Kids are talking in the classroom, giddy that school is almost over. Plans are being made for sleepovers and carpools to the high school football game. Even the teacher keeps checking her watch.
While Calvin is also watching the clock, he's not excited and gets tense with every small move the hand makes.
"Can I spend the weekend with you?" Calvin asks his best friend.
"I wish!" Victor sighs, hands on his chin, "I've got to get all dressed up for my aunt's rehearsal dinner thing."
"Bummer." Calvin agrees, eyes going back to the clock, only a few more minutes and there's no escape.
"You can come over next weekend. My sister's going on some lame cheerleading trip. We can sneak into her room and read her diary." Victor grins.
One of his favorites things is tormenting his older sister, Jessica. Calvin wished he had an older sister, maybe then things would be better.
"Sure." Calvin agrees, fingers twisting under his desk, foot dancing off the ground. His mind trying to figure out any way possible to keep from getting on the bus and heading home. But all too soon the bell rings and everyone around Calvin is cheering. Laughter from Sussie and her friends over their plans. Even Mark, the class bully is smiling as he throws a paper ball across the room.
Calvin wishes he shared their excitement but all he felt was dread. He takes his time shoving his books into his Spiderman backpack. Miss Kelley clears her throat and Calvin looks up to see he's the last one left. Miss Kelley has her stuff ready to go, classroom key in hand, ready to lock up.
There's no more delaying it. Calvin swings his backpack over his shoulder and heads for the door, trying to keep his head up, to not let anyone see just how terrified he is. He's last on the bus, the doors shutting quickly behind him, the driver taking off before his butt has even found a seat.
Calvin swallows hard, pulling an earbud down, eyes on the large two-story house that keeps getting closer and closer. Home. He shoves his iPod into the front of his backpack and waits until the doors are fully open to even move. But all too soon, he finds himself in front of the brick house.
Rose bushes line the walkway along with small solar lights. The grass has recently been cut, the smell itching his nose. The white window shutters give the house an old-time homey feel but this place isn't home.
Shaky hands twist the doorknob and push quietly. He takes a deep breath and steps inside. Floorboards are missing or rotten. Cobwebs hang from every surface. A pair of red eyes watch him from under the stairs.
Fear slips into Clavin as he closes the door, praying it doesn't make a sound. Loud roaring monster noises fill his ears and his blue eyes dart to the room on the left, a black aura surrounds this room. The sounds get louder as he watches this door. He barely breathes as he waits to see if anyone heard the front door closing.
But after what seems like a lifetime, no one comes. He takes a quiet breath and starts for the stairs, making sure not to step on any of the rotten boards.
The red eyes watch his every step like they're ready for him to mess up and steal his soul. But he has to stay focused, making sure not to mess up. Black ooze drips from the walls but he makes sure to touch nothing.
Up the stairs, he shuts the door to his room and takes a deep breath. "Alright." He says to himself, grabbing his action figures and lining them in front of the door, their toy guns aimed and ready. Next, he grabs Marty, an old G. I. Joe that his uncle gave him years ago.
"You ready Marty?" He grabs his toy gun and hops over his twin-sized bed. Marty is also facing the door. Calvin lines his toy gun at the door, waiting to see if the monsters will come.
"Did you hold the fort while I was gone?" He asks Marty, voice barely a whisper. "Do you think the monsters heard?"
Calvin looks around his room, everything looks neat, like how he left it this morning. That was a good sign. A few times the monsters had destroyed his room in their rage. Those were the days when the monsters were the worst.
A creak came from outside his room sending him diving under his bed, toy gun to his chest, waiting for the monsters to break down his door and devour him. But nothing happened.
Calvin couldn't take it anymore. His tummy growled loudly but he was so scared to move from under his bed. But he had to eat something. Plus, he'd have to turn on the lamp, the light was fading from his room. The monsters hadn't come from him yet. Maybe they didn't know he was home. But they might if he made a lot of noise in the kitchen.
"What do you think Marty?" Calvin asks. "I'm starving! Think we can make it?"
He looks at the GI Joe and nods like maybe the toy is talking to him. "I gotta try."
He picks up the GI Joe and his toy gun and goes to his white bedroom door. Here in his room, the one safe place, everything looks normal and clean. No missing or rotten floorboards.
Once his little fingers open the door, the loud monsters start roaring, sending shivers down his spine. Part of him wants to close his door and hide but then his tummy rumbles again.
"I have to be brave. I can do this." He tells himself, hands squeezing the toys for dear life. He can't let the monsters win. Not this time.
Broken and molded stairs line the way, it's a lot like hopscotch, with the added pressure of being as silent as the dead. If the monsters heard they would come from their den and devour him. Calvin didn't want to die.
Calvin hardly breathes as he slowly takes each step, like a man to the noose, he's slow, terrified.
"You can do it!" A deep voice says in his head.
He stops, looking down at his GI Joe, he sees the mouth moving on his favorite toy. "Don't be a wimp! You're strong! We can get the food and get out before those monsters even know we've been there."
"Are you sure?" Calvin whispers, unsure. His stomach in knots, halfway down the stairs and the idea of food no longer sounds good. Now he feels like throwing up, anxiety gnawing at his core.
"Trust me, buddy, I won't let you get hurt." The GI Joe says.
Tears well up in Calvin's blue eyes. He hardly trusted anyone anymore. No one knew the truth about the monsters in his house. No one would believe him even if he wanted to tell them.
So he pretended nothing was going on inside these walls. Even Victor didn't know. He swallows hard and nods, "Alright."
Together, Calvin and his GI Joe make their way down the rest of the stairs, Calvin holding his breath so long that he starts to feel lightheaded. His small feet barely touch the floor. He wishes he could fly or even hover like the heroes he reads about in comics. Then the monsters would never get it.
The roaring coming from the room by the kitchen gets louder with every step, eyes watch him from the corners, their red beady eyes make it harder for him to focus on just making it to the kitchen.
His hand grips the brown intricate banister, he used to slid down as a small kid. His father would hold him steady as he went down. Mother would be at the bottom with her hands on her hips, scolding them but a smile on her lips that let Calvin know he wasn't actually in trouble.
Pieces of the banister were now missing, happy memories chased away by the darkness that had taken over the house. By the monsters that had claimed a once happy home for themselves.
The roaring was so loud that Calvin felt a little safer, there was no way the monsters would be able to hear him over it. He creeps into the state-of-the-art kitchen - or what was left of it - and opens the door to the grime-covered fridge, it used to shine so brightly when the sun would hit it through the windows that Calvin would have a hard time looking at it. But the windows were never opened anymore.
The fridge was almost empty, beer and whisky covered the large bottom shelf. Some brownies that Calvin was told never to touch and a few Lunchables. He takes one Lunchable and places it on the stained counter with the dust, dirty dishes, and worms that crawled all around.
The easy part was over, now he had to get a glass from the cabinet. He looks up, biting his lip, he'll have to climb up to reach a glass. This is where everything could fall apart. With shaking arms, he lifts himself, knee on the counter, a small creek that has him stopping dead, not even breathing.
Did they hear?
The monsters were still screeching so loudly that he knew he was safe. Sweat started to break out on his forehead as he finished pulling himself up. He took a deep shaky breath, hands trembling, that could have gone badly. He stands up and grabs a clean glass that is covered in dust.
He slides down back to his bottom and lowers himself to the floor without a sound. So far, so good. He grins to himself, he might just make it safely back to his room.
"See, Calvin, I told you we could it." The GI Joe says into his head.
Calvin grins at the toy sitting on top of his Lunchable, giving him a thumbs up. He fixes the toy gun under his arm and reaches for his dinner when the gun hits the floor.
He freezes, closing his eyes tightly. The sound reverberating through his body. There was no way the monsters didn't hear that. This was it, they would get him.
A male monster appeared from thin air in front of him and his heart fell into his stomach. The monster was white, like a ghost. Tall and very thin, spider legs came from his stomach which the monster used to move quickly, peering down at Calvin. The monster had four arms instead of two. Muscles and ligaments see clearly because the monster had no skin.
One eye dangled from his face and the other was trained on Calvin, not blinking.
"I-I'm s-sorry," Calvin whispered, knees knocking together.
The monster growled, reaching one of its hands back as if to hit Calvin. The young boy squeezed his eyes tightly waiting for the impact but it never came.
"It's okay kid." The GI Joe said.
Calvin pries open his watery blue eyes but nothing was in front of him. The monsters were still behind the black door, the red tentacles reaching out their arms just itching to pull Calvin into their hold.
The monsters are still boisterous behind the door. They must not have heard Calvin drop his toy gun. Tears sting the small boy's eyes before falling down his cheeks. He pushes them away, trying to get himself under control.
He still has a chance.
He gets his gun and Lunchable, cup, and GI Joe in hand and heads for the stairs. His small legs guiding him along the right path, missing every board that could make even a minute sound.
Once inside his room, a smile breaks out on his lips. He's so wound up that he doesn't know whether to laugh or burst into tears. He settles on just eating his food.
He sits on his bedspread and smiles at Marty, "We did it!"
After finishing his dinner, he fills the cup from the bathroom sink and puts it on his nightstand, it seems the monsters are content to forget he exists and that's fine by him.
He starts to relax, even pulls out his homework and pencil, laying across his bed as he reads his social studies book. He can still hear the monster faintly from below but it's easily pushed back out of his mind.
Calvin's reading one of his favorite comics, laying on his back, little legs kicking in the air as Superman saves the day once again.
"I wanna be like Superman." He tells Marty. "I wanna save people from monsters."
"One day you will Calvin." The GI Jo says from the nightstand, where Calvin placed him to protect his bedroom door.
That makes Calvin smile, to get rid of the monsters that hurt the ones he cared about, to make sure no monsters ever hurt anyone ever again. That was his dream.
He closes his comic and that's when he notices... the monsters have stopped screaming. Icy fear slams into his body. That can only mean two things. He rushes to the window but the SUV and sports car as still in the driveway.
The monsters are loose in the house!
He grabs his toy gun, licking his dry lips. He's so overwhelmed that he doesn't even know what to do.
That's when he hears it, the most terrifying sound in the whole world - footsteps on the stairs, coming closer.
He swallows the lump in his throat and makes a beeline for his closet, the only safe place he can think of. He doesn't have time to grab Marty and hopes the monster doesn't hurt his friend.
The footsteps grow louder, Calvin bites his lip so hard he tastes blood. He can't breathe, he's going to blackout but that would only make the monster angrier and he can't allow that.
"Please," He begs to anyone listening but he knows no one can hear him. No one can save him. No Superman is coming to his rescue.
The door opens, "Calvin, where are you?! We need to talk."
Calvin sees his father's dress slacks through a small gap. He knows if he doesn't go out there, his father will get upset. "I was playing." Calvin comes out of his closet and looks up at his father.
Dark brown hair, styled perfectly, dress shirt with a fancy tie. His father would be a very handsome man if not for the scowl on his face. "Why are you playing in your closet?" He looks at the army of toys lined up close to the door and shakes his head, kicking them, "When are you going to grow up? Is this why your grades are slipping?"
Calvin looks at his action figures all beaten by the monster. Did they ever really stand a chance? "I'm trying my best dad."
"Your teacher called and said you've been distracted lately." He points his finger at Calvin, "This is a family of winners. We don't lose. Do you understand?"
Calvin nods, scared to look away from the darkness in his father's blue eyes, his blue eyes.
"I do not want to have this conversation again, are we clear?" The father asks. "No more warnings."
"What's going on?" Calvin's mother steps into the room, a beautiful yellow sundress on her tiny frame.
"Nothing, I took care of it." The father moves for the door, kicking more of Calvin's toys out of the way. "I know how to handle my problems." He spits at the mother before leaving.
The mother puts her hands on her hips, waiting for father to leave, and turns towards Calvin, "Great. You got him started again!" She rushes out the door, "Peter wait! What the hell is going on!?"
Calvin looks out his bedroom door, instead of an old broken house with red eyes and missing boards, there's a stunning grand staircase and cameras in the corners of the house.
The monster sounds are gone replaced by the sounds of his parents fighting.
"You're going to drink another?!"
"It's either that or listen to your filthy whore mouth!"
"Whore?! You're the one sleeping with your assistant!"
Calvin closes the door and rubs his arms, looking down at Marty, "That went better than I thought."
He rubs his face and climbs into bed, watching the ceiling, "Hey, Marty?"
"Yes, Calvin?" The GI Joe says.
"Please keep an out for monsters," Calvin whispers and rolls over, hoping to get some sleep.