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Monstrous

Sydney Paige Guerrero graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of the Philippines, Diliman with a degree in Creative Writing. Her fiction and nonfiction have won the Nick Joaquin Literary Award and two Amelia Lapena-Bonifacio Literary Awards, respectively, and her work has been featured in formercactus magazine and The Philippines Graphic. Her latest short story is forthcoming in Philippine Speculative Fiction 12. She currently lives in Quezon City, Philippines where she spends her time writing, watching musicals, and annoying her friends with puns. Find out more about her at sydneypaigeguerrero.com.
***Editor's Note: Adult Story, Mature Themes***
Anya wasn't afraid of monsters.
The one who lurked under her bed was harmless, small like her and easily frightened--nothing more than a trembling ball of fur and fangs and eyes. Anya saw it only in snatches. It skirted the shadows beneath her bed, weaved its way in between toys and books once misplaced and eventually forgotten. Her murmurs to the cold tiled floor went unanswered, gestures of comfort eluded by a being who knew only the language of fear. Nothing could coax it into the light, but Anya didn't mind the dark.
She would crawl under her bed, ignoring the dust and the webs and the vibrations of the floor against her palms as the shouts of her mother's boyfriend reverberated throughout the house. She would wrap her arms around the monster, feel its heartbeat against hers, and together they would hide. Most nights, not even her mother's screams could penetrate the darkness.
Anya wasn't afraid of monsters, but she would learn.
The monster, still small but growing in fury, would sometimes poke its claws out from under her bed. Her pleas to the cold tiled floor went unanswered, efforts to keep it contained gradually eluded by a being who knew its place and would not be forgotten. It scratched deep grooves into the floor, cut her palms when she tried to keep it hidden, and Anya was afraid of the things it wanted.
Her mother still screamed but most nights the monster screamed louder--screamed and screamed until the very walls of her room seemed to tremble. Anya would wrap her arms around herself, but there was no comfort in her own heartbeat. Then, she heard the reverberation of footsteps on the stairs, strong and slow and steady. Her mother's boyfriend approached her door. Anya turned off the light, murmured a silent prayer, and tried to disappear with the monster in the dark. The darkness was less impenetrable, more consuming, but still the only place she knew she could hide.
Anya wasn't afraid of monsters, but she would learn that not all monsters lurked under beds.
Monsters existed in the daylight. Monsters could be belts and fists, broken bottles and a man. Her own monster grew until it could barely be contained, no longer content in the shadows underneath her bed. It was the only thing that remained amongst a childhood misplaced and eventually forgotten. Always furious, always frightened, and most nights Anya was afraid to want what it wanted.
Her murmured prayers went unanswered and the slam of her bedroom door against the wall reverberated throughout her room. Anya trembled. The behemoth of fur and fangs and eyes hissed. Her mother's boyfriend walked in, a thin trail of light illuminating his path. When he raised his hand to strike, Anya finally understood the language of fear. Her monster stepped into the light, vast and venomous and vicious. It scratched and cut and clawed and Anya forgot why she ever tried to keep it hidden. Her mother's boyfriend screamed, but the darkness was impenetrable. Consuming.
Anya didn't mind the dark. There was comfort in the silence of a heartbeat.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019
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