It was nearly four in the morning. Olive rolled over and tried sleeping her right side. It was very similar to her left. Maybe, she thought, if she could just close her eyes for a minute…it was no use. The thing under the bed was still breathing heavily and as long as it was there, sucking air through what she could only imagine to be a massive, pig-like snout, Olive wasn’t getting any sleep.
The thing under her bed—whatever it was—didn’t seem particularly concerned with the fact that Olive had a test on her multiplication tables in the morning, nor did it seem to care that it had spent an entire night for the promise of such a meager meal as Olive—poor, scrawny, knuckles and knees Olive—but at least for now they appeared to be at a sort of stalemate. It seemed as if the monster was, for whatever reason, unable to come out from his hiding spot to simply grab her off her bed, or else he likely would’ve done so hours ago. So long as Olive stayed tucked in, safe beneath her covers, the monster wouldn’t be able to devour her, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t ruin her night.
His breathing was unbearable. It sounded like someone was turning on a vacuum cleaner every few seconds, only worse. Worse because of the wetness of it all. It was the sound of the creature drinking in the air, slurping it through its huge, wet snout. It was awful.
Olive could only imagine what the monster looked like based on the noises it made and the occasional mismatched appendage that wriggled free out from beneath her bed. One time it was a big, hairy paw. Another time it appeared to be an octopus’ tentacle, covered in pink, thorny barbs. It was impossible to guess what the creature looked like based on the seeming chaos of its limbs but she was certain that it was quite large by both the unbearable sound of its breathing and also by the way that her bed vibrated when its stomach rumbled. It did seem to be quite hungry.
Olive was getting desperate. In only a few hours she’d have to get up for school. Today they were going to be tested on their multiplication tables, and the test counted for a third of their grade! They hadn’t gotten to percentages yet, but Olive assumed that was a lot. She’d spent all night last night studying but still felt unprepared. She wasn’t very good at math and she was even worse at memorization and this test was the epitome of both. It was bad enough as it was without being kept awake all night by a hungry monster waiting to pounce on her if she so much as set foot outside her bed.
“One times one is one. Two times two is four. Three times three is, uh…”
“Nine,” rumbled a voice from under the bed.
“It’s not that hard to remember. Come under here, I can show you a trick.”
Olive wasn’t the smartest girl in Mrs. Whatley’s third grade class but she certainly wasn’t that stupid.
“I’m okay where I am,” she said. Then she remembered her annoyance, “Can you just go away, please? I have a big test on my multiplication tables in the morning and I can’t sleep with your horrible breathing.”
There room was silent for a moment. Dead silent. For the first time all night.
“Is it that bad?” he wheezed through held breath.
“It’s very, very loud,” Olive said.
The thing exhaled.
“There’s not much I can do about it, you know, and besides I’m really hungry. Why should I go away?”
Olive thought about it. He had a point.
“But I just won’t get off the bed. You’ll go hungry. Wouldn’t you rather be under the bed of some kid who you could trick into stepping over the side?”
Now it was the monster’s turn to think.
“I guess if you’re convinced I have a better chance somewhere else, I can head over there. Do you know somebody who might not be as smart as you?”
Olive immediately thought about Becky Schrader. Just yesterday, Becky had made fun of her socks, so it seemed fair to send a monster over to her house to devour her. Plus, Becky was pretty stupid. She probably would’ve gone under the bed hours ago.
“Just forget it,” Olive said.
The monster let out a dissatisfied snort.
“What if you just let me eat one of your legs?” he suggested.
“That’s stupid. How would I walk?”
“Just use your other legs.”
“How many legs do you think humans have?”
“I don’t know,” the monster paused, “…four or five?”
Olive laughed, “How many legs do you have?”
The monster stopped. She had to assume it was counting. It took a longer than expected.
“Fifty two, as of yesterday.”
“Wait. Your number of legs changes?”
“Well,” said the monster matter-of-factly, “not that it’s of any concern to you, but yesterday was my fourth birthday. My species grows a number of legs equivalent to the number of years they have been alive multiplied by the number of horns we have on our heads. I have thirteen horns, so when I was one I had thirteen legs. When I was two, I had twenty six legs, and so on. It’s really quite simple math. Come under the bed and I can show you!”
Olive stared off into the distance.
“That was a really nice try,” she said earnestly.
“Thanks,” said the monster.
Olive rolled over in bed and sighed.
“Four times four is sixteen. Five times five is twenty five. Six times six…”