The Noise Under Denny’s Bed

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He heard the noise again.

Something was under his bed scratching the wooden floor. In the dark silence of his bedroom, seven-year-old Denny shivered in fear. He wanted to pull the covers over his head, but then whatever was underneath his bed might jump out when he couldn’t see.

His terrified brown eyes held back tears. He couldn’t go wake Mom and Dad again another night. Three times was their limit apparently, because they told him to be a big boy, and there was nothing under his bed. They both looked numerous times in the last week and declared the area safe from monsters.

Then they explained to him that there was no such thing as monsters. It was his active imagination, his mother said. “There was nothing to be afraid of,” his father reassured him with a hug, and a pat on his curly brown hair.

Despite all of his parents reassurances, the thing was scratching the floor underneath his bed again the next night. He held his breath so it wouldn’t hear him. The scratching stopped and he heard strange grunting sounds. He exhaled dramatically and jumped off the bed.

He could see underneath his bed by the light cast from the nightlight plugged in on the other side. Nothing! There wasn’t anything there. No monster. He turned on the room light and got down on his knees and peered under the bed expecting to see some scratch marks. There weren’t any.

Reluctantly, he got up and turned off the room light. The nightlight cast a shadow across the floor when he went back to his bed. He laid down on top of the covers…listening. Finally, he fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion in the early morning hours.

The next morning Denny’s parents asked him how he slept?

“Good,” he yawned, as he sat down at the breakfast table.

“No noise under the bed?” his father asked between bites of French toast.

“Yeah, there was a noise…” his voiced trailed off.

“But you stayed in bed like a big boy,” his mother jumped in with her cheerful voice that she always used to compliment him in.

He smiled weakly, took his fork and speared a chunk of French toast that she had already cut up for him. It was a Saturday. No school. No work. Everyone went their separate way most of the day.

Denny played in the yard with his friend Alec who brought over a baseball to play catch. They threw the ball back and forth for hours while talking about sports. His mother worked in the front yard garden, pruning the rose bushes. His father was in the garage working on one of his wood projects.

After lunch the boys went back to playing catch when Denny miss-handled the ball and it hit a screened opening that led to a crawl space beneath the house. The screen was barely on when Denny peered into the blackness after picking the baseball up.

Alec ran over to him and got down on his knees.

“See anything?” he asked.

“Too dark.”

“Ever go underneath a house?” Alec asked.

“No.”

“I have. Our house. There were spiders all over the place.”

“Was that all? Was there anything else?” Denny prodded him.

“My mom’s cat. She needed me to go in and help get him out,” Alec replied.

“Nothing scary?”

“No…but it was hard to move around,” Alec said.

A scratching noise suddenly got both of the boys attention. It was coming from the opening. They both heard the rustling of a big body moving around and sensed movement in the darkness.

When grunting sounds broke the silence, both boys got up and ran screaming to the front yard. Denny’s mother calmed them down while his dad went to investigate.

“What’s the matter?” she asked, concern dripping from each word.

“There’s a monster under your house,” Alec claimed.

“We heard it!” an excited Denny backed him up.

“Nonsense! Come. Let’s have a look.

She led the boys back around the house to the opening and got down on all fours. Dad came crawling out with dirt on his shirt and a shred of cobweb clinging to his hair.

“Was anyone in there?” she asked him.

“No, but we could use some more insulation in there,” he said.

“Okay boys.. are you playing a prank on me?” she asked.

“No!” they cried out in unison.

She looked closely at each boy and shook her head. “I’m going back to my gardening. You boys find something else to do.”

The boys watched her leave.

“I’m going home,” Alec said.

“I heard something.

“I know,” Alec replied as he picked up his mitt and baseball. “See ya later.”

That night when Denny’s parents were sure he was asleep they went to the guest bedroom and opened a hidden trap door that led underneath the house. Denny’s dad lowered himself down and turned on his flashlight.

He could see the body was partly unbound and one arm was free. He would have to find something stronger to knock them out with – yet not kill them. Lately there’d been some mishaps. The duct tape around their mouths was working, but some victims managed to get an arm or leg loose from the rope tied around them while waiting to be transported.

No one stayed under the house for more than 48-hours. When the lab technicians came to collect their human guinea pigs it was always in the early morning when most people were sleeping.

The arrangement worked out well for the clandestine company, and Denny’s parents pocketbook. They planned to retire early. The extra money would mean they could do so in style.

They decided to solve Denny’s problem by moving into a new home, with it’s own basement. Denny loved his new room – the view out of the second story window was great – and he quit hearing the noises under his bed at night.

As It Stands, this tale is a social comment on what people will do to get rich these days.

Marooned on Mars

A-lone-explorer-on-Mars-by-Alberto-Vangelista

It was a scientific mission gone wrong.

The crew of the Planet Chaser, a research ship from Venus, were supposed to spend a week on Mars to determine if there were any resources there that would benefit their planet.

The Institute of Exploration funded the mission.

But there was a problem with the ships landing software, and it crashed near the site of Olympus Mons, the largest volcano on Mars, and the second-highest known mountain in the solar system.

The only survivor, a scientist named Hei Manz, lay in the rubble for two days before he had enough strength to move around. Luckily for him, Mars thin atmosphere was very similar to Venus.

It took Hei a month to build a shelter near the wreck using salvageable materials. He saved what was left of the portable lab designed to let researchers conduct experiments in the field.

There was enough food and water for a crew of twelve for seven days. It was sealed in metal drums that he rolled over to his camp site. It got harder everyday to go back into the ship, where his comrades were rotting.

One of the challenges Hei faced was that he wasn’t an engineer or computer expert. The chances of putting together a device to seek help were as thin as the atmosphere. He was a scientist who studied the make-up of planets. Nothing more, nothing less.

His biggest challenge was that he only had 84 days worth of food and water.

One day he was testing the soil and discovered it had an alkaline pH and contained magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride. His first kernel of hope was when he found that the soil nutrients could support life.

As he studied Mar’s two moons, Phobos and Deimos, that night, he decided that his only hope was to try to find life – despite the risks that entailed. He might have a chance if there were intelligent beings living under the reddish iron oxide surface.

Forty days later he was pulling a crude cart through one of the largest canyons in the solar system; Valles Marineris, with the last of his food and supplies. It was one of the many areas Venusian scientists had mapped out on Mars prior to the mission.

It was hard trying to stay positive when he knew the odds were against him. He dreamt of home and his family. He wasn’t married, but came from a family of nine siblings who were all very close.

He was never alone growing up. Being alone was not something he ever thought about. Between family and friends, he was fortunate not to have had to experience complete isolation.

He began talking to himself out loud after two weeks of mind-numbing travel.

“What will you do if you find a dangerous species that wants to kill you?” he asked himself.

“There’s nothing I can do. I don’t have a weapon,” he petulantly answered. “Scientists don’t need weapons!” he shouted out to the craters, jagged rocks and hills surrounding him.

Eighteen days after running out of food and water, Hei was still walking. The cart was gone. He lost his hat somewhere, and his bald head was burnt to the color of the soil.

Then he saw three Venusian marines on a hill coming towards him! Rescuers! His luck held up! He couldn’t wait to get home and tell everyone his story.

It took the Venusian government weeks to get approval to send a military ship to see what happened to the crew of the Planet Chaser. When the marines landed on Mars they quickly went to the site of the wreck.

The strong winds blew away Hei’s tracks. The marines split up into groups of three and fanned out in all directions. On the 122nd day they found Hei. He was reclining on his side, and despite being exposed to the elements, there was a smile on his face.

The marines took his body home.

As It Stands, I have often wondered how I would handle being marooned on an island.