Prompt Day #48: Pick a monster, any monster. Now look it up in the dictionary. What is the original spelling of it? What variations are based on it? What words sound and look like it? Continue your research on Wikipedia and elsewhere….You probably have an idea by now….If you don’t then drop this monster in a contemporary setting—a nursey, schoolroom, college dorm, first day on the job, wedding night, nursing home, or death bed—and depict its struggle at your chosen stage of development.
I picked the Bogeyman, because what child hasn’t been told the story in some form or another of some monster who would come get them if they were bad or didn’t eat their vegetables? So I looked him up and found that the Bogeyman exists in many many forms in almost every country. Some forms are terrifying (like the burnt man with burned skin who eats children or the woman who drags children under the sea forever) and each one was invented to get children to “behave” or go to sleep on time and I began to think how terrible adults are to tell children these things for the most minor of offenses. Monsters like that don’t exist in a child’s imagination until we put them there. Perhaps we are the ones who deserve the monsters, not them.
Once upon a time there was a little boy named Xavier. Xavier was an only child and he was very happy. His mother loved him and his father loved him and Xavier thought they loved each other too. So, when his mother told him to pack his things and moved him to a new house with a new dad, Xavier was very surprised and very unhappy.
One day, a short time later, his mother and his new father brought home a baby.
“This is your baby sister” they told him. This baby was not his sister. This man was not his father. And Xavier was not happy at all, in fact, Xavier was very angry. Grown-ups don’t like it when children are angry. Grown-ups think that children who are not happy must be misbehaving. Xavier was not allowed to be unhappy or angry.
“Quit misbahving” His mother would scold.
“You are always disobeying us.” Said the man who called himself Xavier’s Step-father.
Xavier wasn’t really trying to be bad, he was just angry. He wanted to be left alone and he most certainly did not want to play with his baby sister.
“Play with your sister” his mother would order.
“Here, hold the baby” his step-father would say
Xavier did not want to hold the baby. He hated that baby.
“I won’t ever hold that baby! I hate her and I hate you!” He said to the man. The man got cross. The man told him that if he continued to misbehave (remember, children are never allowed to have feelings other than happiness), the Bogeyman would come and put Xavier in his burlap sac and take him away.
“No he won’t” said Xavier, who was a very smart boy. “He doesn’t exist.”
“He does exist and he eats naughty children like you. He’ll come in the night, and put you in his sac and take you to his cave where he’ll eat you all up and leave nothing but your skin. That’s what he does. I was a bad little boy like you once, and the Bogeyman came for me.”
“Then why didn’t he eat you?” Xavier asked
“Because I managed to cut myself out of his sac and escape, but I changed my ways after that and I have been good ever since. I bet the Bogeyman has new sacs now though. I wouldn’t test it if I were you.” Said the step-father who thought that stealing a mother away from a little boy’s father was being good. Xavier wondered if the man truly believed that or if he was lying. Either way, he was still a bad man. Grown-ups, you’ll find, have different rules for themselves than the rules they have for children. Life is quite funny that way. Xavier thought it was no wonder children had trouble being good all the time with no grown-ups to show them how.
Xavier wondered if the Bogeyman really would come for him. He began to stay up late watching and waiting. He thought about the Bogeyman all the time. He drew pictures in his notebooks at school, he read about him on line. He learned that there were many different looking Bogeymen (and even some Bogeywomen) in many different countries. But they all did the same thing—they came in the night and they took naughty children away. Many Bogeymen ate the children too. Xavier wondered if there were Bogeymen who came to take misbehaving grown-ups away.
Xavier continued to be disobedient by being angry and hurt. And soon, his Bogeyman pictures caught the attention of his teachers and his mother and her new husband had to go in for a conference. He got grounded for it. His step-father never mentioned that he was the one who told Xavier about the Bogeyman. What Xavier learned from this is that the rules are: it is ok for a grown-up to tell horrible, frightening stories to their children, but it is not ok for their children to think about those things, worry about them or draw pictures of them to get them out of their heads and their nightmares.
And so it was that Xavier’s “disappointing attitude” and “defiant behavior” called forth a dark Bogeyman. He began to visit Xavier at night. Xavier saw his glowing red eyes peeking out of the closet. Once he felt him trying to crawl out from under the bed. The Bogeyman smelled like a wet dog and he breathed through his mouth. The sound of his breathing made Xavier want to clear his throat, he wished the Bogeyman would do the same. Every night the Bogeyman visited, he appeared closer and closer to Xavier’s bed. Xavier needed to come up with a plan.
The next night, when the Bogeyman appeared, Xavier could feel it’s hot breath and when a droplet of its spittle hit Xavier, it was hot and it sizzled like acid. Xavier sat up.
“Hello, there. Welcome to my room. My name is Xavier, what’s yours?” He said as cheerfully as he could
“I am the Bogeyman, I am here to take you away. You are a naughty child and your father has called me into being for that purpose.” The Bogeyman’s voice sounded like gravel in the mud. When he stepped into the light of Xavier’s lamp, he looked just like Xavier’s drawings.
“Actually, If you’ll look at this, you’ll see that it was me who brought you here. I drew you. I imagined you.” Xavier said (I told you he was very smart). He handed the Bogeyman his notebook.
“Children imagine my shape, my visage, yes, but it is their parents who bring me to life with their warning stories. Only naughty children who continue to be bad will worry me into life. Many a child has begged and pleaded, no child has ever changed my mind.” The muddy-gravel voice said. He tossed the notebook onto the bed beside Xavier.
“Well, I guess there is nothing I can do, then. Shall I just get in your sac?” Xavier asked so politely that any grown-up would have said something like “My, what a wonderful child, so polite.”
The Bogeyman frowned, a small growl escaped from the back of his throat. Frothy drool dripped from his jowls. Spiders and worms crawled in and out of his nostrils (That was the picture that caused the parent-teacher conference). Xavier climbed into the sac in willingly. The Bogeyman was very confused. This did not seem to be a naughty child at all. What if he tasted all sweet and sugary? That would be awful; like taking medicine. Maybe he did not want to eat this child.
Bogeymen are not very smart. This is because Grown-ups made him up and as every child knows, Grown-ups have weak and pitiful imaginations. Most don’t even know what their child’s Bogeyman looks like. Bogeymen do one thing, they take naughty children away and eat them. Grown-ups do not imagine much more than that so Bogeymen who get confused can’t do anything about it because no one imagined alternatives for them. Pity.
So, Xavier’s Bogeyman carried him away from his mother, his new home, his new (step) father, and his new baby sister (who Xavier recently realized wasn’t too bad after all and was not to blame for her parents’ bad behavior)
By and by they came to the Bogeyman’s cave and Xavier was dumped out of the sac and onto the floor.
“Thank you for the gentle ride. It was really quite fun.” Xavier said.
“Hmm.” Said the Bogeyman. He would not eat this boy just now. He was much too sweet. He needs time to rotten up a bit.
And so it was that Xavier Miller lived with his Bogeyman. As time went by, the Bogeyman listened to Xavier’s stories about his life, his father, his mother and his new (step) father, and of course his baby sister. The Bogeyman even went back to Xavier’s house once to get the notebook because in that book, Xavier had drawn many details about the Bogeyman’s life.
The Bogeyman no longer thought that Xavier was a naughty child. Xavier was a creative child full of feelings and emotions that allowed him also to have a simply marvelous imagination. One that filled the Bogey’s world with amazing things. He no longer lived in a small, dark cave. Xavier grew and as he grew his stories became more and more fanciful. Soon, he and the Bogeyman were having tea and crumpets (which tasted like Xavier’s favorite cinnamon rolls and the Bogey’s favorite swamp-frog bellies) and discussing what color the sky should be that day. One day, when Xavier felt sure that he and the Bogey were very good friends, he asked the question that he’d been planning for years.
“Have you ever considered catching and eating naughty Grown-ups instead of children?” It was a risky question because he didn’t want the Bogeyman to suddenly remember what he took Xavier for in the first place.
“Hmm” said the Bogeyman. “But Grown-ups aren’t naughty, the always eat their supper and go to bed on time and they do their chores and they are never cross or cruel. What would be the point?”
“You are wrong about Grown-ups” said Xavier. “In fact, would someone who isn’t cruel scare a small child with stories about monsters who eat us just for not being sleepy enough or for having a bad day?”
“Hmm” said the Bogeyman “I wonder what they would taste like?”
“Fibs and swears and procrastination, most likely” said Xavier
“Those are some of my favorite flavors” said the Bogeyman
And so, together they weaved newer, larger sacs and paid a visit to Xavier’s mother and (new) step father’s house.
“They smell very tasty” The Bogeyman said, peering out of the closet.
“If you take them, I’ll have to stay here to take care of my sister.” Said Xavier (he was a very responsible young man now, he was no longer a child)
“Hmm” said the Bogeyman “But I shall miss you and your stories and all the wonderful ways you have brightened my life”
“Well, perhaps you can visit us, and I will write stories for you. Stories about Bogeymen who eat naught grown-ups who don’t properly love their children. Grown-ups who scare their children with terrible stories and then punish them for being frightened. Grown-ups who are unhappy all the time but punish children when they are unhappy. It is time for a new Bogeyman.” Xavier said and threw open the closet door. His mother and her new husband (who was not so new anymore and who, his mother sadly discovered was really not that much better or even different than Xavier’s father had been and who she was now just as bored with.) sat up in time to see two glowing red eyes before they were thrust in a sac and carried off to a land where Bogeymen eat misbehaving grown-ups.
“Xavier! I’ve missed you!” His (no longer a baby) sister cried out when she came into the room to find out what all the commotion was about.
“I’ve missed you too. Would you like to hear a story?” He asked her, and they snuggled down into the big comfy bed with the thick comfy blankets (the kind that Grown-ups get but children never do) and told each other stories for the rest of the night.