It began, as many things do, in the dead of night.
“Dad!” cried the boy. “There’s monsters under my bed!”
The covers were down before he was fully awake, and as he rolled smoothly to his feet, his mind begins processing the situation while his body continues with the rehearsed, automatic movements.
Automatically: Reach for the rifle while scanning the room.
Mentally: Consider whether to rouse his wife and review the room-clearing procedures they move through together if there may be a threat.
There is no one else in the room, save for his wife who is quietly awake now in bed. No alarms are going off, and no quiet lights signal a breach into the house. All is quiet silent since the boy’s initial cry.
Automatically: Shoulder the rifle and stride silently to the door, minding the sight lines around the frame.
Mentally: He’s finally reached the age where nightmares begin, but nothing is wrong. All the same, demonstrating security might help put him at ease.
He crosses the hallway and eases the boy’s door open, rifle still up but careful to keep the barrel clear of anywhere his son could be. A quick sweep in the darkness reveals the room to be clear, save for his son sitting up in bed.
Perhaps some theatrics? “You there, under the bed,” he challenges quietly, falling back on his old command voice. “What business do you have here?”
The response is just as soft, but gravelly and sibilant…and something stirs in the black beneath the bed frame. “There is no end to the monsters in this world.” His finger moves to the trigger. “We tire of flight, and seek refuge here.”
He considers carefully. “I am the end to monsters in this world, and none may breach this refuge. How many of you tire?”
“We are many.”
“Then I will build more beds. Do not wake my children.”