The Creature at the Foot of the Bed



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by Phil Slattery




After a long day of hiking in the Olympic Mountains followed by baked salmon and a good Merlot at a small but elegant restaurant set among the evergreens, Quinn was feeling quite drowsy well before he opened the door to his apartment.  He removed his dirty boots and sweaty clothes, took a long shower, put on clean underwear, changed his bed linen, and slipped between clean sheets.  For a few minutes he lay flat on his back, but then he rolled onto his side and pulled his knees up to almost in front of his hips.  He quickly passed into a comfortable sleep.

When he began to dream, Quinn opened his eyes and saw that he was laying flat on his back in bed as when he first lay down that evening.  There were no undulating walls, mysterious figures, or seeing himself from the perspective of someone else as he had experienced in other dreams.  He even felt half-asleep with his eyes half open as he normally did when awaking unexpectedly.  There was only one difference between his dream and reality as it should have been, should he have awakened before dawn: he knew he was dreaming.

Then something beyond the foot of the bed began pulling on his covers.  “Don’t worry about it,” Quinn thought.  “It’s only a dream.”  Quinn grasped the top edge of his covers with both hands and pulled them toward his chin.

Quinn raised his head, but could not see what was pulling.  It was below the edge of the mattress, whatever it was. It was not pulling the covers up and away from Quinn.  It was pulling them down toward the floor, making them tighten around Quinn’s feet.  Therefore it had to be on the floor.  It was probably kneeling on the floor, Quinn decided.  Whatever was pulling was strong and therefore fairly large—maybe the size of a small man.  If it was, it had to be kneeling to stay hidden below the foot of the bed, because the bed sat close to the floor.  Quinn imagined it was probably curled up in something like a fetal position with its knees on the floor and staring at the carpet with bulging, unblinking eyes almost as big as a fist, eyes well adapted for night.  “How could it pull from that position, though?  It must have its hands above its head and its face to the floor.  That’s an unusual position.  I wouldn’t do that.”

Whatever it was pulled steadily and slowly.  Quinn could see the covers slowly move toward the foot of the bed.  He could see where the folds in the top blanket were taut and came together in a point as they were grasped in a single hand and dragged over the edge of the mattress.  In his mind Quinn envisioned the creature’s hands:  long, raw-boned, olive green with coarse hair and long, pointed fingernails pulling hand over hand on the covers just inches from his feet. “He isn’t pulling with both hands,” Quinn thought. “The covers are coming to a point.  He must be pulling hand over hand.  An animal can’t do that.” Quinn pulled back and brought the covers once again to his chin. “Ignore the creature,” he thought, “it will go away when it cannot get my covers.”

Quinn lowered his head back onto his pillow and pulled steadily to keep the covers to his chin, but the creature was strong and powerful. Quinn could tell by the strength of its pull that it was determined to have the covers.  “It must be muscular,” Quinn thought. “I am not small. I am twenty-seven and strong, and it is probably as strong as I am.  It must be more muscular than I am, because it has to be smaller than me to hide below the foot of the bed and it is at least as strong as I am.”

The creature pulled on the covers and brought their top edge to almost below Quinn’s heart.  Quinn pulled back and brought them up to his chin again.  In the back of his mind an image began to form of how the creature must have appeared.  It was the size of a small man and dark olive green with the muscular back of a man that has been living as an animal in the forests.  “Only animals have that tone to their muscles,” thought Quinn, “the tone that comes from running through the forest, running up mountains, leaping across fallen logs, and chasing game. That tone comes from having barely enough food to survive, but enough to keep pursuing game. There is no fat on that body, only pure muscle.  And there is hair, sparse hair dotting the spine and protruding ribs, probably less hair than on my back.”  Quinn’s mind also visualized the back of the creature’s head, with greasy, stringy, black hair not quite down to the shoulders.  The back of the head moved slightly as the creature bent its back again and again and pulled harder on the covers, pulling them down to the level of Quinn’s heart.  

Quinn continued to lie flat on his back and raised his head again.  He saw nothing but the tension straightening the covers as the creature pulled. Quinn pulled back steadily on the covers and brought them back to his chin.  The creature never allowed slack.  It pulled as steadily as Quinn.  It never snatched the covers or suddenly pulled with increased strength.  It pulled slowly, relentlessly, never allowing the tension to fade for so much as a heartbeat.  Quinn lowered his head back onto his pillow and decided the creature had determination.  Though the creature would pull the covers to the bottom of Quinn’s chest, Quinn always pulled them back.  Nevertheless, the creature never gave up and continued to pull.  It wanted the covers.  Quinn never wondered why it wanted the covers.  It was enough that the creature wanted them and that Quinn refused to give them up.  They kept Quinn warm and he wanted to go back to sleep.  It was only natural that someone would want warm covers on a chill night in the Northwest.

The creature continued its steady pull and Quinn felt the smooth blanket’s edge, onto which he was clutching, slowly slip through this clenched fists. Then the tension of the covers vanished and the edge of the blanket slipped away and Quinn could feel it gliding over his body as the cool air of the apartment rushed in.  Quinn grabbed for the edge and caught it before it was halfway down his stomach.  He pulled harder to bring the blanket’s edge back to his face. Once it was there, though, the steady pull of the creature returned.

Quinn rolled onto his side and held the covers tighter to his chin, ignoring the creature’s steady pull. Quinn moved a little and tried to sleep, but the creature’s relentless pull would not let him. Quinn pulled the covers back to his face and hoped the creature would go away soon.

He started to drift off to sleep again in his dream, but his eyes opened halfway in the real world to see the clothes hanging in his bedroom closet.  “It feels so warm and cozy under the blankets,” he thought.  He cast his sleepy gaze toward the bedroom window and saw the moonlight drifting through the panes while two or three bright stars bordered its path.  Quinn pulled the blankets up to his cheek and again felt the strong resistance from the creature’s steady pull.  Quinn’s eyes suddenly widened and he felt the quick rush of adrenalin as he realized that something actually was at the foot of the bed pulling on his covers.

Quinn jerked upright in his bed, yanking his heels up to his buttocks as he instinctively drew a short, sudden breath and his muscles tensed for a fight.  He grabbed the blanket below his feet and pulled to bring up whatever was lurking below.  The edges of blankets easily withdrew from where he had tucked them under the mattress and came up to his knees.  Quinn scanned the room to see if anything was fleeing, but there was no movement and all was as it should have been. Quinn rolled to the far side of the bed and looked over the edge to find: nothing.  He hung halfway over and looked under the bed to find: nothing. He rolled back to the side where he had been sleeping and looked over the edge, again finding nothing. He hung over the side again and peeped under the bed and still found nothing.  He sat up and scanned the room again.  All was quiet and as it was when he had turned off the light. 

Quinn reached over to his nightstand, switched on the light, and rubbed his eyes as he tried to reason out what had happened.  He started to sit up in bed, but when he drew his legs up, he found them wound so tightly in the blankets that he could not spread his knees to sit cross-legged.  To unwrap them he stretched them back out and as they extended they pulled the top edge of the covers away from his chest.  Quinn relaxed his legs and pulled the top edge of the blanket toward his chin.  His feet came with the pull.  Quinn stretched them out and they effortlessly pulled the covers down.

Quinn lay back onto his pillow and chuckled. When he rolled onto his side and started to shut off the light, his eyes fell upon his copy of The Hobbit lying on his nightstand and he laughed.