By Nathan Oser
Whenever there are monsters in the closet or under the bed or lurking in shadowy corners just out of the nightlight’s reach, I do what any smart kid would. I hide under the covers.
Before long I’m sound asleep. But that doesn’t mean I’m safe. What if I suddenly need a glass of water or there’s a storm rapping at my window or I pop awake from a nightmare? And what if it’s midnight when I do?
I’ll tell you, you don’t want to be awake when midnight rolls around. That’s when all the really bad stuff happens. Think about it. How many scary stories have you heard happen in the morning or afternoon? It’s always the dead of night. And there’s no deader time than the stroke of midnight.
I’m just glad my clock isn’t set to military time. Otherwise it would read 00:00. But even 12:00 has two zeros that might as well be evil red eyes staring at you from the across the room. Of course I’ve never seen either because I do what any smart kid would. I clench my eyes shut and count to 60. Once that minute’s up, I’m in the clear. Midnight-oh-one isn’t nearly as ghastly as midnight o’clock.
It was a little after nine when I finished my glass of milk and went to bed. Warm under the covers, I conked out to the muffled sound of the television down the hall.
I travelled through dreams and deep into the night. Then a slithering noise drifted in on the breeze outside my window. A train was heading down the valley, and I knew I was awake when I heard the whistle blow and echo softly through the air.
I sat up and looked about my room. My gaze slipped past the clock, and my breath caught. 11:59. I clapped my eyes shut and covered them with my hands just to be safe. Counting off the seconds, I imagined all the scary things that had to be happening now that it was midnight o’clock.
The red spots and purple swirls in my vision swam together and twisted into hairy monsters with ten glowing eyes and five huge mouths, each a pincushion of teeth longer than sabertooth tiger fangs. Then black clouds swept in overhead and shot down golden lightning with a zap zap zap! Three knotty, gnarly trees sparked electric. They sizzled and fried and came alive, plucking their roots from the ground and walking, curling their limbs and branches like a million hands and fingers reaching out to grab hold of me.
I clenched my eyes tighter.
The monsters and trees faded like mist, and a wavy splotch of yellow-orange blazed up into a roaring fire. I turned away from the flames and was suddenly stomping through quicksand. I reached for a big rock but it was really a gooey eyeball! I reached for vines but they were really hissing, slithering snakes!
After sinking through the bog I landed back on my bed. But it wasn’t my bed! The sheets were a big, pink tongue and the headboard was a big, green goblin face. I squirmed and squiggled to get away but slipped on the slimy tongue. I fell and tumbled down the goblin’s long, cavernous throat and into its stinky belly. Plop
It was dark again. Pitch black.
I finally opened my eyes and gasped for air. The clock read 12:01. The room was back to normal, the monsters all gone. Schwew! Midnight o’clock was over!
As soon as my heart stopped racing, my eyelids grew heavy again and I snuggled into my pillow. And before I fell back to sleep, I thought–just for an instant–that maybe I wouldn’t have seen all those horrible, scary things if I’d kept my eyes open instead.