Do you want a job with no prerequisite qualifications? I guess?
$15 an hour, with a flexible schedule and free food? Okay.
Plus it’s so easy that you can even do your homework or watch TV while you’re getting paid. Sign me up.
Let me get this straight right off the bat. I’m not working as a babysitter because I like kids. The noise, the mess, the attention-deficit whining about inane nonsense – I’d probably be happier cleaning gutters. At least there isn’t any shit in the gutters. I’m taking 18 credits this semester though, and there’s no arguing that it’s a pretty convenient way for a girl to make a few extra bucks. Maybe I’d even make enough to move out of the house I shared with my mom. It wasn’t so bad really – I just give the parents my sweetest smile, and somehow they’re duped into thinking I have a maternal instinct which magically makes me adore their precious bundle of spastic chaos.
The trick is forcing that smile to last all the way until the door closes. Kids may be practically retarded by adult standards, but I’ve found even the slowest sperm can understand negotiations when it means giving them something they want.
“Okay little twerp,” I’d say. “I don’t like you, and you don’t like me.” Okay I don’t really say that, but it’s definitely what I’m thinking. “Here’s the deal. You get to eat all the sugar blasted crap you can stomach and watch cartoons until you get a seizure for all I care. But you don’t bug me, and you tell your parents we ate veggies and watched the Disney channel. Got it?”
Usually that’s enough, but last night was a special case where everything went wrong. I could tell it wouldn’t be easy the second I walked in the door, but I had faith in my martial-law parenting style and thought I could handle anything.
“Looks like you’ve got your hands full,” I said, eyeing the teeth-marks on the chair legs. “How many pets do you have?”
“No pets,” the mother said. “Just my little David. I’m only going to be gone for a couple of hours though, and I’m only a call away if you need anything.”
“I don’t anticipate any problems.” I smiled, trying not to wince at the sound of pounding drums upstairs.
“David get your ass down here and meet the sitter!” I’m not sure where the mother was going, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had a part-time gig as a harpy. The drums grew louder. I just kept smiling.
“David I swear to God -” she shrieked.
“It’s okay, I’ll handle things from here,” I told her. “You go have fun, and I’ll give you a call if anything comes up.”
The drums paused after the door closed. It was time to make a deal. David was a sweet looking boy of 11, with tousled blonde hair and bright blue eyes that would make all the girls weak in a couple of years. His gaze fixed on me with curiosity and more than enough intelligence to be reasoned with. This was going to be easy.
“Alright listen up,” I told him. “What do you want to do this evening?”
“I want to burn something,” he replied as matter-of-factly as someone ordering a hamburger. “Two somethings, if the first one goes out.”
“You can’t do that. Is there anything you’d like to watch on TV?”
David shook his head. “I can do that anytime. But mom’s not home, so I’m going to do all the things she doesn’t let me do.”
The first alarm started ringing in my head. It was the first of many. Being an adult was ordinarily enough to earn at least a little respect, but David completely ignored everything I said. Markers on the walls, microwaving forks, putting his shoes in the dishwasher – I couldn’t turn around for a second without him doing something completely absurd. I tried locking him in his room for a bit, but when it was too quiet I opened it to find him building a slingshot with a dozen pairs of underwear that would have launched his lamp out the window. He didn’t even have the decency to seem embarrassed when I caught him.
“You’re going to break it!” I pulled the lamp away and put it back on his nightstand.
“I know. I was trying to,” he said.
“Well stop it.”
His blue eyes furrowed in deep concentration before he shook his head. “No, I think I’ll just wait until you’re not looking.”
“I’m going to tie you up. Is that what you want?”
“No you won’t,” he said. “Or I’ll tell mom.”
It was an absolute stand off. I was bigger and stronger than him, but I was getting worn down fast and it was only a matter of time before I collapsed on the sofa and all Hell broke loose. It was time to try drastic measures. My family had a time-honored tradition of scaring kids straight, so if he couldn’t be reasoned with, I was going to have to do to him what my mother did to me.
“Well if you don’t stop, I’ll tell on you too.”
“I’m always good around her,” David said. “She won’t believe you.”
“Not your mother. If you don’t do what I say, I’m going to tell the monster. And he’s going to eat you.”
He thought very seriously about this again. “Then I’ll just wait until the monster isn’t looking.”
“He’s always looking though,” He was smart, so I had to be pretty damn convincing and get dark with this, or he’ll see right through it. My mother always used to tell me about the monster whenever I misbehaved, but she had mastered a sort of wild-eyed intensity which always sold the story. She was so convincing, that even to this day she has never admitted that it was all made up.
“The monster lives in your eye, so he sees everything you can see,” I told him. “And if you don’t behave, he’s going to know and start eating you from the inside out. He’s going to eat up your heart, and your lungs, and your stomach, and everything else until you’re completely hollow. And all the blood that has nowhere left to go, it’s all going to come out of your mouth and you’re going to drown in it.”
His face was getting paler with every word. Good, let him have nightmares about it. That’s his therapists job, not mine.
“What about you?” he asked. “Does a monster live inside you?”
“Sure there is. There’s one inside everyone. That’s why the people who make it to be adults are all so serious and good all the time.”
“That doesn’t seem right,” he said. “There are bad adults too. The criminals and stuff.”
“That’s just because the monster has already eaten them and is using their body to do bad things.” I never thought terrifying a child would be this satisfying. I wonder if mom used to enjoy scaring me this much, or if I was just a bad person. It worked like magic though. Suddenly David decided that he was tired and wanted to go to bed. 7:30 PM and ready to sleep – it was a dream come true. Maybe this is the story I should use for everyone. All those hours I wasted pretending to be their friends – this was way more efficient!
David went to his room and turned off the light, and I got to work studying for my final exams next week. I thought I was going to have a full evening to myself, but around 8:30 I noticed the light was back on in his room. He was being quiet so I thought about just ignoring him, but he seemed a bit too clever to be fooled for long and I didn’t want to take any chances. It’s a good thing too, because when I opened the door I saw him out of bed, staring at his reflection in his mirrored closet door.
His left hand was holding his left eye open as wide as it could, while the right hand held a sewing needle poised to gouge straight into it. I wanted to tackle him to the ground, but the needle was so close it was almost touching the eyeball itself. I was terrified that any sudden move would just bump it straight inside.
“David! What are you doing you idiot! Put that down right now!”
He turned to look at me, still holding the needle directly against his eye. My whole body tensed as I imagined the feeling of that point scraping against my own eye. “I can’t. I need to kill the monster inside.”
His hand was trembling, but he pressed it a little closer into his eye. It looked like it had already started to puncture. I walked more carefully across that floor than if it were made of hot coals. No sudden moves. No harsh words. I just had to gently…
“David please listen to me. There is no monster, okay? I made it all up. If you put that in your eye, you’re going to hurt yourself very badly. You won’t be able to see anymore.”
“You lie,” he said. He wasn’t pushing it in any further though. He was listening to me. I took another step closer.
“I’m not lying. You can ask anyone you want – you need your eyes to see.”
“No you’re lying about the monster,” David said. “I saw him.”
“I’m going to call your mom right now, okay?” I fumbled with my phone, trying to pull it out and dial without looking away from him. “You can ask her, and she will tell you the same thing. There are no monsters.”
“You’re lying, and I know why,” he said. “The monster inside you is making you do it. It’s trying to save the monster in me, but I’m not going to let it. I’m the only one who makes the rules.”
The number was in the phone. I was about to hit dial when –
His arm jerked violently. He screamed, and so did I. The needle slid straight into his eye, completely disappearing into the brilliant orb. He doubled over with pain, howling like a Demon. I threw the phone onto the ground and rushed to him – too late. He was clutching his head with both hands, howling and screaming and – and then nothing. He just went real quiet, his head in his hands, hiding his face from me.
“We’re going to the hospital. Now!”
He shook his head.
“David look at me!”
Slowly – tortuously – he raised his face to meet me. His left eye was sealed shut, but I could still see the end of the needle poking between his closed lids. A stream of blood was freely flowing down his face like tears.
“It didn’t work,” he whispered. Then he said something else, but it was so quiet I couldn’t hear.
“I told you it wouldn’t. Now come on, we need to go now.”
“It didn’t kill the monster,” he whispered again.
I picked him up, and he didn’t resist. He wrapped his arms around my neck to hold himself upright. I hurried him toward my car as fast as I could. Kids get things in their eyes all the time, right? This didn’t mean he would be blind. They just had to take it out and –
“I didn’t kill it,” he whispered again, right in my ear where he was pressed against me. “I only made the monster mad.” I felt his arms grow tighter around my neck. It was hard enough carrying a boy his size, but trying to force him while he was choking me was impossible. I had to set him down and get a better grip, but he wouldn’t let go. “He blames you,” David whispered in my ear. “It’s your fault we tried to hurt him.”
“David let go. Now you’re hurting me.”
“I know,” he whispered. “And that’s only going to make you mad, so I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. This time I’m going to finish the job.”
I forced his arms off me and hurled him down to the ground. His right hand was balled up like a fist – clenching the bloody sewing needle that he’d somehow managed to pull free. His left eye was still clenched shut, and his right eye was narrowed as his face twisted into an animalistic snarl.
“Stop playing games. We need to take you to a hospital,” I said.
But he wasn’t playing. He was lunging at me, trying to strike at me with wild flailing punches and kicks. I managed to create some distance between us, but he was absolutely relentless. I ran down the stairs, but he leapt from the top with a wild leap and was on top of me again before I reached halfway. I felt the needle pierce into the back of my neck and I had to physically throw him off me.
I was in an absolute panic by this point. I didn’t take into account how small he was, or how fast he was already going when he jumped from the top of the stairs. I threw him with all my strength which would have probably knocked an adult man onto his ass. With David, it was enough to send him straight over the railing to tumble the half-story onto the ground below.
He landed with a sickening crack that made me want to just run and not look back. I rushed to where he lay spread eagle on the tile floor. A pool of blood was quickly expanding from his face. I tried to ease him onto his back to inspect the damage, but he surged awake again. He was swiping madly at my face with his little hands. I tried to pin him, but his hands were slick with blood and kept sliding through to force his needle into my arms and neck again and again. I had to grab him by the shoulders and slam him into the ground before he finally stopped.
“You have to lie still!” I was crying at this point. He kept squirming, but I finally had both his arms firmly underneath me. “There is no monster, okay? There’s nothing that’s going to hurt you. Lt me take you to the hospital and you’re going to be alright.”
David coughed, and blood splattered half-way up my arms. I climbed off of him, but he wouldn’t stop coughing. More blood – just like I’d told him would happen. Just like my mother had told me would happen. But it was absurd to think any of that was true. He’d hurt himself from the fall and I couldn’t waste any more time –
So why couldn’t I stop crying? It was like all those years when I was growing up were flashing back to me. Every night I lay awake – listening to the sound of my own blood in my veins and the beating of my heart – wondering if I could hear the monster inside of me. All those nightmares I had as a child, everything was rushing back to me. I shouldn’t have done this to him. I knew how much I hated it when mom did it to me. I shouldn’t have tried to scare David like that. But I was the adult now, and I had to take responsibility. So why couldn’t I stop crying?
“Shhh…. shhh… come on now… don’t cry.” it was David. He had stopped coughing and was kneeling beside me. I immediately tensed, but he was stroking my hair so gently that all I could feel was relief. He was okay. My sobbing choked in my throat, and I actually started to laugh. He was the one trying to comfort me!
“Shhh…” he whispered. “Don’t be like that. You have nothing to be scared of anymore.” I gave him a great big hug, and felt him holding me back. “We all have a monster inside us. Sometimes they never wake up, and sometimes they never go back to sleep. But you don’t have to worry anymore.”
“Our monsters,” I replied. “They’ve both gone back to sleep, haven’t they? But we’re still here, and we have to take care of ourselves. So will you let me take you to the hospital now?”
“No, not asleep. Do you really think your monster could stay asleep after you killed a little boy?”
I tried to pull him away to look at him, but he was holding on tightly again now. More tightly than ever – tighter than a boy his age should be able to.
“Why don’t I have to be afraid?” I asked, trying to pretend I wasn’t trying as hard as I was to get him off.
“Because it’s so much more fun when you let the monster out,” his words washed into my hear in a warm rush.
I was afraid his arms would break by how hard I pushed him, but finally his hands slid apart and he fell back onto the floor. He lay there stiffly, his arms maintaining their curved shape where they were wrapped around me. The shape they had when he was still alive. The blood stopped flowing from his mouth. His blue eyes were both closed. His shallow chest had stopped fighting to breathe. And finally – finally – he wasn’t fighting me anymore.
I ran. I didn’t look back. I got in my car and just started driving. I don’t know what I’m going to do. David’s mother knew my name and the police would find me. I couldn’t even go back to my home or say goodbye to my own mom. She’d take one look at me and know what happened, and I know she’d want me gone too. She’d see the blood that I was already starting to cough up and she’d know the monster inside of me had grown too big. She’d know all her stories and warnings hadn’t been enough to get me to be good, and that now I was being eaten up too.
I’m going to drive now, and I’m not going to stop until I’m not the one making the rules anymore. I just hope David was right – that it really is more fun when we let the monster out.