And here’s a short, cute little thing about that famous childhood fantasy of monsters in your closet (or under your bed).
There lived a monster in Matilda’s closet.
When she had tried to tell her parents about it, her mother had cooed and smiled at her, telling her there was no such thing as monsters in closets. Her father had taken her to her closet and showed her the shelves stacked with sweaters and her skirts, pants and dresses hanging neatly inside.
“See, there’s no room for any monsters in here”, her father had told her, but with a wink he had assured her that if any monster would try to eat her, he would take care of it.
Matilda knew he only said that to be nice, he really did think she was just making the whole thing up. But the thing is…Matilda wasn’t just imagining it. Though her parents did not think so, she could separate reality from the imaginations and fantasies of her mind quite well.
The monster in her closet was quite real and she knew that because she had spoken to him more than once. Matilda’s monster was named Stephen, a strange and very un-monster like name, but she had tried not to tease him about it, since he didn’t seem very fond of it himself.
He had presented himself to her one dreary winter afternoon, when the snow was supposed to be falling outside, but all that seemed to come from the sky was a sad drizzle, pattering off her window. She had made such plans for her winter break, away from school, but they had all relied on the snow sticking to the ground and not raining away like this. But it was with her face pressed against the cool surface of the window that Stephen had first emerged, a voice that pierced through the gloom of her room.
Naturally, Matilda had been shocked at first and quite frightened. It had seemed perfectly sensible to be afraid when your closet begins to speak to you. Then the closet door had slowly come open and in the doorway stood a strange creature, with four long arms, a round face with three eyes, blinking shyly at her and a short stubby tail that was tucked between its legs. Its whole body was covered in soft yellow fur with small blue splotches here and there.
“Please don’t cry”, it had said, shuffling its large feet, much larger than seemed sensible. “I was just so very lonely.”
Matilda had intended to cry and scream very loudly for her parents, but the look on the creature’s face as it stood in the doorway to her closet was so sad that she didn’t have the heart to go through with it.
“What’s your name?” she’d said instead. “And why are you inside my closet?”
The creature perked up some, trying to contain the flailing of his long arms.
“I just moved here”, it said, small mouth curling up in what seemed to be a smile. “My mother thought it was high time I left to get a place of my own.”
Matilda was curious. She had no idea closet monsters had mothers too and she felt a vague swell of sympathy for this monster whose mother had made him move away here on his own.
“My name is Stephen”, the monster said, rocking slightly. “And I hoped we could be friends…I was so afraid of being lonely on my own.”
“My name is Matilda”, she’d responded. “And we can only be friends if you promise not to be scary at all.”
The monster tilted his head to the side, blinking his three eyes at her.
“Am I being scary now?” he’s asked, his tail wagging slightly.
He looked quite silly like that, like a lost puppy and his arms always seemed to have a mind of their own, crossing and uncrossing, fiddling with the handle to the closet or clutching one of her dresses, like it was a safety blanket.
“No, you don’t look very scary”, she said and smiled, completely truthful.
Stephen had looked relieved, a strange shudder making his fur ripple slightly and his face seemed to glow with a pleasant light.
“I’m so glad!” he said. “Mother always said we should always be scary, but I don’t agree with her. You can’t make friends if you’re scary all the time.”
Matilda nodded sagely. “My mother always says I have to eat my vegetables every day, or my teeth will fall out.”
She crept closer, her voice dropping to a confidential whisper. “I think she’s just making it up…Mother’s always make things up to make you do things.”
Stephen looked strangely relieved and his face was bright with an obvious smile twinkling in all his eyes.
“I’m so glad I picked this closet to stay in”, he finally said, managing to contain his arms for a bit.
“I’m glad you’re such a friendly monster”, Matilda said and nodded.
And Stephen had stayed in her closet ever since. He’d always ask her permission before he could come out to join her games and play with her toys, but only when she was alone and had no friends over.
“You have to be my secret”, she’d told him. “I think you might frighten my friends if you show yourself to them.”
Stephen had promised and remained true to that.
That was the real reason why her father could open up the closet and not see him, sitting there in the very back, snuggling into her winter coat, with the furry trim, which was always left in there when the weather was too warm (he’d told her he did it because it smelled like his mother). Her father and mother would never see Stephen, but he would always be there, waiting in her closet for her to invite him into her room.
To be honest, there was some evidence in her room of his presence. There were some drawings he had made, which she had hung proudly among the ones she had done herself, but she supposed her parents explained them away as drawn by her and just signed with the name of some make-believe friend.
Stephen wasn’t make-believe though, he was quite real and he was very much Matilda’s friend. Even if he was just a monster who lived in her closet.