by Jean McIntosh
Timmy heard the monster slithering up to his window. Its red eyes peered at him through the dark. He heard its steel claws scratch at the glass, then start fumbling with the catch--.
"MOMMY! DAAAAD!" he screamed. "The monster's here! The monster--!"
Light flooded the room. Mommy ran to his bedside and hugged him close, soothing away his shivers.
"It was just a nightmare, darling, that's all," she murmured. Timmy's father filled the doorway; his crewcut made him look like an indignant hedgehog.
"For God's sake, Laverne, that's the third time this week. When's that kid gonna sleep through the night?
"Leave him alone, Ted. All kids go through this."
"He's going to camp next year--what are the other kids gonna think?"
"They'll think he's just like them, that's what," said a new voice.
Timmy looked up to see Aunt June's oval face peering over Dad's shoulder. She slipped past Dad and sat on Tim's bed, a book in her hand.
Aunt June was what Dad called "a space cadet," but Timmy liked her. She looked like Mommy but she was much younger--she went to State U. Timmy liked her rainbow clothes and jokes and songs.
She read him a story, using all the funny voices he liked. He was so caught up in her act that he forgot all about the monster until she closed the book and said "Lights out, everybody."
"NO!" he cried.
"Why not?" she asked.
She listened while he told her about the monster; she didn't even laugh when he said "It's got long claws, tiny red eyes, and a pointed head."
"Hmmmm..." she said, stroking her chin like her college professor. "Sounds like the species known as hairius red orbitus maximus monstro--otherwise known as big hairy red eyed monster. There's but one cure...wait right here."
Aunt June got up and left. Timmy watched until she returned with a brown paper sack.
"I'm going to give you something your mommy gave me when I dreamed about monsters," she said, reaching into the sack. "Behold!"
Timmy beheld. It wasn't a tank or a knife or an Uzi or anything Timmy expected--it was a toy lion. Its mane was somewhat sparse and its plush coat a little worn, but its big green glass eyes still gleamed and it grinned in a lopsided way. Timmy tried to be polite about his disappointment.
"A lion. Great."
"But not just a lion, my friend! This is the Owen family lion, guaranteed to devour monsters, goblins, ghouls, demons, and various and sundry creatures of the night. And do you know why?"
Timmy shook his head. Aunt June leaned forward, imparting a deep, dark secret.
"Because the very first Owen saved the life of the very first wizard king, Great Cadwallador. And the king was so grateful, he cast a spell on this lion to protect all of Owen's blood forever. Now, if the monster comes back, you just yell "Cadwallador!" and the lion will protect you."
"Really?" Timmy breathed so loud his father looked in the room. "Cadwallador!"
The lion just sat there; it didn't even move a tattered orange paw.
June coughed. "Of course, it only works if there are real monsters around," she said. "Otherwise it stays asleep. Just like you do at night."
She switched off the light. "Goodnight, buddy."
"Yeah, champ, lights out," Dad said, closing the door. Timmy heard their voices fading as they went down the hall.
"You shouldn't tell him such things, June," Mommy said.
"Why not? You told me the same thing when I was six."
"That was different. You'd fall for anything."
"I don't like it," Dad growled. "He's six; he ought to stop acting like a baby."
"Aw, what difference does it make?" June said. "He's got the rest of his life to be a man; let him be a little kid for now."
Dad muttered something Timmy couldn't hear, but later, as he fell asleep, he caught his parent's voices drifting down the hall.
"Don't want her fillin' my kid's head with all that airy-fairy crap."
"Forget it, Ted. June outgrew it. Timmy will too."
Timmy looked at the lion, its green eyes gleaming in the moonlight. It wasn't much, but it was soft and cuddly and smelled like Aunt June's perfume. He snuggled the lion closer, and his sleep was deep and dreamless.
The lion soon became Timmy's constant companion. It sat beside him at breakfast, rode along in his wagon, and slept in his bed each night. Sometimes he dreamed about the lion standing over him, protecting him from all harm.
Then one night he dreamed he saw the monster's red eyes peering through the window; he saw it slide open the glass and sneak toward his bed. He reached for the lion, but it was gone. The monster grinned, grabbed hold of him, its long steel claws biting into his flesh.
"Cadwallador!" Timmy shrieked. "Cadwallador! Cadwallador! CADWALLADOR!"
He rolled out of bed and hit the floor hard, then he felt his mother shaking him awake.
"Wake up, Timmy!" Dad shouted.
"Mommy! Daddy!" Timmy cried. "The monster's back! Where's my lion? I want my lion!"
"Shhh, darling, it was only a dream. See? Your lion fell off the bed, that's why you couldn't find it," Mommy said.
"Damned toy," Dad muttered. "Damned thing! We should get rid of it!"
"No, Dad, don't take it!"
"Ted, don't you think--?"
"I think I've had enough of this!" he shouted. He threw the lion on the highest shelf of Timmy's bookcase. "Now quit whining and go to sleep!"
Dad switched off the light. He pulled Mommy out of the room and slammed the door, leaving Timmy in darkness.
Shay "the Cat" Gruber saw the last light go off in the house and smiled under his black ski mask. He adjusted the infrared goggles over his eyes. He had tried this house twice, and twice the brat's howling had scared him off, but the third time would be the charm. This time, if the kid started screaming--bam!--it would be the last sound the little rugrat ever made.
Gruber flung up his grappling hook until it caught on the windowsill.
Timmy heard the scraping in his room. The monster!
He stole a look at the window and saw the long steel claws shining in the moonlight. He ducked under the covers, shivering uncontrollably. Now he could see the monster's tiny red eyes, and hear the claws scrabbling at the catch.
Timmy gathered up his nerve, jumped out of bed and ran for the bookcase. He jumped high, higher, as high as he could to reach the shelf, but the lion was out of reach. He heard the latch give with a click. He ran back to bed and dived under the blanket, shaking with terror. The word! What was the word?
The window rasped open with a rusty screech.
"CADWALLADOR!" he shouted.
A heavy weight hit the floor, making the room shake. Timmy heard the monster grunt, and then a very human scream tore through the night. Timmy squeezed his eyes shut as a shattering crash thundered through the room. There was a faint, far off tinkle of glass. And then his parents' footsteps came running down the hall.
"What the hell is going on in here!" Dad bellowed, switching on the light. Mommy gasped.
Timmy was sitting up in bed, his eyes wide in his white face. Books and toys were scattered everywhere among the remains of the furniture. The blue curtains billowed lazily in the night wind, which blew through the jagged remains of the smashed window. Far below, they saw the crushed body of the burglar, lying in a bed of broken glass.
"Timmy?" Mommy said. "You...?"
Timmy pointed at the bookcase.
The lion still sat on the highest shelf. Its mane was sparse and its
coat threadbare...but its green eyes gleamed, and its mouth was matted
with fresh blood.
Jean McIntosh works in the library which kicked out William S. Burroughs. When she's not reading books, shelving books, or checking out books, she's writing books. Although Jean hasn't had one of her own books published yet, she's scored with short stories in Kansas Heritage, The Midnight Gallery, and Eyes. Her work has previously appeared in Raven Electrick, the scary/funny On the Spot.
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"The Lion" © Jean McIntosh. Used by permission of
Raven Electrick © Karen A. Romanko. Clipart by Corel®.