Night Terrors and the Bears Who Abet Them
Inspired by a piece of art depicting a teddy bear defending a sleeping child from a monster..Please welcome Thaddeus Howze back to The Studio
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
Achilles, Teddy Bear Extraordinaire, Esq. stretched, feeling a bit of a cramp from the tight hold his little girl Alison had on him before she went to sleep.
He managed to escape her death-grip and bounded toward the head of the bed. Reaching under her pillow he found his sword and shield. He sat down and waited for the Dweller-in-the-Dark to arrive.
It wasn’t long before the room grew cooler than the warm London winter outside. The closet creaked open and shadows danced as if they were alive, heralding the arrival of… “Hello?”
Achilles looked around the room and saw the shadows dancing everywhere but no sign of the actual source of the voice. Bouncing to the end of the bed, he looked over and saw a pool of inky blackness slowly spilling from under the bed. “Back from whence you came, spawn of darkness.” Achilles liked to open with classic lines when he could.
“Now that’s just hurtful. True, I am a spawn of darkness, but it sounds so wrong when you say it.”
“Ach.” Achilles put his sword down on the bed and threw his shield over his head.
A new one. Why did he always get stuck training the new ones? “Get from under the bed, newbie and try not to wake the kid.”
“As a matter of fact, yes, I was only recently assigned to this neighborhood from Darkness, Inc. I understand you are going to be my training bear?”
“No, I’m not. I didn’t get any paperwork. No one informed me you would be coming. What happened to Eugene, my previous dark-spawn?”
The darkness on the floor began to reform itself into a towering monstrosity covered in claws and teeth. It’s squeaky voice belied its terrifying appearance. “He got a promotion. He had done so well here, he was assigned to work in a war zone in the Middle East. I think your paperwork was sent but to the wrong address. We had some computer problems recently, our programmers were frightened when they dreamed they were routed by the MI-6. Major glitches after that, I tell you.”
Achilles stretched his right leg, noting an old injury in need of new thread. “I told them no more newbies. I am too old to be taking on apprentices. Look at me. I am almost six years old. Worn out in the seat, one of my eyes has been replaced with some cyborg machine part. I have low-grade stuffing that crinkles and stays that way. I am trying to go into retirement quietly and happily. Alison is almost seven, soon she won’t even need me to keep you away.”
The Dweller leaned forward and stared at Achilles from the top of his furry head and ears to the bottom of his dirty white soled feet. “You look great to me. Still strong and vigorous. I asked for you, you know. I had heard how you single-handedly held off an entire wave of Fevered Nightmares when she was only four. For three nights you fought brilliantly and when it was done, you emptied every stable of Nightmares from as far as the West Coast of the Americas. People are still having good dreams out there, or so I’m told.”
The Terror whispered quietly with a voice filled with admiration. “I knew I had to be trained by you.”
“I still have a limp from that night. Damn near tore my leg off. Never did get it sewed on right.”
Achilles got his sword and picked up his shield. “Okay, new kid, here’s how its gonna be. I will train you. God knows adults need their fears to be robust and vigorous and this is the time when kids take their fears into adulthood. You will learn how to invade their dreams, undermine their self-confidence and prey on their fears. Once we begin training, I will not be taking it easy on you. You will have to fight like hell. Don’t do a good job and I may be forced to destroy you. Got it?”
The Night Terror drew itself up to its maximum size, nearly six feet tall. It flexed its mighty claws and leaned over the bed exuding menace. Achilles bounded back to the pillow right below Alison’s head. “Got it. If I want to graduate to terrifying adults I have to survive here. No holds barred.”
Spines formed along the back of the Terror and its eyes glinted with an internal fire. He continued speaking as his voice deepened, becoming more frightening. “I chose you because Eugene left more notes on you than any other Teddy he had ever worked with. He had incredible respect for you. He told me all your weaknesses.”
Circling around the bed, the Terror reared up and its voice became like thunder. “Like your left eye was nearly blind and you were vulnerable there.” The Terror swiped high and wide from the left, trying to remove the machine eye Alison’s brother sewed on one night after the Nightmare Incident. Achilles met the attack with his spirit sword slicing deeply into the Terror’s flesh.
Vaulting over the sleeping form of Alison toward the Night Terror’s face, and with a flash of his sword, he attacked drawing ichor from over one of the Night Terror large reptilian eyes. “School’s in, new kid. First lesson: never believe everything you read. Second Lesson: Old Bears are the most dangerous.”
Alison’s fear of night noises would one day alert her to a burglar in her home, saving her life. This was the circle of fear and awareness fostered in her childhood by forces unseen.
The Night Terror and the Teddy Bear’s battle would rage into the night until she was ten and her fears firmly grounded.
Achilles retired and was laid to rest with honors when Alison went off to college.
And what of the The Night Terror?
Surviving Achilles, he was promoted from Night Terror to a Complete and Utter Terror and crossed the Pond. Almost immediately he found work at the Pentagon promoting the Cold War in the early 1980s.
He became one of the most successful Fears in modern history.
Night Terrors and the Bears Who Abet Them © Thaddeus Howze 2014, All Rights Reserved
Thaddeus is a California-based author whose non-fiction work has appeared in magazines, including Black Enterprise, the Good Men Project, the Examiner.com and online at Astronaut.com.
His fiction writing has appeared in blogs such as the Magill Review, ScifiIdeas.com and he maintains a prodigious amount of non-fiction work at his own blog, A Matter of Scale. He answers questions on the Scifi.Stackexchange.com and Quora.com.