golden, because honestly, who drops an expensive instrument off the fifty billionth story of an office building and injures six people, for any other reason than a couple of short lived guffaws? Even though I'm only fifteen, I'm still supposed to be a man of Herculean proportions some day... why not start now?
Is that really all there is to it? Shaving and bench-pressing ten ton safes and carefully trimming your handlebar mustache? Sometimes, I really wish I was a girl. Jane had it easy. Daddy's little warrior princess. I bet she isn't afraid of her closet.
So now I'm under these old sheets that aren't even mine, because my sheets are still in a box somewhere, in the back of a moving van about fifty miles away. Just like my posters, and my computer, and my DVD's and video games and anything that wasn't my glasses, pajamas, two sets of clothes and a toothbrush. I'm under these sheets that smell like dust with just my head sticking out, and I'm just staring at this door, and every B-movie about ghosts and monsters hiding under a kid's bed is coming back to haunt me.
No, I'm not afraid of these things. I'm a wimp, not a toddler. But right now, the smell of these weird blankets and the sound of Dad's footsteps downstairs and our new, cold-as-Alaska, weekday matinee-empty colonial house in Yakima are all doing nothing to comfort me. I mean, I'm trying to sleep on a makeshift bed two sleeping bags thick spread on top an old box spring that someone probably died on, lying under some off-white sheet Dad just found in the creepy old attic. Put yourself in my Ghostbusters PJ's for a minute and tell me how you think you'd feel.
Now, back to my closet. Like I said before, I know monsters aren't real. I know Howie Mandell isn't really a spotted blue prankster with horns and a leather jacket. I know a dead relative isn't going to break out of his sarcophagus and come shambling after me like in Night of the Living Dead. Seriously, when you spend as much time as I do learning pointless movie trivia to make your friends think you're an even bigger dork, you kind of learn why these things will never happen in real life. I don't have to be smart to know what makes these things impossible.
But that door. It's open, not enough for even a dusty brown moth to squeeze through, but it's still open, and I can see it with my glasses still on and the intervals when the clouds break and the moonlight comes in. I want to shut it so bad that my legs tingle under the starchy sheet like they're begging me to do something about it. And with my heart pounding, I sit up and stare some more at the little black line between the jamb and the door and ask myself W.W.C.D. - what would Cage do?
He would probably break out the moves and go Chuck Norris on that closet's ass, but Nic Cage is just an actor, so it would not be without cameras surrounding him. Still, he's probably not afraid of a dumb closet. Too bad I'm really nothing like him or any of his characters, because I'm just sitting up on this antique, dead lady-box spring that's poking my butt despite two layers of flannel, just staring at a tiny little line. And it's so black and abysmal, and way scary, scarier than all the Japanese monster movies I've ever seen. So it's about time I decide that enough is enough. I grab my sleeping bag and do what any sensible man-in-training would...
I go sleep in the bathtub.
When I wake up the next day with Dad standing over me, telling me that the movers are here, it feels a little like Christmas, and I decide that maybe Yakima won't be so bad. Well, let me tell you, after you spend four nearly-sleepless hours freezing your butt off in a bathtub, it's pretty easy to say that anything won't be so bad. It doesn't take long for me to wriggle out of my sleeping bag and follow him down the creaky, dusty stairs, feeling wide awake in a cold, sleep-deprived kind of way.
And even though now I'm sitting at the new, ugly pine table and listening to Dad sing Perry Como while he makes pancakes, there are hairy moving men hauling my bed upstairs. If it's Christmas, then I guess they're the elves. Big, burly elves with chest hair and beer guts that make the thought of Santa Claus suddenly horrifying. I hope that's the last time I ever have to sleep in a bathtub, because it really screwed with my head.
"Dad, there's a monster in my closet," I say, maybe not quite so earnestly as he sits down next to me and gives me breakfast.
"What kind of monster?"
"Uh... maybe like, a zombie or something?"
"It's plausible. It would make perfect sense for the man who sold the house to lock a zombie in the closet and then hightail it out of here."
That's Dad for you. He never really takes anything I say seriously, whether it's about school or birthday cake or monsters in my closet. "Why don't you let him out? Halloween's coming up, and we have a real live zombie at our house? We'll be the envy of the neighborhood. It's priceless."
"Yeah, ok, Dad," I mumble, standing up from the table. "Can I go for a walk?"
"Sure, John. Just don't get lost."
Even in your new house, avoiding your closet and your bedroom altogether is not as easy as it seems, trust me. Before I left I had to go up there to get dressed. And then when I came back, Dad wants me to put all my stuff away. I try not to look at the closet, but it's too hard, and all my jackets and pairs of shoes are kind of just heaped on the floor because I refuse to go in there.
And I'm telling you, I swear it, I'm not imagining, something is moving that door. Just last night it was open not more than half an inch or a centimeter, and the first time I went back in my room, it was open a space enough for me to stick my hand in. Second time, a tad more. And then the third time, it's completely closed, so don't blame some draft. I sit as close to it as I dare, listen hard, try to hear sounds coming from the inside. I even lie down and press my ear to the cold floor to try to hear a vibration or a footstep, but all I hear is voices coming from downstairs. Dad's voice and Jane's voice.
It's about time she got here, so I get up from the floor and find the stairs, which I keep forgetting about because they're not in the same place as they were in my old house. By the time I get in the kitchen, Dad's telling Jane about the monster in my closet.
"Did you know we have a zombie, Janey?" he's telling her. "A real live zombie."
"That's nice, Dad," Jane replies, and she's eating caramels. I hug her so I can snake a couple of them. She doesn't even respond to me crowding her personal space – she just starts talking about the traffic and the weather and stuff.
In my personal experience, by the time you're old enough to have your drivers license, you get really boring. I'm already dreading my sixteenth birthday in the spring, and instead of having a party, I plan on spending the whole day in mourning. "Jane, my room's bigger than yours," I tell her as I sit on the ugly pine and unwrap one of the candies.
"Good," she finally answers with a smirk, "because your butt's bigger than mine."
"Is not," I answer halfheartedly because I'm looking out the window. It's supposed to be fall but the rain knocked most of the leaves out of the trees, and now it looks like winter instead.
Jane says she wants to take a shower and disappears for a while, and I am just sitting on the table and looking at Dad, waiting for him to tell me to get down. He's not telling me though, because he forgot how to be a strict father for a minute and instead of telling me, he's looking at his PDA. "I have to do some work, buddy," he tells me and then walks away to his laptop.
So I'm alone now in the kitchen and staring out the window. Even though there's a monster in my closet, I'll take my chances. Anything is better than being alone in my own house, after all.
Upstairs, in my room, I've managed to kill most of the day playing computer games. And the closet door creaks every so often– the first couple times I saw it move, I ran out. Then I got used to it. I stayed put in my chair and watched it to see what would happen. It moves a few inches or just a centimeter or closes or opens, then it just stops and stays still.
Now, you sit here and try to tell me that a closet does that on its own. You, reader of the objective point of view, tell me, does your closet ever open and close by itself, several times in an hour, when you're sitting right there playing computer games? If it does, let me refer you to a good paranormal investigator. When the sun started to set, I left my room. I knew Dad would ignore me if I told him about the closet and Jane would think I was pranking her, so what else could I do during dinner besides sit there quietly and eat my food?
All that was on my mind of course was that dumb closet, with a dumb zombie or a dumb ghost waiting for me to open the door so I'll get eaten alive or slimed, respectively. And Dad and Jane will just say I'm playing a practical joke on them, I've got a bucket propped up on the door frame ready to drench them in chocolate milk. If that doesn't get them, Dad and Jane will say I have an overactive imagination, I've been watching too many old movies.
Later that night, after we all sit down and watch some Inspector Gadgety detective movie apropos Jane's request, they'll say goodnight John, go to bed. I'll explain to them about the closet door being open and shut and open again, and they'll say love you, John, goodnight. Wild imagination, too many movies. Maybe I'll try to tell myself the same thing as I'm finally at the top of the stairs and nearing the door to my bedroom.
Yeah, I wish.
Because right at that moment, when I open the door and turn on my lights, there's a six foot long, white-haired, sunglasses-wearing man in a red suit lying on my sheets, my real sheets, and eating the caramel I left on my bed.
And without even looking at me, he says, "Sup. I'm the Bogeyman."