At the sound of the third thunderclap, I knew tonight was going to be a difficult one.
I stood and began my stretches. I'm not really sure if it was the TV or one of the G.I. Joes that said I should stretch, but it really has been helping.
Once the stretches were finished I reached under the pillow, careful not to disturb William in the process, and retrieved my sword and shield. Thankfully, Karen had gotten some nicer sheets this year, and they didn't make the crinkling noise that the old ones made. Although, I had started to enjoy Mr. Squarepants.
I took my time walking the perimeter of the bed this time, careful not to get to close to the edge. Silky sheets are great for sliding quietly, but terrible for tread. Plus, On a night this dark, you don't want to catch yourself falling off and letting those things get in a cheap shot, or worse, grab hold.
Hopping up on the headboard, I sat myself down in my usual spot, next to the nightlight, and began my vigilance. I was thankful that the nightlight was able to cover the entire bed top, as this gave me quite a bit of protection. I couldn't say much for beyond the bed's edge, but I am thankful for at least the whole bed.
Most nights, I would sit up here and keep my eyes on the corners and the edges of the bed. William kept the room pretty clean, so I didn't have to worry about things trying to hide out in the middle of the floor.
As I sat and kept watch, I spent the hours trying to fix the tear in my left knee. I was just glad that the claw hadn't ripped the leg off. Last time I was sure I was going to be lame forever, but Tom is an excellent Dad and must've found the right leg while I slept, because when I awoke the next night, it was sown back on. Still aches every once in a while though. I was glad for it though, as I was a little confused as to how to sew until I finally saw how the stitches were done.
So, I reached behind the headboard where I had taped the needle and small spool of thread; what an adventure getting that was, and began sewing up the knee.
I had just finished stabbing the needle back into the paper when I heard it, that sickening sound of metal scraping along wood, that signified the end of my easy night.
I grabbed my sword and shield and hopped onto the pillow.
As soon as I saw the silvery glint at the foot of the bed, I jumped from the pillow and raced towards it.
"Greetings guardian..." it hissed.
I stared coldly back and warned, "Back to where you came from shade."
The smoke with red eyes and morphing shape hovered at the edge of the bed, daring me to come after it, to enter its domain.
"You will slip one night guardian, and..", It began.
"And what?!? You will kill me?" I huffed.
The misty red eyes narrowed to just slivers, "Kill you? No guardian. I won't kill you."
I shifted the shield and sword in my grip, bracing myself in case the creature tried something funny.
"No, I want to rend you, limb from fuzzy limb, and toss you down the vent so I can hear your cries for help as you slowly rot in the dark."
"You are awfully long winded." I teased.
"That, guardian, is because I am not like the others."
At this, I snuck a peak at the edges of the bed. This one is up to something..better keep him talking.
"So, what makes you special, creature."
"I have a name guardian and I can assure you, you are not ready to face me." It hissed.
I was glad that I didn't have veins, or blood, or skin right at the moment. Otherwise, the creature would have seen it drain from my face. As it was, it took all my effort not to make my eyebrows stand up in surprise.
A shade who claims to have a name? This is bad. Most of them were born of the darkness that crept up after the day. Only living long enough to claim the single night, and then vaporize with the rising sun like the rest.
This one must have survived somehow.
"A name? Ha. So you have a name. Who cares. Even dust has a name, and it's just as weak a speck as you." I jibbed while keeping my eyes locked onto it.
It began to laugh. A haunting sound that reminded me of the tickle me Elmo when the batteries started to die.
"Guardian, I am Fear."
I hadn't actually meant to say it, and by the widening of the creatures eyes, it had heard me.
"What say you now Guardian?" Fear asked, "Shall we cease this game of cat and mouse?"
I remembered what those before me had said, and tightened my grip on my sword.
"This is still my domain Fear." I said, "You can't cross into the light."
At this, the shade locked its eyes on the nightlight plugged in at the head of the bed.
"True, but I have only to wait." It spoke.
As soon as the words hits my ears, I knew I was in trouble. Lightning flashed outside, and dread began to fill me. If the power went out, there would be nothing to stop it but me.
It sat there and watched me, eyes growing brighter as saw me connecting the dots.
Bright lightning flashed again. This time, the thunder was close.
"Soon, guardian. Soon."
Minutes passed as it sat there, floating, and despite the torment of black swirling around it, the eyes remained perfectly still.
I checked the perimeter once more, and went back to the foot of the bed. Preparing myself.
I shot a quick glance at the clock on the wall, 3:32am, and gripped my sword tighter.
The flash came before the blow.
The second the power went out, the creature flew across the edge of the bed, straight towards me. Silver claws, like knives grew from the roiling mist below its eyes as arms began to take shape.
Claws slashed and tore at my fur as I dodged and shielded myself. Flashes of silver and chips of wood flew as the shade and I danced back and forth.
It became obvious that I was going to lose as each of its blows landed on my shield and sword, and the wood came away in chunks.
Minutes seemed like hours as I dodged it's blows and scrambled to keep my footing. The creature however, was relentless, and showed no sign of slowing.
Finally, the creature lashed out, and I slipped on the silky sheets, tumbling across the bed from the blow and shattering my shield against the footboard.
The creature began laughing.
"Time is up Guardian.", It said as it glided slowly towards me.
Slumped against the footboard my mind began to race, and I quickly took stock. My left arm was torn open, and my shield was shattered and the only thing that remained of it was the small metal strip I used to hold it up.
Fear floated towards me, claws outstretched and twitching.
Suddenly, there was a quiet pop, and light poured in from under the door.
The power was back on!
Then, my own horror, became a full fledged nightmare. The pop sound was the nightlight bulb blowing out.
Fear let out a triumphant shrill as it floated above me. "You see guardian! Even fate believes your time has come."
As I stared in disbelief at the burned out bulb, terror began to take over. Cold chills began to run down my back and legs and into my hand.
My hand. I felt it there, a coldness that lingered after the chill, and thats when I knew what to do.
I stood and stared at the creature, "You want to tear me limb from limb.. Well?"
As the creature stared at me, I took my sword, and what was left of my shield and dropped them in front of me.
This brought a silvery smile to the mist, and a mouth began to form.
Then, with all the strength I had in me, I grabbed my left shoulder, and ripped the arm off.
The creature froze as I yelled in fear and pain.
"HERE!" I shouted, "This is what you wanted isn't it."
I tossed the limb as high into the air as I could.
Fear took the bait, and as its red eyes followed the limb into the air, I grabbed the sword and shield handle with my right arm and ran for the head of the bed.
I was just past the creature when I heard it scream in rage.
Without looking, I ran for the light, holding the sword in my mouth, while bending the small piece of thin metal that I used for a handle on the shield, over the end of the sword.
I hit the edge of the pillow and vaulted myself onto the headboard, while bringing the sword down as hard as I could into the bulb.
Plastic and sparks flew as the wooden sword broken through the small christmas light and into the metal contacts underneath.
I don't know if the sound I heard was the sound of the metal causing a spark, or the creatures howls, but it didn't matter.
I spun around before the creature could grab me from behind, and faced it.
Fear stared at me, just out of the light being given off by the small flame.
A cold, lifeless sound escaped the creature and it said, "Bold move, Guardian."
I stared back, unsure of what would happen next. The creature made the decision for me.
Fear narrowed it's eyes at me, spun and raced for the edge of the bed. Without thinking, I leapt from the headboard, and pressing my weight into the pillow, sprang myself towards the creature as fast as I could.
It managed to make it before I could reach it, and there it stopped, just over the footboard, hovering.
"It would seem that this round is yours Guardian." It said, "We shall meet again."
It began to float away towards the closet, and I knew that the next time it returned, I might not be so lucky.
I quickly climbed to the top of the footboard and looked down towards the shade, floating to the floor and towards the underside of the closet door.
"I have a name as well." I called.
Fear stopped and turned to look up at me.
The small flame had begun to melt the fibers on my chest and arm, and I knew Tom wouldn't be able to fix it this time.
I flexed my knees, tightened my grip on the sword, raised it above my head and stared into Fears bright red eyes.
"My name is Solder Bear!" I shouted, and leapt from the footboard.
"Honey, you know he will be devastated if we can't fix him this time."
"I know. After Will goes to school, I will look and see if I can find the arm."