Hunting Todd

This short was written and published in 2003 in a now-defunct horror zine. Hmm…hope that wasn’t my fault. Anywho, it has a multi-option ending that I really liked. Think “choose your own adventure” meets the Brothers Grimm. Part 1 is the common body and parts 2-4 are the different conclusions. Does Todd escape? Does Terry finally achieve his elusive goal? Only you can decide.

(#3 is my favorite)

HUNTING TODD

Terry repositioned himself, angling for a clear view of the doorway. It wouldn’t be long before his target walked through it. He checked the position of the setting sun. Yes, just a few minutes. About fifteen, to be precise.

Terry knew his target, Todd McCallum, almost better than he knew himself and he knew that tonight McCallum would be coming through that door alone. Months of study and preparation would be paid off tonight. The countless hours invested in studying his prey during the dark hours of the night would soon be redeemed. Tonight would be the night, he was sure of it. He settled down as flat as he could make himself and stared at the doorway through eager eyes.

Terry could have taken McCallum long ago if he had been free to act according to his own designs but there were so many rules that he had to follow. No witnesses. No evidence. It had to be done in this location. He had to strike from this position. So many damned rules but what was the use in complaining? It wasn’t always easy being an M.U.B. agent but it would certainly be rewarding tonight, now that everything was coming together. He turned his head and checked the sun again. Ten minutes, give or take. He grinned ferally and ran his tongue over his lips. Oh, this was going to be sweet.

McCallum had established a pattern, something very dangerous for someone in his position. He had an escort every other night but for the past three weeks he’d been alone when he came through that door on Saturday evenings. Terry couldn’t do anything at all when one of McCallum’s bodyguards was present. That’s why tonight’s strike was so important. It wasn’t like he’d be able to continue this hunt indefinitely. Eventually somebody was going to cop to his hiding place (the one mandated by the damned M.U.B. rules!) and then he would be up Shit Creek. He glanced at the sunset again. Any minute now. Any minute.

Wait! There it was. He could hear the light footsteps as McCallum approached the door. He held himself perfectly still, his powerful muscles clenching in anticipation. He noticed himself growling low in his throat like some sort of animal. He stifled that with a brief chuckle at his predatory anticipation and willed himself to be as still as a statue. It would not do to tip off McCallum tonight!

The footsteps stopped on the other side of the door and Terry held his breath as the doorknob turned slowly. McCallum flicked a switch and a light was turned on somewhere above Terry. That wasn’t a problem as he was well shielded from it. In fact, it would make the shadows he was hiding in even deeper. The door creaked slowly open and McCallum poked his head through and looked around. This wasn’t good. He was acting nervous and flighty. Had he been tipped off? No, that was impossible. Terry had maintained absolute security on this job, there was absolutely no chance that McCallum knew what was happening. It must just be McCallum’s natural instinct.

Indeed, after looking around for a few seconds McCallum switched off the light and walked through the door. Terry watched McCallum’s feet as they slowly started walking towards him. A little closer…a little closer. Why was he walking so damned slowly? He was clearly nervous and making a great show of looking around. Terry was afraid to breath, afraid that McCallum would hear it and get spooked. Another step closer, and another. Almost in range now.

McCallum suddenly gathered himself as if to leap or run. He’d seen Terry! How could that be? Not important! Get him now! Lunge!

Ending #1: Poor Terry

Terry’s long hairy arms erupted from under the bed, his clawed hands reaching for Todd’s ankles with incredible speed. A fraction of a second would have been the difference. A damned fraction of a damned second and Terry’s impossibly strong hands would have had Todd in a grip that he would never have broken and Terry would have been able to quickly drag him underneath the bed. As it was, Terry felt his heart sink as he saw the little boy’s bare feet sail just over his lunging hands as the little brat launched himself over the last yard and landed bouncing onto his matress. Perfectly safe from the Monster Under the Bed.

Damn! Damndamndamn!

This was so not fair! The Rules said that he could get Todd when he went to bed, so long as Todd was alone! Todd’s parents went out on Saturdays to bowl and the babysitter didn’t tuck Todd in like they did. There was absolutely nothing in there saying Todd could or would jump at the last second! Oh, wait. There was a new rule. Terry had been so excited about tonight’s hunt that he had forgotten to double check. Yup, that explained it. “The M.U.B. can’t catch you if you jump into bed from out of his reach.”

Unbe-freaking-leavable. While he was looking over The Rules, Terry double checked to see if he could get out from under the bed. He knew that some M.U.B.s could but Todd’s rules always said that Terry couldn’t. Nope, that one was still there. Restricted to arms only, reaching and lunging. It didn’t really matter anyway, he thought. Todd had a Blanket of Protection and a fully functioning TED-E system that he’d never get past anyway. Oh, well. Another night of watching and waiting, hoping that an arm or leg went over the side. Sometimes being the Monster Under the Bed could really suck.

Ending #2: Yummy Todd

Terry’s long hairy arms erupted from under the bed, his clawed hands reaching for Todd’s ankles with incredible speed. A fraction of a second would have been the difference. If Todd had jumped a mere fraction of a single second earlier Terry’s impossibly strong hands would have just missed his bare ankles. But he had been just that little bit too late, or Terry had been just a little too fast reacting to the leap and Terry now had Todd in a grip that the little boy would never be able to break. Todd tried to scream for help from the babysitter but he was too terrified to form sounds. Only a scratchy hiss came from his throat as the Monster Under the Bed dragged him to his doom. He knew that he was going to die. He knew The Rules, just like every other kid did. If the Monster Under the Bed gets a hold on you there is no escape.

Todd fought the best that he could. He tried to grab the rug but Terry’s pull was too strong and his little fingers slipped, making claw marks in the pile as he was dragged inexorably under the bed. He kicked out and managed to free a foot, which he whipped about wildly trying to kick his nemesis. Terry ignored the attack, shrugging off the pitiful blows as Todd was drawn deeper and deeper.

Suddenly he felt pain and an intense heat as razor sharp teeth tore into his leg. He found his voice then, screaming for all he was worth. Terry grabbed the boy’s face, stifling the scream, and paused for a moment to listen. No noise came from downstairs. The babysitter must not have heard. Terry chuckled deeply and with a mighty heave he drew little Todd completely under the bed. There were some brief sounds of the boy’s arms and legs striking out and hitting the bed and Terry’s thick hide but they didn’t last long.

Then there was only the sound of lips smacking and bones crunching and an occasional belch.

Ending #3: Confusion and Evolution

Terry’s long hairy arms erupted from under the bed, his clawed hands reaching for Todd’s ankles with incredible speed. A fraction of a second would have been the difference. If Todd had jumped a mere fraction of a single second earlier Terry’s impossibly strong hands would have just missed his bare ankles. But he had been just that little bit too late, or Terry had been just a little too fast reacting to the leap and Terry now had Todd in a grip that the little boy would never be able to break. Todd tried to scream for help from the babysitter but he was too terrified to form sounds. Only a scratchy hiss came from his throat as the Monster Under the Bed dragged him to his doom. He knew that he was going to die. He knew The Rules, just like every other kid did. If the Monster Under the Bed gets a hold on you there is no escape.

Todd fought the best that he could. He tried to grab the rug but Terry’s pull was too strong and his little fingers slipped, making claw marks in the pile as he was dragged inexorably under the bed. He kicked out and managed to free a foot, which he whipped about wildly trying to kick his nemesis. Terry ignored the attack, shrugging off the pitiful blows and Todd was drawn deeper and deeper. Terry chuckled deeply and with a mighty heave he drew little Todd completely under the bed.

Todd curled into a protective ball, his eyes squeezed shut as he awaited his death. He could almost feel the razor sharp teeth ripping into his flesh, the monstrously strong arms breaking his bones. He waited for the pain to begin. And waited. And waited a little bit more.

Not quite believing that he was still alive, Todd cracked open an eye to see what was about. He saw the hairy red and grey monster with its green horns and huge mouth filled with teeth. And little dust bunnies stuck all over him. And a very confused look on its face.

“Are you going to eat me?” he asked. Or rather, he tried to ask that. He wasn’t quite recovered from his terror enough to form words very well so it came out more like “Ayo goa eame?” The look of confusion on the monster’s face became almost comical. “Say what?” it asked.

Todd cleared his throat a couple of times and tried again. “What are you going to do with me?”

The monster sighed and replied “I’m…er…not exactly sure. I mean I know that I’ve done okay so far. I’ve followed all The Rules and I got you fair and square. Got you under the bed just like I’m supposed to. Only…well…I’m sorry to say that I’m not as prepared as I thought. I’m…er…not quite sure what I’m supposed to do now. The Rules are all about what I can and can’t do while I’m trying to catch you. There’s nothing at all about what I’m supposed to do when I actually get you. It’s almost like they were written expecting that I’d never really get a hold of you.”

Todd thought furiously, sensing that there was a way out of this somehow if he could just figure it out. “Maybe I can help you” he said. “What exactly do you have to work with?” Terry told him all of The Rules for the Monster Under the Bed. Can’t leave from under the bed, lunging and grabbing only, can’t reach onto the top of the bed, can’t be seen by parents/baby-sitters, yadda, yadda, yadda. Todd knew them all, of course. He’d figured them all out himself weeks ago.

It was wierd how his monster problem had started right when he figured out The Rules, too. He’d walked to his bed and climbed in by himself lots of times but he’d only had to start jumping when he’d realized that the monster could grab his legs as he climbed in. After that he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the monster would be going for his legs and he’d been right, that’s just what had happened.

An idea popped into his head. It was a desperate idea but he was a desperate boy. “Where do these rules come from? I mean, who tells you what rules to follow?” Terry looked at him askance. “Why, they’re just there. I just know them, you know. I figure them out and I know that they are The Rules. Like a couple weeks ago I realized that I could grab your legs when you tried to get into bed. And I just knew that it was a rule that I should do that. I’ve been waiting for a night like this ever since then, I can tell you!”

That was it! Todd screwed his eyes shut and concentrated as hard as he could. He repeated new rules over and over and over in his mind, trying to believe them as much as he believed the other rules. After a few minutes he opened his eyes again and looked at his monster. The teeth were still scary, but they were a lot less threatening with that big happy smile. And he looked a lot nicer with the fur instead of the stringy hair. And regular nails instead of those big nasty claws.

“Hey, I’m Terry, by the way” said the monster. “Sorry I was so rude there. You like baseball, right? Want to see my cards? I’ve got a Lou Gehrig rookie in mint condition!”

It would be years later before Todd finally lost his imaginary friend. Eventually he forgot all about Terry but he never forgot the lesson he learned that night, the lesson that saved his life:

We create our own monsters.

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