Chapter 1

How I Found Out About Them

My name is Charlotte Emberlow, and I'm a normal kid. There's nothing really special about me that caused the story I'm about to tell you. Even though it might seem crazy and unbelievable, let me assure you that every word is absolutely true.

Sometimes it's not easy being a kid. Parents have this crazy idea that being a kid is easy. My mom was the worst one, I think. No matter what I told her, she never believed a word I said! You would have thought I was a baby, not the very mature and capable ten-year-old that I was.

See, I've always had this problem with the monsters in my closet. Most kids manage to get over it pretty quickly, but I was never able to. Almost every single night, I would go into her room and tell her that they were back. It was mainly the one in my closet that caused me the most trouble. He was the noisiest; I could hear him slithering around my clothes and bump against my toys all night long. I would creep back into my bed, literally shaking in fear with my blanket over my head, just wishing that they would go away. Of course, that would have been way too easy.

It was particularly frustrating because by the time I managed to get my flashlight, blindly groping around on my nightstand, he was always gone. See, that's the thing about monsters, they're very sneaky If they don't want you to catch them, you might as well give it up, unless you're as skilled as I am.

They're so sneaky in fact, that by the time you get there, they've even managed to hide the monster hole they came out of. Monster holes are a lot like mouse holes, only harder to see because the monsters are a lot smarter than mice. Mice aren't really very good at thinking. They can be very useful if you need someone to carry small office supplies around, though.

Most people just learn to ignore the monsters, but I never did. My mom used to get really mad at me because I was the only kid my age who still insisted that there were monsters in her closet. I think that's how it all started. I wanted to get away from that closet and the fiend that lived in it so much that I made up my mind to move into the back yard.

It took me almost a month to convince my mom that I HAD to have a new pup tent. They were on sale at the camping store in town, I'd seen them myself when we went shopping for new Sunday school shoes. My mom didn't really think I needed a tent, but since I didn't have any brothers or sisters, she usually gave me what I really wanted.

It was the middle of July, halfway through my summer. I was kind of looking forward to going back to school since I'd finally be in fifth grade, which meant I'd be able to join the school band, but even more, I was glad to be on summer break.

I'd always wanted to go camping, but since it was just my mom and me, we never really had time to. Although my back yard in the middle of the suburbs wasn't anything like the real great outdoors, it was excitement enough, and I was sure that it was far enough away from the monster that had been in my closet for so long.

I knew that having that tent was going to change my life as I knew it, but I never could have imagined how!

I'd been sleeping outside in the tent for almost a week when I started seeing the shadows on the outside of my tent. A person without instincts as sharp as mine would have just tried to logic them away. They would have tried to tell themselves that it was just the wind in the trees, the clouds rolling across the moon, or even daddy longlegs on the outside of the tent. The shadows would be anything other than what they really were: MONSTERS!

One night I woke up unexpectedly, and when I opened my eyes I was shocked to see a pair of perfectly round eyes peering down at me. They looked just like a deer's eyes do when your parents catch them in the headlights of their car. I let out a terrible scream, and so did the thing with the shimmering eyes. I sat up and looked around frantically, but it was gone. The only thing I could see was my mangy old teddy bear upside down on the floor. I picked him up and stroked the fur on his head miserably and waited for it to come back.

The monster didn't come back that night, but I was prepared for it the next night. I lay in the darkness, pretending to be asleep. I had removed my pillow from my pillowcase and was holding the case like a sack, waiting until I could get a chance to capture it and get some answers from it.

I watched the door of my tent through narrowed eyes. I knew I looked like I was asleep because I had used the same look on my mom many nights when she came into my room to check on me and see if I was actually asleep or reading under my sheet.

I couldn't tell you how long I waited there in the dark, as still as I could be, watching the shadows of little moths bouncing against the roof of the tent, desperate to escape and too confused to figure out how to do it. It was so long that I thought I might have fallen asleep and was just dreaming that I was still awake. Then I saw a particularly strange shadow creeping its way toward my tent door. It crept closer, slowly stretching its long, spindly fingers across the door.

Closer. . .

Closer . . .

The door of the tent fluttered slightly and I saw the zipper slowly slide down, more silently than I had ever been able to open it. A black shadow slipped into the tent, moving so slowly I thought I might be imagining it. It crept closer and closer to me.

Closer . . .

Closer . . .

Until it was standing directly over me. I couldn't tell what it looked like in the dark, but I could see that it had a remarkably large head and each of its ears was as big as its head. I resisted the urge to swallow or yelp or do anything as it leaned closer and closer to my face.

Closer . . .

Closer . . .

AND THEN I POUNCED!

I threw the pillowcase over its head and to my surprise and delight, the entire creature fit inside the bag. It let out a terrible howl, something like a baby crying and a dog howling at the moon all mixed together. It was terrible and it fought ferociously, kicking and screaming so loudly that I was sure I was going to drop the bag. I held onto it with all my might and resisted the urge to jump up and down and yell in happiness. Okay, I only managed to resist for about ten seconds before I started jumping up and down and cheering, but we can pretend that I was actually much more mature about the whole situation.

I ran around in the yard, yelling and laughing, the monster squealing miserably from inside the bag. Then I stopped. I had proof! All the times that my mom hadn't believed me when I said that there were monsters after me, I could prove that I wasn't imagining it and that it was all true! In my hands, I had the proof!

I stared at the bag in my hands with new respect and new pride. I had captured a monster. Kids had been trying to do that since the dawn of time, and I had been the first one to actually accomplish it.

I took off running for the house, the critter's yells becoming more frightened as the bag it was trapped in bounced wildly in my hands. Looking back, I really feel bad about that. I mean, I would think that it must have really felt very ill on its stomach by the time I was done running across the yard, up the stairs and into my mom's bedroom.

"MOM!" I shrieked.

My mom sat up in her bed sharply, her blond hair sticking straight up in the back. She blinked at me, clearing her head and rubbed her eyes, "Charlotte, what's wrong? Are you okay?"

I laughed in delight, "Yes! I'm better than okay! I finally caught one, Mom! You have to believe me now! I caught one!"

At that moment, the creature let out a high shrill wail and I held the kicking, squealing back out to her, glowing with the pride of my accomplishment.

Rather than seeing the expression of pride I'd hoped for, her face darkened in anger. "Charlotte, have you lost your mind? What poor animal do you have trapped in there! You go let it go right now! I thought I taught you better about how to treat animals!" She yelled.

"Mom, look its one of them, the monsters that have been after me – "

"Enough with the monsters! You are almost eleven years old and you are still obsessing about monsters in your closet! It's ridiculous! Go to bed, or to your tent and go to sleep! First, let that poor animal go, and if I ever catch you stuffing one in a bag again, there will be serious consequences, missy." She snapped.

I stared at her in open-mouthed shock. I finally had proof. I could prove to her beyond the shadow of a doubt that had been right all along, and she wouldn't look at my proof.

I turned and stormed out of the room. "Alright." I held the bag up in front of me, "If she won't believe me, you're going to talk to me."