Thursday, February 8, 2007

The door into darkness

After saying goodnight and turning off the bedroom light, Mom forgot to close the closet door. Too old for Smurfs but too young for Miami Vice, the boy realized her mistake and stared at the gaping door into darkness.

By day, his closet contained mostly jeans, a pair or two of home-made slacks, and his prized parachute pants with the hole in the left knee. But something else also lurked among that trove of toys. Amidst the newer G. I. Joes, Transformers, and Starriors waited a much older toy, one from his earliest days as a child. The little boy had jumped for joy when his unthinking parents brought home the green monstrosity called Terron: the Beast from Beyond, thinking rightly that the little boy would love it (after all, it resembled a dinosaur!). But what would happen to the toy at bedtime?

He remembers that first night with the toy. When bedtime came, Mom grasped it by the wide spiky frill and set it facing the room against the back wall of the closet. The green, heavily armored beast with six beetle-like legs and a hooked beak stared back at him: silently, motionlessly. But he had watched it scuttle all over the ragged brown carpet of his home. Had Mom turned it off when he wasn’t watching? Or did it merely wait for its moment, the lights off, the closet door open just far enough, the boy helplessly asleep?

The boy lay there, his eyes wide in the dim light, able to see only the beast’s shadowy outline. Reflections from the yard mercury light filtered through the one window of his room, lending its ghastly purplish-white glow to the silhouettes of furniture. He dared not leave the protective covers of his bed quilt; the light switch remained too remote for such rash action; who knows if that hooked beak would hamstring him in the time it took for him to reach the switch?

He had only one chance. The foot of his bed came within an arm’s length of the closet door. If he could reach out one leg from beneath the covers and slide the closet door shut, he might seal that monster inside until the safety of the morning sun. Even if the monster caught him in the act, the worst it could do is to get his leg; the rest of him would be safe under the quilt. He was confident he could breathe the stale air under there till morning.

It was now or never. His heart began to pound. Over the sound of blood rushing in his ears, he swore he heard something brush past the comic books stacked on the floor of his closet. He slid down under the covers, feeling for the edge of the bed with his bare feet. His fingers and toes went cold and clammy as his feet left the comforter. A little squirming brought him into a clump of covers at the edge of his bed. His one exposed leg hit the cold wood of the closet door, groping wildly for its far right edge.

What was that? Something moved outside the fortress of his covers! He froze, one leg suspended in the cold darkness outside. Too frightened to pull his leg back to safety, he simply hung there motionlessly, waiting for the steel-sharp beak to cleave his soft flesh. It would all end soon!

But somewhere beyond the safety of the covers, a light bathed the room, a soft blue light penetrating the thickness of the quilt. He threw it back and saw his mother standing at the door, a quizzical look on her face. “What are you doing in here?”

The boy shot a glance at the closet. Terron, paralyzed by the light, crouched there motionless. Is that where Mom set it down, or had it moved? He turned back to her, “Could you shut the closet door?”

She smiled, crossed the room, and shut the door on whatever designs for the boy’s grisly demise Terron had entertained. “Go to sleep,” Mom demanded, turning off the light and shutting the door to the room. The little boy felt his heart resume its normal pace, thinking, is this how every night is going to be?

(For you toy buffs out there, Terron was the prize bad guy for the line of figures known as Super Joe, before G. I. Joe was a gleam in his mama's eye. I loved this toy dearly by day, scared to death of it by night.)


ted said...

Let's hear it for Starriors!

Jake Shore said...

I do not remember this toy at all, but anything will a reptile head and insect body is worth being deathly afraid of. I like the boy's triage mentality, willing to give up a leg to save the rest of him.