BOOGEY MAN by Ray O'Bannon

I lie weak and helpless in the pale uncaring moonlight. Pulling myself towards a lit
window, I hear them speaking from within…

“Mommy, what’s a boogey man?”
“Well… it’s a type of monster, Suzy. A boogey man eats people, so that’s why you’re
inside tonight, all safe and comfy. But you mustn’t go outside because the boogey man
might get you.”
“Is the boogey man real, Mommy?”
“Oh yes, Suzy, He’s very real.”

…and I feel stronger.

I make my way to another house, where a dim light shines through tightly closed curtains.
I pause to listen by the side of the house…

“But Uncle Stewart, why can’t I go over to Joey’s place? It’s not that late at night, and
it’s only two blocks!”
“Because the boogey man might catch you, Johnny. I’ve told you before.”
“If he catches me I’ll karate chop him, and then I’ll kick him too.”
“The boogey man doesn’t work that way, Johnny. You could kick him all day and he’d never
feel it. And his arms are really strong. Once he grabs you there isn’t anything in the
world that can make him let go. So you better stay inside and go to sleep like I said.”

…and now I have arms.

I drift through silent streets, past darkened windows and carefully locked doors, until I
again notice a flickering light. I work my way closer to the house, until I can hear them
clearly from my hiding place in the bushes…

“He’s not real, and it doesn’t matter because I can run really really fast.”
“Not fast enough to escape the boogey man. He runs a lot faster than a normal person does.
His legs aren’t built like yours or mine, you see. He has more knees and shins than we do,
so he runs really fast. You’d never have a chance trying to get away from him.”
“OK, but can I have more cocoa before I gotta go to bed?”

…and now I have legs.

I cross a few shadowy lawns, and pass a small cemetery nestled within a grove of
ancient oak trees. Beyond it I see a small patch of illumination. Drawing closer to the
faint orange glow, I begin to hear their voices…

“I’ve told you for the last time! Shut up and go to sleep!”
“But I’m scared! The boogey man’s out there, and he’s…”
“I told you to SHUT UP! One more word and you know what’s gonna happen!”
“But daddy, I don’t want …”
“Alright, you little brat, you asked for it!”

…I hear the sounds of violence, the frightened whimper of the young child and the
terrible snarling of the adult. I hear things breaking, and the sound of a child’s body
falling to the floor. And now I have a face.

I search the moonlit walkways and hidden alleys. A stray cat looks my way, but makes no
sound. I come across a small pond, starlight rippling across the water like a million
glittering diamonds. And I notice a house near the edge of town, a single window still
glowing faintly in the night. I move closer…

“Will he hurt me, Mommy?”
“No, Marcy, he won’t hurt you. I promise.”
“But how do you know he won’t?”
“Because that’s not what he’s out there for. He doesn’t care about hurting good little
girls or boys. The boogey man only hurts mean people. If you’re a bad person, then he’ll
come looking for you in the night, and he’ll get you. But if you’re a good person, then
you’re safe.”
“Are you sure, Mommy?”
“Yes, Marcy. I’m sure.”

…and now I have a purpose.

I drift quietly through mist and shadow. I pass unseen as my name is whispered in the
darkness. There remain but a few precious hours before the dawn. And I have much to do.