It was the first real day of autumn, so the windows had been open all day. Rhubbarb, Peter, and Sheila all crawled into the bed they shared. Their mother had come in a few minutes earlier to add an extra comforter to the now chilled room. She had left the window open just a crack; the sour apple smell of her perfume mixed with the smell of dead leaves and hung in the air.
Sheila was the last to crawl into bed. She curled her toes around the blanket and snuggled up against Peter’s arm.
“Get off me,” he shouted pushing her off and taking a scoop of blanket under his elbow. “And go turn off the light.”
“I always do it,” Sheila said tugging the blanket back. “And it’s cold tonight.”
“Shut up,” Rhubbard shouted smacking them both with his pillow. A buzzing sound had started from the ceiling. They each perked up and stretched their necks to listen.
“What is that?” asked Peter. He was the middle child; the inadequate one, not old enough to be the smartest, not young enough to be the cutest. On each of their birthdays their mother baked a cake with a big frosted number for how many years old they were. This year she had forgotten that his favorite flavor was Dutch Chocolate, not German Chocolate and she had scraped away the bottom of an eight and made it a nine. Peter could tell though.
“It’s the light, dummy,” said Rhubbard. “Someone go turn it off.”
“Yeah, dummy,” Sheila added sticking her tongue out at Peter. Sheila and Rhubbard had the same crooked left eyebrow, and she always took his side, even when Peter knew they were both wrong.
The sound grew louder as the mysterious buzzer approached the light hanging from the ceiling. There was a clink against the light. The buzz stopped for a moment.
“How is it the light,” Peter scoffed, “if it just touched the light?”
“It’s probably a toothbrush!” Sheila shot up at the sound of her own brilliance. They both looked at her sympathetically. She was lucky she was so darn cute. Sheila had big pink cheeks and eyelashes so long they practically made a whooshing sound when she blinked. Rhubbarb had knocked out her front tooth playing broomstick hockey in the kitchen. She looked like a cartoon character in a storybook about an orphanage for dusty, feisty, but dumb girls.
A shadow had crept its way onto their bedroom door. The wood had gone black in the shape of a dome. It breathed, slowly seeping onto the wall and then shrinking back halfway down the door. It looked like the ocean, Rhubbarb thought. They had been to the Pacific once with their aunt Clara. She told them to wear their swimsuits even though the water was practically freezing. Their family was full of dumb girls.
The shadow spasmed. It flickered and and flew around the room, bouncing from ceiling to wall to floor. Sheila tucked the blanket even further under her feet. Whatever it was, it wasn’t going to snatch her and drag her into the portal to Hell that was under their bed. Peter watched it move, and stayed as still as he could. Rhubbarb tried to seem brave, but even he was shaking.
The buzzing grew. It stretched to each corner and wall of the room. Sheila pulled the blanket all the way up to her ears and tried to drown it out, but the buzzing only got louder. It was like standing directly under an airplane. The window rattled as the sound reverberated against the pane. The three glasses of water lined on their bedside table shook so hard that droplets jumped out the side of the glasses.
The shadow grew so big that it covered the entire light bulb. The room had practically gone black. Sheila squeezed her eyes shut. Rhubbarb screamed. But Peter, he knew what he had to do. Not the cute one, not the smart one, but he was something. He jumped out from the covers, and in one leap made it over Sheila and to the light switch. The buzzing had made the floor as jumpy as an Earthquake. He turned out the light.
Sheila blinked her eyes open. Rhubbarb took a deep breath. Peter shut the window, which he not noticed had been open just a crack. He scooched back into bed next to Sheila. They laid their heads against the pillow. The room was pitch dark, save for a small sliver of light coming through the bottom of the door. Rhubbard could see his sister’s big eyelashes shudder as she blinked her eyes open.
“It liked the light,” said Peter breaking the silence. “Sometimes to make the monsters go away, you got to turn out the lights.” Rhubbard rolled his eyes. Sheila slipped her cold toes back under the blanket. And Peter, the brave one, went to sleep.