Chapter 6: Nightmares and Plans

I'm eight years old and I'm a bridesmaid, sitting at a table with Mike and Celia, the happy couple. Normally, I'd feel like a princess in such a beautiful purple dress. Right now, though, it's hard to be anything but self-conscious when I've got a green mask over my face to hide my human features.

Celia stands up. "To the bridesmaids!" she toasts.

Everyone chinks glasses, even me. But when I take a sip of my "child-friendly champagne," some of the bubbly liquid dribbles down my chin. Another bridesmaid, whom I recognise as Celia's cousin, dabs at me with a napkin.

"It's not coming off," she says. "It's stained your skin, like. . ."

Her napkin freezes in mid-air. She yanks the fabric mask off my head.

Everyone gasps.

Celia was wrong. The disguise wasn't enough.

I'm human again.

I'm vulnerable again.

The best man scoops me up in his furry arms and takes off down the hallway. I cling to him and peek over his shoulder, seeing Mike and Celia following close behind.

Above the monster's screams, Mike's saying, "I can't believe you thought it was a good idea to invite Boo to the wedding!"

We reach a darkened room, where Kitty puts me down and opens a white door. "You're safe now," he tells me as I'm pushed through.

Mom is standing in my room, arms folded, tapping a foot impatiently.

"Where have you been?" she asks.

"Nowhere," I mumble.

"Come on, you can tell me. I'm your mother. I need to know."

"I can't tell you. It's a secret."

Mom sighs. "You're crying, Boo. Let me help you." She reaches down and takes my arm.

I yank it away. "I'm not Boo, I'm Mary. And what happened is none of your business."

Mom looks at me for what feel like forever. She's completely confused by my sudden secrecy. I guess that's why she slaps me. She doesn't know what else to do.

I'm knocked off my feet. I'm falling into a hole, a hole full of terrified monsters, a hole full of mocking students, a hole lined with pictures of Kitty and Uncle Mike that I can't show anyone now.

But then all I can see is my mother's face.

She's roaring.

It's the kind of roar that comes from a monster, not a mother. . .

Someone's screaming, and I sit up straight, drenched in sweat. The light flickers above the bed, and it takes me a few seconds to realise that the person screaming is me. I shut my mouth, and the room fades into darkness again.

The doorknob turns slowly and Mike walks in. "What now?" he hisses. "Can't a guy just get some sleep without worrying about the CDA?"

I don't want to see Mike's angry face, so I check the time. 1:32.

"I had a bad dream," I whisper.

When I glance up, Mike is by the bed, with the saddest expression I've seen on him. "What was it about?"

I wipe some sweat off my forehead. All I can say is "The wedding day."

The wedding day, when I realised that I could never fit in with monsters. When I stopped telling people about my artwork. When I started doing anything to avoid being called a freak.

When my mom started hitting me.

I hug Mike. Well, I don't hug him, exactly – I'm really using him as a headrest. Mike just stands there looking up at me while I shift and place my right arm around him.

I notice the cigarette burn. I'd pointed out a SMOKING KILLS billboard to my stepdad, Damon. Mom asked him for a lighter, ignited a death stick and stabbed me with it when he wasn't looking. That was only last week.

The memory of that day makes the unshed tears leak out.

"I gotta call a plumber," says Mike. "The ceiling's leaking."

It doesn't cheer me up, but I smile anyway.

When the other girls get up, it takes a while to convince them that monster food is safe for human consumption and monster toothpaste isn't radioactive or anything. Eventually, we're all sitting around the breakfast bar, with pieces of paper scattered around.

"How big is the door vault?" asks Sophie.

Psyche taps a pencil on her sheet. "There are around seven billion people in the world-"

"They can't all be children, though," Caprice butts in. Psyche raises a hand patiently.

"According to a website, the total number of children in the world is approximately two billion," she says. "I can't be sure, though. That fact came from Wikipedia."

"That's a lot of doors," murmurs Caprice.

"Understatement of the century!" says Linden.

"But that really depends on what you mean by children," says Mike. "That could mean anyone under eighteen, but we don't use certain doors if the kid's over thirteen. Heck, even twelve's pushing it. That's when they stop laughing and start moping over how no-one understands them."

"That's still a lot of doors," says Caprice.

"If you don't use our doors because we're teenagers, then why do you still have Mary's door?" asks Linden. "She's fifteen."

Mike looks at me. "Boo's special," he says.

I blush and look down at the ideas on my piece of paper. Two words stand out – card key.

"Do you still have my card key?" I ask Mike.

He frowns. "We might. Sulley said he had it hidden somewhere, but he never told me the exact location."

"Who's Sulley?" asks Psyche.

"James P. Sullivan," I explain. "He's the CEO of Monsters, Inc." I promise myself I'll tell them about Kitty later, when there's more time.

"If we went to the card key store," Mike says, "we could have a look around for any secret hidey-holes where Sulley might have hidden it."

"But we saw the door go back to the vault," says Linden. "Wouldn't that be the best place to go?"

An idea pops into my head. "Linden, Psyche, do you still have your cell phones?"

Linden proudly holds up her Smartphone, while Psyche is a little slower to reveal her "Dumbphone," as she calls it.

"Well, we could split up, then," I say. "Linden and I will go to the vault and search for the door that way. Psyche and Caprice will go to the card key store and look for the card key. We'll use the cell phones to communicate and update everyone with information. When Psyche and Caprice find the card key, they can use that to get the door to the Simulation room, and that's how Linden and I will get back."

"What about us?" ask Sophie and Mike at the same time.

"I'm not sure," I say. "Mike knows his way around, so he should find the card key store for us. On the other hand, if he was in the door vault, we could search more of it. . ."

"I know what we could do!" says Mike. "The card key store isn't hard to find, so if I get Yeti and Plant Monster there first, then I can search the vault with Sea Creature while you go off with Cat-Girl."

"We have names, you know!" says Linden, but Mike ignores her.

"And there'll still be communication," he says, "because monsters can have cell phones too."

"But when will we start searching?" asks Sophie. "If we're scrabbling around the card keys and the doors, it might look suspicious."

"There's a lunch break from 12:00 to 12:30," says Mike. "That gives us thirty minutes to look around. The Laugh Floor will be empty, so no-one's going to be using card keys or doors. That'll make the search easier."

"Great!" I say, standing up. "We'll go now so we can make the most of our time. Is everyone happy with that?"

Mike and the girls nod, but Psyche doesn't look at all happy.

"Psyche?"

"It's not the plan," she says. "That's fine. But I keep trying to work it out . . . who was this Randall that came to the slumber party?"

"He was my scarer, and a bad guy," I say. "When kids got harder to scare, he teamed up with the old boss, Mr. Waternoose, and tried to stop the energy crisis."

"He tried to stop the energy crisis?" Psyche repeats. "That makes him sound like a decent bloke."

"He did that by kidnapping children," I say, "Including me."

"I retract my statement," says Psyche.

Mike picks up his car keys and heads for the door. "See you later, Shmoopsie-poo," he calls. "I'm going to work."

Celia appears in the doorway, carrying a child who looks like an even smaller version of Mike. I'm guessing that he's Roary.

"You don't work on Sundays," says Celia.

"I am today," says Mike. "I'm helping these girls find their way home."

He opens the door and we file out. Celia follows us and says, "Michael?"

"Yes?"

"Keep the girls safe."

She closes the door, leaving the six of us to set off on our mission.