By Diane Lafontaine (Vancouver, BC)

With toes gripping the edge, I swayed forwards and backwards, building momentum for the desperate leap that would launch me from my bed to the doorway. One slip and I would fall into their hands for sure; if not the drooling troll, then the slimy octopus that nested under my bed in the land of nightmares. I spread my arms for lift and leapt - my feet already running in midair to the safely of my big sisters room.

Rapping softly I called her name. Silence responded with a sleeping anger. The memory of a tiff of no consequence; I'd ripped the head off her favourite doll. Punishment was being metered here - excommunication from safety. The door was locked.

I kneeled and peered through the wall mounted heat grate that interrupted the baseboard. I knew her bed was against this same wall. Her nightlight illuminated safety. I was small enough to squeeze through and crawl in under her bed. Sitting back on my heels I looked at the grate and counted four screws separating me from a good nights sleep.

In the morning when I squeezed back out through the hole and screwed the grate back onto the wall, I snickered with the coup. Unbeknownst to her, she had sheltered her dolls tormentor. But as I walked by the basement stairs, daylight now banishing shadows, it occurred to me to wonder: why had there been no monsters down there in the dark and damp, guarding the screwdriver?

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