• Britney Dehnert

Hubby vs. Wifey vs. Friend vs. Another Friend: Prompt #13 A Monster and a Teddy

We were joined this week by our friend Andrea and another writer friend, Jake! It's been extra fun to have friends join us for our writing sessions. This evening we had a time limit (so Hubby and I could get to bed and be responsible parents tomorrow).


The picture inspiration this week came from Hubby's mom! She's an artist and reads our little writing prompts. When Hubby showed her some of the pictures from our Pinterest, it got her creative juices working, and she sketched a few little ideas that came into her noggin right then! We chose this one for Prompt 13, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun. Enjoy and vote for your favorite!



Photo credit: Robin Wood

Andrea's Version:

Darcy

I arrived suddenly that year outside the little house. It was a little place, barely more than a shack with only enough bedrooms for the remaining.

Summer had not been kind. The tin roof was rusted, the flowerbed withered and dusty, and one of the red shutters had been ripped from its place. The house was deprived of a kind, healing hand, leaving it crumbling ever so slowly.

Much was the same inside. Even when I first walked through the door, the walls were packed with whimpers, shouts, and tension. Many of these doors had been slammed and many faces had been streaked with tears.

This wasn’t uncommon. In fact, it was very normal to see a house like this one when a living is taken. I suppose I have grown accustom to the sights and sounds of a family falling apart. Although it had been a while since I had been in the field, I was in no way shocked or surprised.

The instant I phased through the door, a reddened burly man stormed through me like a freight train. I didn’t even flinch, just watched as he went from the kitchen to the TV room. He chose the recliner and threw himself into it, landing like a ton of bricks. The remote to the TV was in reach, but he simply put a hand over his eyes and sat very still.

I studied for a brief moment before deciding that he was not the subject. There was another presence in the house, I could feel it. So I walked down a tight hallway and glanced at pictures on the walls. Three living were pictured in most of them. The man, joined by an adult woman, and a little girl. The woman I recognized as being the subject of our last visit to this house.

It was her taking that brought about the decay in the home. That, and the withered flowerbed.

The presence of a second living grew stronger at one door on the right so I gracefully phased through. It was the little girl’s room. I could tell because experience told me that girls needed a bright pink color on their walls. Many of the living thought they wouldn’t grow right if there wasn’t any pink. I, however, was on the fence, since I had seen plenty of girls’ rooms without pink and they appeared fine to me.

Same went for boys who had lots of greens, blues, and blacks. They would probably survive without those colors…I think….

The lights were turned off in this girl’s room, turning all of the colors a shadowy grey in the milky moonlight that worked its way through the window. Toys laid scattered on the floor and created strange shapes on the floor.

For a moment, I was at a lost as to where the living was exactly. Usually they were pretty easy to find. But I gathered myself once I noticed a lump in the bed comforter twitch and shuffle.

I took a few steps closer and studied the lump, letting my tall frame lean over the mattress. A faint sniffling and occasional whimper could be heard. Something had clearly upset her. I reached to remove the comforter, materializing myself in order to touch the physical object.

Suddenly, the bed comforter was thrown off. Afraid of my material body being seen, I quickly shrank to the floor and slipped under the bedframe.

Thankfully, no tears or screams came from above. That’s usually what happened when our kind was seen. It was more annoying than harmful.

“Albert?” came a weak, shaking voice. There was a sniffle and a cough then another call. “Albert? Where are you?”

I laughed at myself for being frightened by such a thing. With the number of centuries under my belt, I certainly acted like a new recruit. Even still, when a small pair of feet hit the floor, I shrank back, farther underneath the bed and up against the wall. Sure, I was immaterial, but there was always the chance…

“Albert?”

The girl was starting to cry as she looked over the messy floor. I could hear it in her voice. But there were many things I didn’t hear as well: no sickness. No injury. She walked as if she were healthy and she didn’t limp or hobble like someone near death.

She couldn’t be my subject either.

I huffed at this ridiculous assignment that led me to hide under a bed surrounded by perfectly healthy people. Pointless.

“Alb-!”

“I swear to god! If you speak another word I’ll give you another! You hear me?!”

Even I cringed at the voice booming down the hallway. The girl, however, remained very calm. I could see her chin fall to her chest before she made her way back to the bed and crawled in.

She sniffled and hiccupped but didn’t ask for her friend again.

I should have left. That’s what I would have told the hundreds of other recruits I had trained over my time. “Let them be. It’s not our place to mettle.” In fact, messing with the living could be detrimental to time and space.

Maybe it was because I had spent so much time crunching numbers behind a desk. Maybe it was because I hadn’t sat next to a living for so long (particularly a living who had recently been tortured by our last visit). Each movement and sound she made hurt something inside me – something I never thought could be hurt.

I wasn’t even thinking as I grabbed the stuffed bear from under the bed beside me. It was always best to do problematic things without thinking. It made it easier to do them. Even as I lifted the toy out from under the bed and up to where the living was, I forced every reasonable thought from my mind.

Of course, a million things could happen. She could scream. She could bite me. She could faint. She could…

She grabbed the toy with a little sigh. “Thank you.”

I froze, my hand still exposed out from under the bed. Out of all the training I had received and given, nothing had prepared me for this. I suppose I could have missed the “When revealing the forces of death to little girls” seminar.

“What’s your name?”

The question didn’t help. I was still frozen. Still stuck in place.

However, what did I have to lose? She had seen me. And what was I to do? Strip a simple conversation from a hurting child? I had more class than that.

“Thanatos,” I responded honestly, hoping the grating growl of my voice wasn’t too frightening when I whispered.

“Than…Thanatos?” She tested quietly. “My name is Darcy.”

“It’s nice to meet you Darcy.”

There was some movement and shuffling on the bed.

“What are you? What’s wrong with your hand?”

I considered the question and only then remembered how strange my blackened, clawed hand must seem to a smooth and innocent living. I flexed the knobby fingers before pulling the hand back under the bed.

“I am a reaper.”

“A reaper?”

“Yes.”

“What is that?” she asked.

I was ready to disappear entirely and evaporate into the immaterial cosmos I had come from. But once again, what did that accomplish?

“Everyone has a time to live and a time to leave,” I said, repeating what I told new and troubled recruits. “Reapers help with the leaving.”

“Oh.” The girl considered this quietly. “Are you helping me leave?”

“Um…no,” I answered. Although, I was still fuzzy on what I was doing here exactly. “I don’t think so. You’re not sick or injured. I don’t think I’m here for you.”

“Oh, okay. Because I want to leave here, I really do. Maybe you could take me to grandma’s.”

My brow furrowed immediately. “I don’ think you understand.”

I weighed my options before slowly sneaking out from under the bed and rising to stand in front of her. Very few living had ever seen me. And those who had made it clear I was grotesque and frightening. But I didn’t see fear in this girl’s eyes. I saw awe and wonder, but not fright.

It was I who was captured by the sight of her. She was adorable, I had to admit. Thin brown hair framed her round face. And a red and blue welt colored one side of her cheek.

“That’s…that’s not the type of leaving I speak of,” I said in an awkward stutter. “I mean, I can’t take you to grandma’s.”

“Why not?” her voice was bright and clear, her eyebrows raised in confusion.

My shoulders fell at the frustration. “Everyone is born one day and gone another.”

“Oh, like mom.”

I blinked down at her, frankly dumbfounded.

“She got sick and she had to leave. Is that the type of leaving you’re talking about?”

I nodded somberly. “Um…yes. Yes, it is.”

Darcy nodded, understanding washing over her composure. She gripped the teddy bear a little tighter, her fingers digging into the fur.

“Daddy said she had to leave, but…we didn’t want her to. Daddy cried a lot. He still cries a lot.”

“And,” I started slowly, unsure on how to phrase it, “and he gets upset with you?”

It was hard to believe anyone could ever be angry at this little girl, let alone strike her.

“He did it by accident,” she said. “He’s been different since mom left. I like being at grandma’s house.”

She hugged the teddy bear tighter than ever, a few fresh tears welling up in her eyes.

I swallowed hard and looked around the little room. I didn’t know why I was hear exactly. Maybe I was here to take one of them when the time came. But for now, I was simply here, waiting.

And that’s what Darcy was doing. Waiting.

She scooted over as I moved to sit on the side of the mattress beside her. Her warm body touching my coldness but never flinching.

“Please stay?” she asked, her voice small.

“For a little while,” I said and settled next to her. “Just a little.”


Jake's Narrative:

“Get to bed, Sybella! Now!” shouted Papa as young Sybella raced into her room,

slamming the door shut behind her, the sound of Aiden, her younger brother

crying as Papa tried so very hard, but ultimately failed to calm him down for the night.

Sybella’s looked over her bedroom with tears threatening to fall from her eyes cause of Papa’s frustrated yelling. She looked at the nearly broken-down bed, her patchwork teddy bear hunched over slightly against the pillows, one of its button eyes missing and a slight tear at the side of its waist had a bit of stuffing sticking out. She ran her hands across the sleeves of her pajamas, ripped at the end and too tight from when Mama had originally made them before she passed as she shuffled over to the bedside. It creaked as her weight landed on it and she scooted up to the pillows, moving teddy into her arms and she hugged her legs and teddy close to her.

She thought of all the nice, new things the other kids at school had gotten and

showed off and when she asked Papa why they got such cool stuff and she didn’t, he had just gotten angry until Aiden’s cries interrupted.

But, Sybella thought of one thing she’d never heard of anyone else having, a very special Friend, living just under their bed. The bed creaked as she bounced slightly in greeting to her Friend.

“Tilly?” Sybella whispered. She scooched to the edge of bed, teddy still in her

hand. She sat onto her knees and leaned down to look under her bed. Her eyes

only met the dusty wooden floor beneath. She frowned, letting out a disappointed breath. She straightened herself as she felt something tug teddy

suddenly out of her hand.

Her head darted over to the other side of the bed where a hand disembodied

hand held teddy in the grasp of its lanky claws.

“Tilly!” Sybella quietly laughed. The hand tossed the bear over to Sybella, nearly hitting her in the face before her she caught it. When Sybella lowered the bear, Tilly’s hand was gone. Sybella giggled and moved to the side where it must have disappeared.

She felt something trying to pull teddy again and she quickly turned to see Tilly’s hand trying to quickly crawl away. Sybella quickly grabbed at the hand, falling to put her weight on it, giggling quietly all the while.

The girl went up onto her knees, holding the hand that playfully struggled in her grip, careful of its sharp tips. Its skin was pale, ivory colored with pale black veins that ran across its palm.

“Alright, you caught it. You win this one.” Sybella heard a playful, whispery voice ring quietly through her room. She let her hand go onto the bed as another, matching one scurried over and the two hands’ fingers linked together.

“Why just your hands tonight, Tilly?” Sybella asked. “Where’s the rest of you?”

“Maybe only my hands wanted to play tonight?” The voice responded.

“Well, that’s not as fun.” Sybella huffed and deflated a little. She was a little sad.

Tilly was always more fun when she came out in full and not just parts of her.

Sybella eyed her teddy and an idea popped into her head. “Well, maybe if you

bring the rest of your body, I’ll let you play with teddy.” She hobbled on her

knees to the edge of the bed, hanging teddy enticingly over the edge as she eyed the hands challengingly.

“Oh, you drive a hard bargain, little miss.” The voice responded.

The hands untangled from one another and crawled over the side of the bed and beneath. Sybella scooched to the side in time to see the skinny, marble colored arms of Tilly stretch from beneath, the black veins continuing from her hands down them. The claws gripped the floorboards as they seemed to pull the rest of her body from under the bed. Sybella was next met with Tilly’s head, it was sort of like a white-furred goat, with her pale translucent pink eyes and curled horns that slowly faded from white at the base to black at the end. Her torso followed, the white fur continuing down to her waist, it looked quite soft to Sybella. Her lanky legs followed, ending in a pair of cloven hoofs.

Tilly turned herself over to look at the child, meeting her dark, brown eyes. Tilly’s hands suddenly shot out to grab the bear out of Sybella’s hands. Tilly quickly moved to a crouch at bedside holding the bear close to her furred shoulder.

“Ha! He is mine now!” she sniggered.

“Hey! I wasn’t ready!” Sybella responded in playful anger.

Tilly pointed a claw accusingly at the girl. “We made a deal.” She wiggled her

finger with each word. “A body for a bear.” Tilly almost seemed to smile, which

Sybella still admittedly found a little odd looking.

Sybella giggled as Tilly stood and joined her on the bed. They fell into a

comfortable quiet as Tilly almost seemed to be combing teddy’s head and trying to push the stuffing back into it to no avail. Sybella had almost forgotten about Aiden’s crying or Papa’s grunts of frustration that she could still hear. She looked over to the door sadly.

“Does the noise bother you, Sybie?” Tilly chimed in.

“A little.” Sybella whispered. “I miss when Mama was around. She always knew

how to calm Aiden down and she didn’t get mad usually. She hugged her knees to her chest. Tilly handed laid the teddy down against Sybella’s side.

“He’s doing what he can, but babies can be lots of trouble; I’ve seen enough to

know.” She began slowly and gently running her pale hand across the back of the girl’s head in what she hoped was a comforting gesture. “And I’m sure your mother’s somewhere watching you, trying to tell you to keep fighting and going with all your heart and spirit.” Sybella looked up to Tilly, seeing a small drop of black liquid running out from her eye that would seem to fade away as it went down her fur.

“Sybella! I could hear your bed! Get to sleep!” Papa bellowed.

“Sorry, Papa!” Sybella apologized.

“I should let you sleep.” Tilly stood and began crawling backwards beneath the

bed. “Take my hand, Sybella.” Tilly put her hand to out to her and Sybella took it.

Tilly gently squeezed. “Don’t give up, young one. You have so much life left to

live.” Tilly released her hand and disappeared beneath the bed.

Sybella sniffed her running nose, grabbed teddy and pulled the covers over her.

As she first started beginning to drift off, she noticed teddy had gained another button eye, now with two matching ones.

Thanks Tilly. Sybella thought as she smiled softly and drifted to sleep.


Wifey's Story:

I like my privacy. I really do. I do all that I can to preserve it. Except… well… except for one thing.

Every night it happens. I swear, I don’t know where it comes from or why, but it’s ever so alluring! I try to stay away, try to curl up in my corner with my fuzzy balls and dust motes and ignore it, but I can’t help myself. The thing bops down right at eye-level and stares at me with vacant, round eyes. It’s fuzzy, but not like my fuzzy balls. It’s got limbs that stick straight out and a fat belly, and it jiggles oddly up and down.

Why does it jiggle?

Why is it so stiff? How does it move without touching the floor?

Does it see me?

Why does it come every time the light begins to leave the room every day?

These are the questions I ask myself. I don’t have much else to do besides ask these questions, which is probably why I can’t help myself from doing what I do every time.

I abandon my corner and fuzzy balls and dust motes and slide sneakily and silently across the floor, drawn irresistibly by that vacant look in its eyes as it bobs in and out of sight. I watch it for a few moments, trying to resist the urge, and then pop! I reach out to nab it from the air! It’s my nature! But it never works. The sly thing flies right back up out of reach, so I pull my claw back quickly before anything else sees me.

This happens more times than I care to admit. I’m embarrassed about it, really. Probably ten times as the light leaves, I try to nab the thing, and it disappears. One time I touched the end of it and was surprised by its springiness and pleasing softness. It made me want to grab it even more. But alas, I am foiled every time. Each time, as the darkness falls deeper, I end up making a sound (treacherous claws and bony elbows!), and I slide quickly back into my corner as light comes back into the room through an opening. Voices rise and fall - I cannot see who makes them, back in my corner - and the light falls into darkness once more, and the thing leaves until the next day.

The nagging curiosity about this strange visitor is eating me up!

It happened. It finally happened. But it’s all so different from what I thought! Let me back up and tell the whole story…

The light was leaving. Shadows were creeping in, and I was feeling anticipation. Sure enough, as it got completely comfortably dark, the teddy bear (yes, I learned later that’s what it’s called), dangled down, and I was overpowered by the urge to grab it once more. I slid over - without much hope, mind you - and made a swipe at it. Again, I missed. The disappointment and frustration were so great this time, that I banged my claw on the floor. The next time it came down, I watched carefully and realized something I had not before. Perhaps, just perhaps, if I reached higher than where it was, when it went up again, I would get it. I resolved to try. I set my fangs in a grimace of determination. The bear came down and danced tantalizingly in front of me. Instead of reaching for it I grabbed right above it just as it rose. It worked!

I was so pleased that I almost dropped it.

Holding it tightly so I could not escape, I pulled it with me into my lair and chuckled gleefully. It must’ve been frozen in terror, because it didn’t move or try to escape. As I examined it’s plush and plump self, I heard a rustling above me.

Then came a small, sweet voice.

“It got it! It got Teddy!”

I glued myself to the floor. Was there another being up there? It knew about me? Now I was terrified! This Teddy had given away my presence! I threw it from me in fury. It skidded out across the floor as I sulked back in my darkest corner, biting my claws in fear.

“Oo! Teddy!”

There was a thump. I couldn’t see what was happening, but I could hear a patter of movement on the floor. I hid behind my claws.

Then -

“Hello? Are you there?”

I moved a claw aside so I could peek through my fingers. There was something at the edge of my domain. I couldn’t quite make it out.

“Come on, Monster, I won’t hurt you.”

Such a coaxing voice! My curiosity - what will probably kill me someday — drew me to the edge. I crept over and looked out.

There, in front of me was an odd little being. It was chubby, like Teddy, and its limbs were ridiculously small in proportion, unlike my long, thin ones that are so handy for grabbing. Other than that, it was about my size. Its eyes, though, were what compelled me to look closer. They were sparkling and green, and I couldn’t look away from them.

“There you are,” it whispered. “Come on - I won’t tell Daddy about you. I just want to see you.”

I crept a little closer - right to the edge and tipped my head to look at it better. It reached out a hand that was claw-less and soft, and I shrank back, but it didn’t come closer, so I tentatively poked a claw at it.

A little giggle erupted from the chubby being.

“You’re pokey,” it said softly. “Do you want my Teddy? You can touch him if you want.” It held out the “Teddy,” but I was too enthralled with its owner to care much about that anymore.

“You’re spiny, Monster,” it said next, looking me over critically. “And really dark. What color are you in the day time?”

I had no response for that. What good are colors when you like dark corners best? Instead of answering, I poked at its head. It had soft strands falling all around it, and I was curious about them. They were very light and moved easily when I touched them.

The being giggled again.

“I’m Lisa,” it said. “What’s your name, Monster?”

This one I could answer. I opened my mouth. “Thlk-ca-chou.” My name came out rasping and hard, and it startled me. I had not used my voice - perhaps ever. Silence is much more comfortable. But Lisa seemed to have the power to get me to do a lot of things that I wasn’t used to doing. Somehow, I didn’t mind the intrusion.

Lisa looked at me soberly, chewing on a strand of the head string. “I can’t say that.” She looked stumped for a moment and then brightened. “I’ll just keep calling you Monster. That’s what everyone else would call you. But I like you.”

She liked me! I was staggered. I was even more surprised when I realized I liked her, too. Solitude is so much more comfortable. Lisa was not comfortable. But she was something else - something better.

“I think we should be friends,” she said decidedly. “You live under my bed, after all. Shake on it, Monster.” She held out a clawless hand again, and somehow I knew what she was expecting. I took it gently with my claws and squeezed a little.

She beamed. “Friends.”

We both heard the footsteps at the same time. I let go and scurried back into my corner, and Lisa turned around to look as the light came from the opening.

“What are you doing on the floor, honey? It’s time for you to be asleep!”

“I was just talking to my friend, Daddy,” Lisa said, getting to her feet.

“That’s nice, sweetheart, but can’t you talk to your imaginary friends when it’s daytime? They need to sleep, too, you know.”

“He’s a monster, though, Daddy. He likes night time.”

“Well, you need rest, so get back into bed. I better not hear you out of bed again, ok?”

“Ok, Daddy. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, honey.”

The light went away again. I waited with bated breath, and then I saw Lisa’s head bob into view. I grinned.

“Sorry I told Daddy about you,” she whispered. “But he thinks you’re not real, so I thought it was ok.” There was silence for a moment as her head disappeared. Then it popped back into view. “But I’m glad you’re real. I like you, Thlicker…Thinkler…Monster. Goodnight.”

I settled back into my corner with a happy sigh.

I didn’t really know what had just happened, but I had the feeling it was the beginning of something exciting.

Perhaps not very comfortable, but I think that’s ok.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow.


Hubby's Story:

A little girl sat at the edge at the edge of her bed tucked under her sheets. She stared wide-eyed at the floor just beneath her her nose, not daring to breathe. Something twitched in the shadows just beyond her reach. She tried to catch a glimpse of it, but it was gone. He eyes were sore and dry, but she knew blinking would be disastrous. Ever so slowly, she pulled her teddy bear out from under the covers and dangled it gently over the edge. She waited. At any moment, she knew, something would leap out. Something would take hold of her teddy and...what if it got her arm too? With this new thought, she began to carefully retract the bear.

There it was again...

She froze. Even time stood still. She could hear her heart beating in her chest, her blood pumping through her veins. She hoped whatever it was, that it couldn't hear her too. Then - she almost missed it - a shadow started growing, stretching from under the bed. No, it couldn't be a shadow. It was hard to see in the darkness, but whatever was moving was definitely between the floor and the bed. A proper shadow would stretch along the floor. This was something like a shadow but...alive. Closer and closer, it made its way toward the suspended teddy bear.

BANG!

The girl shrieked. The arm disappeared. The room flooded with light. Standing at the door was a large silhouette holding a blazing lantern.

"Lucy, are you alright?!"

Lucy recognized the voice of her mother, Mina. "Yes, Mama, I'm fine. Why did you open the door so loud?"

For a moment the woman said nothing. She lifted the lantern high with one hand and held out a rosary fully extended in the other. Slowly, she turned about the room taking in every inch. Satisfied, she rubbed the side of her head and knelt down next to Lucy's bed. "I'm sorry I woke you, I just..."

"You felt it again?"

Mina looked concernedly at Lucy then sighed. "You are a clever little girl. I suppose there's no hiding it from you anyway." She adjusted her nightgown and settled herself for a discussion. Lucy removed herself from the tangle of covers and sat up. "Yes, I...felt something. Sometimes my head feels funny when...oh, how to say it..."

"When there are monsters under the bed?" Lucy asked innocently.

Mina laughed breathily trying to conceal how startled she was; both at the comment and how matter-of-factly Lucy has stated it. "What do you mean, Lucy?"

"The monsters under the bed," she continued casually. "Sometimes they are in the closet or the cellar, but I've got one down there now," she pointed at the floor. "Quincy says you used to fight them. He says..."

"Your brother," Mina interrupted in a scolding tone, "needs to do as he's told and not rattle off stories to his five-year-old sister." She sighed, closed her eyes tight, rubbed her head again.

"But I almost had it this time, Mama." Lucy slumped back and stuck out her bottom lip.

Mina's head lifted slowly. "You what?"

"I almost had it," Mina repeated, hopeful her mother would be less disappointed. "I had Teddy out like this," she demonstrated, "and it was coming out and I was going to get it, and I was going to show you that it really was under my bed! Mama, I do think it's more afraid of me that I am of it."

Mina's demeanor shifted from unease to consent. She chuckled a little to herself.

Lucy cocked her head, confused. "Did I say something funny, Mama?"

Mina reached out and gave a loving squeeze to Lucy's knee. "No, Lucy. It's just," she looked adoringly into Lucy's eyes, "you are your father's daughter."

Lucy tilted her head the other way, still confused.

"Yes, your father and I used to fight monsters, years ago. I wanted to give up, but your father has kept it up as something of a hobby."

"Like Uncle?" Lucy swelled with excitement. Mina raised an eyebrow. "Quincy told me that too," Lucy replied a little sheepish.

Mina looked off into the darkness. "I will have to speak with that boy." Her thoughts trailed off. A moment later she turned back to Lucy who had shrunk back slightly. "Oh, dear Lucy, you're not in trouble. It isn't your fault Quincy has told you things he ought not. Regardless: yes, he works with your uncle at times. And yes, your uncle still fights monsters. In fact, he's rather good at it."

"Were you good at it, Mama?" Lucy was regaining her interest.

"Yes, I dare say I was." Her hand trailed absentmindedly to a small scar on the side of her neck. "A gift was given to me. Not one I wanted, but one I had, none the less. It proved rather helpful to your father and I."

"When your head feels funny?" Lucy clarified.

"Yes. It seems I have something of a sense when a monster is near. They aren't always around, but I seem to know when they choose to show themselves." Lucy stared in awe at her mother. "Oh, it's not as wonderful as you would think. It keeps us safe, but there are many nights where it keeps me awake too."

Lucy nodded, weighing the options in her mind. "Will I have that funny feeling too?"

Mina's chest tightened and her hand went again to the scar, this time to hide it from Lucy. "I pray you never do."

"But how will I fight the monsters without it?"

"That, dear one, is a conversation for you to have with your uncle." Lucy let out a small gasp of excitement. "When you're older!" Mina added, standing back up.

Lucy frumped, but accepted the condition and ly back down. Mina pulled the covers up by Lucy's shoulders and kissed her cheek. "Goodnight, Lucy." She made for the door.

"Mama," Lucy sat up urgently, "what if the monster comes again and I'm asleep! I won't be able to get it, and it might get me!"

"Ah, good thinking." Mina unwrapped the rosary from around her wrist and handed it to Lucy who took it like it was a as gently as one would an infant. "Keep this with you and you'll be safe."

"But what about you, Mama?"

"Oh, don't worry. I have more." She kissed Lucy on the cheek again. "Now lie down and go to sleep."

"But I have so many questions! Does Father know when monsters are here? How did you get that scar on your neck? How many monsters are there? How did you kill," Lucy struggled to get the next word out, "Daclaca? How did..."

"Lucy!"

A sudden silence fell on the room. Lucy realized she not only knew something she was not meant to, but she had now also said something that should not have been said. Mina raised a shaky hand to the side of her head again and took a deep breath. She finally settled herself and addressed Lucy in a quiet, but strong, motherly tone, "I take it Quincy taught you that name as well. Or at least tried, and taught you wrong." She had a moment of internal processing. "It's name was Dracula, and that is not a story for tonight. Now go to sleep."

She meant to leave, but saw Lucy was rather upset at the sudden scolding. Mina relaxed and tried to comfort Lucy. "I'm sorry, dear. Quincy seems to have told you a great many things he shouldn't have. I should not have snapped at you for that. I will speak with him in the morning. And as for you," Mina paused to make sure she had Lucy's attention. "If you go right to sleep, I will write a letter to uncle Van Helsing tomorrow and ask him some questions. Agreed?"

Lucy bounced on her knees until what her mother said fully took hold. She flung herself down on her pillow. "Agreed!" she replied trying her best not to shout. "Goodnight, Mama!"

Mina smiled warmly. "Goodnight, little Lucy Harker."

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