As a writer of Epic Fantasy (also known as High Fantasy) I’m a lover of all things weird and quirky. I’m a child at heart, and often children are most captivated by stories of the impossible. I love the idea of a world where monster prowl the night and hiding under your blanket will protect you.
Ramsey’s story has really started to take root in me. I hope you’re enjoying her, reader. But I really hope you have a young child or grandchild that you can share her with.
This is the third installment of her series. The first short story can he found here Fire Under My Bottom and Bold as a Bull and the second can be found here Everyone is Afraid of Monsters.
One year after I fought the monster in the schoolhouse basement with my blanket, and subsequently burned the schoolhouse down, I had made my first friend. Sort of.
Gudytha, or Gudy for short, was never part of the popular group, but she didn’t get picked on either. I think she genuinely liked me, even though she didn’t know what I was doing at night. But it was her idea that I start pretending to be more normal and afraid of monsters. Looking back, pretending to be someone I wasn’t doesn’t make me proud. But it’s gone and past so there’s nothing to be done for it.
Gudy told me once, “If you act like everyone else, they’ll treat you like everyone else. And someday, you’ll feel like everyone else.”
We were sitting on the grass outside of our new schoolhouse with some of our classmates nearby. Everyone was waiting for their mothers and fathers to arrive in their shiny steam powered cars and take them home.
Well, everyone else was waiting for that. Mother didn’t own a car, but I kept that secret. I couldn’t conceal not having a father, but I could lie about not having a car. “Mother works late,” I told Gudy loudly once during class when everyone else could here. “I’m always the last to be picked up.”
Truth was, I just waited until everyone else left and then I walked home.
That Friday afternoon Gudy was twisting my hair into knots that were supposed to be pretty. But there was nothing anyone could do to my hair to make it look pretty. I always had these shorter little pieces that stuck out in wild directions and made me look like I’d just gotten hit with static electricity.
Oshbuert’s mother picked him up in a car with no roof, all polished and shiny; it gleamed like silver and it had a long engine. Osh’s mother had dark skin like him and her eyes were the same shade of melted chocolate. He hadn’t talked to me the day I boasted about killing a monster and everyone laughed and called him my boyfriend.
Osh climbed into the car and Fortune went to talk to him. Francine and Frideswide stood a little distance away, giggling shrilly.
Fortune’s hair was all long and smooth and she never had a single stray strand. It swayed and almost danced when the sun hit it. My black hair would just get hot and make me sweat.
Osh drove away and then there were only five of us left; Gudy, me, and the trio of squeaky, giggly, perfect and popular hairdos in corsets. They each wore a different practice corset every day. I had only one.
Three cars came at once. They looked much like the one that had picked up Osh, but they were black not silver and their engine hoods were longer.
A mother and father sat in the front seat of each car. The first pair had blonde hair. The second pair had red hair and the last had brown. Everything about them looked new like they were mannequins in a store window that had just come to life. Their daughters hugged and laughed and they each got into a car with their color-coordinated parents. I bet they all went out to fancy restaurants and told jokes at someone else’s expense and laughed about how wonderful they all were and instead of leaving a generous tip they’d write “Get a real job” on the bill.
“That’s my dad.” Gudy was always picked up by her father. Their car was smaller and black but it wasn’t polished like the others.
“Are you sure you don’t want a ride, Ramsey?”
“I’ve told you before. My mom works late. But she’ll be here soon.”
We said our goodbyes and I watched her drive away with her father’s arm around her shoulders. I waited until they were out of sight and then I walked home. When I got home, Peeste was the only one to greet me. There was some truth to my car lie. Mother did work late, but there was no way she could afford a car for us while working her job at the textile factory.
I suppose I should explain Peeste. After I burned the schoolhouse down, rumors circulated as to what had and hadn’t happened, and the truth of the events wasn’t what everyone believed. Some kids thought I was mad at Teacher and tried to light her on fire, some thought I hated my schoolmates. Either way, no one ever believed the truth, and I was teased and called some pretty terrible names. I didn’t have any friends and I cried a lot at home.
So one day I came home, and there he was. Mother could have gotten me a cat or a dog or something more normal. But instead she picked a hovering blobfish. Peeste had tentacles like a jellyfish, but he was as round as a ball and he would hover in the air instead of swimming in water. Honestly, he looked nothing like a fish so I have no idea why anyone would call him one. His body was lumpy but his skin was cool and smooth. He had a wide mouth with small teeth and one centered eye. All hovering blobfish have only one eye. Peeste was blue and marbled with purple. At night his body glowed yellow-green.
Peeste was my true best friend. He was ugly and weird and I loved that about him. He also bumped into things a lot.
And that Friday afternoon, he greeted me by sitting on my head and snacking on my hair. Maybe he was to blame for my electrified short pieces. I plucked him off my head. He was squishy and about the same size as a house cat.
“Stop that, you’re making it worse,” I said.
He clicked his tongue at me.
“I missed you, too.”
Peeste always communicated in clicks, whirs and gurgles. It left a lot of room for interpretation.
I couldn’t tell you if I did my lessons that night. Honestly, given my record with take-home lessons, probably not, though I do remember practicing my knots with my blanket in my room.
Mother came in when she was home from her job. She held a pile of fabrics in her arms. “I’ll be sewing in the basement.” She said. “Do you have all of your lessons done?”
“Yes.” I think I might have been born missing that part of your brain that’s supposed to make you feel guilty about things like lying.
When I heard her working, I pulled back the covers on my bed and filled it with anything I could find. Blankets, clothes, books, toys, pillows, anything. Then I arranged them into a shape that looked like me asleep and pulled the comforter over top of it again.
Then I waited for sunset. I waited even more. I could hear Mother’s sewing machine clackering right along in the basement.
I changed into a black shirt and black trousers that I had begged mother to make me. I put on my practice corset, too. I was still a young lady.
Armed with my blanket, and with Peeste hovering at my shoulder, we snuck out of the house.
Almost everything was dark. I could see electric lights in other houses and some candles, too. The streets were dark and there were no cars around. Peeste’s yellow-green glowing body lit the way as we circled the block.
A long time passed before anything happened. Eventually all the electric lights and candles went out. I had almost given up hope that there were any monsters around when I heard a flop-flop noise.
I turned and saw a little monster behind us. It was small, only a little bigger than Peeste. It looked like a glob of black tar. As it rolled toward me unevenly, it made a flopping noise as it smacked the ground. It had glowing red eyes just like the monster in the old schoolhouse’s basement.
Peeste growled at it.
I threw my blanket on top of the little monster. It gurgled and flipped furiously, throwing my blanket off and landing on top of it.
I snatched up each of the four corners and tied a knot. The monster squirmed in my makeshift bag. I held the blanket under the knot so it couldn’t ooze out.
“We did it.” I whispered to Peeste. “We actually caught one!” Peeste chirped and swung his tentacles in celebration.
“Let’s go home.” Peeste clacked and we walked back. We’d stayed close, so the walk wasn’t long.
When I snuck back into the house everything was quiet. Mother had stopped sewing.
I tiptoed up the steps. Peeste bumped into me a few times, making me waver and almost fall. I pushed him in front of me. I crept down the hall and opened the door to the attic. Peeste went ahead and I shut the door behind myself. Tiptoeing up the stairs, I was careful to avoid every crack and weak spot that would creak. The attic was dusty and filled with old furniture. I had built a castle out of some of it to serve as an excuse if Mother ever caught me up there with a monster.
The night was ending. I sat cross-legged in front of an east facing window, holding the monster filled blanket on my lap. Peeste sat on my head and chewed a little of my hair. His tentacles tickled my ears.
“We’re going to do this, Peeste.”
He gurgled like a cat would purr.
I looked out the window and yawned. “One by one until we’re older. Then we’ll be strong and brave enough to journey to the crystal.”
We waited for the sun.