Fluffy wasn’t so bad, once you got to know him. Mind you, that took me a while. I was pretty timid as a child, and closet monsters aren’t particularly social creatures. Even when fluffy was trying to be social, he was pretty awkward about it. Making low grunts from the closet or hiding under the bed to tickle your feet when you hang one over the bed isn’t the kind of thing that wins you many friends.
I suppose that’s why the monsters hang around children. Adults just figure their grunts and growls are the old house plumbing. The cost of a plumber scares them more than that shadow in the closet.
Fluffy had been lingering in closets for decades, but I think I was his first friend. Back in the old days, adults just told kids they were imaginary things. A monster could get attention for several years before the kid started to ignore them and it was time to look elsewhere. In more recent years, parents have taken to monster sprays when their child hears them. Nasty, smelly stuff. As soon as the monster spray came out, it was best to move on.
So how did we become friends? I think it was the snacks. You see, my parents were pretty strict, and they had an absolute bedtime for me. No extra stories, no glass of water, just lights out, and don’t make a sound. So when Fluffy showed up in my closet, I didn’t dare tell my parents. I was only five at the time, but I knew I had to handle the monster myself.
At first, I tried to scare him out. I drew scary pictures in black crayon and slipped them under the closet door. Fluffy thought they were adorable and taped them to the inside of the closet. I wrote “Owt! Owt!” in big dark letters, but Fluffy just corrected my spelling. I didn’t know what to do.
Finally, in desperation, I decided to leave him food. I figured that Santa also crept into my room at night, and when you give Santa cookies he leaves toys and goes away for a year. Maybe the same thing worked for closet monsters. And it did, in a way.
You see, closet monsters are ancient creatures. We think of them as fairly modern things, but that’s just because they were known by different names. Fay folk, shadows, little people, pooka. They have lived among humans throughout history. And as with people, a little kindness goes a long way.
After about a month of leaving treats when I could, I noticed Fluffy began to be more mischievous than scary. Books would be arranged differently on my shelf. My Barbies would be placed in silly positions. Little things, just to let me know he was still around. I took it as a warning and made sure the treats kept coming.
Sometimes Fluffy would be downright helpful. My mother was adamant that I make my bed each morning, and I often forgot. When I did, it meant no internet for a week. One day when I forgot, I heard my Mom say “Did you make your bed?” Before I could answer I heard her open my bedroom door. “Oh!” she said, “Very good Alison!” I went to check, and sure enough, my bed was made. Better than I could have done it.
Over the years Fluffy and I came to a comfortable arrangement. I would leave him treats and trinkets from time to time, and he would be mischievous and helpful as he saw fit. It was amusing, and never hurtful to me, and so I came to think of him as a friend. The imaginary friend who was very real.
But I always figured there would come a time when he would move on. After all, what teenager has a closet monster? So imagine my surprise when I went to college. My dorm room was small, but both my roommate and I each had a small closet. During my first week there, I found the books on my desk were reshuffled. I asked my roommate, but she swore she hadn’t touched them. I started leaving treats in my closet that night.
The transition to college was challenging, and it wasn’t made easier by my roommate. She played loud music, left her clothes everywhere, and came home drunk on weekends. After a few weeks, I couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Please deal with my roommate,” I muttered. I meant for Fluffy to hear it, but I didn’t really expect him to do anything about it. I was just frustrated. I regret saying it now.
You see, closet monsters are ancient creatures. All those stories about the pooka and fay are pretty accurate. We think of fairies and such as fun, playful creatures, but the old tales speak of their dark side as well.
The next morning my roommate was gone. A couple of her friends said she decided to go home, maybe transfer to another school next term. I believed them until I decided to check the closet the next day. There was no sign of Fluffy, just a small note.
I’ve found a new friend.