The Tickle Monster

Posted: February 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

Good Evening.

Modern technology is a wonderful thing. I write most of my stories on a laptop or a computer, and in seconds I can send those stories off to various publications just as easily as I can post them here to share with you. Video phones were a bit of science fiction fifteen years ago, now everyone carries at least one device with vid-chat capabilities with them everywhere they go.

Technology has shrunken this world, and brought us closer in ways only imaginable in the wildest fiction of years past.

The question, my dearest readers, is… is this always a good thing? As we plumb the depths of human imagination and possibility, is the path before us always well lit? Or are there shadows, dark corners in which evil, gruesome things wait patiently.

Take the following story. It is a short story, not written specifically for character development, or to instill that nice slow burn of terror that I happen to be a fan of. No, file this one away adjacent to stranger-than-fiction, because unlike many of the ghouls and ghosts that decorate these figurative digs here, this is a story that could happen to just about anyone here.

Happy haunting!

The Tickle Monster

Cassandra spilled through the hotel room door, her purse and carry-on bag tumbling onto the ground as she wheeled her suitcase off to the side and let it drop with a thud. Unburdened, she sighed and leaned against the wall as the door swung shut behind her.

After spending all day traveling, enduring the cramped airline seats, running from one airport gate to another, and cramming down plastic wrapped sandwiches when she could, Cassandra was exhausted. She desperately needed a shower, and nothing seemed nearly as luxurious as slipping between the crisp white sheets of the hotel bed.

What she needed more than anything, though, was to see her boys.

Cassandra didn’t like leaving her two sons at home alone, especially when she was traveling across country for work. But, as a single mom, her salary allowed her to give the boys a better life than she could have ever imagined. Besides, her teenager, Carl, had proven to be more than responsible enough to watch over Simon.

Still, while Cassandra knew her boys to be safe, she missed them terribly.

Sloughing off her shoes with her toes, Cassandra plodded over to the bed, stacked the pillows one on top of another, and pulled her tablet out of her carry-on. Her fingers glided across the touch screen and icons slid smoothly back and forth. Underneath them, there was the picture of the three of them at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, all of them smiling while behind them the Loch Ness Monster roller coaster—a green serpentine monster of metal—loomed above.

She found the Facetime icon and tapped at it. In a few seconds the tablet was emitting a steady beeping sound before the screen came to life.

At first it showed only a ceiling fan. Somewhere off screen she could hear a muffled high pitched giggle.

“Simon?” she said.

The giggle intensified as the image of the fan shook.

“Simon,” Cassandra repeated, this time with a hint of her ‘mom’ voice coming through.

The giggle grew into a full laugh, and Cassandra could see the black hints of Simon’s close cropped hair at the bottom of the video.

“Simon, baby. Come on, mommy wants to see your face,” Cassandra pleaded.

The image on the tablet blurred into chaos for a moment, the speakers popping and grumbling with movement until Cassandra was staring at her seven-year-old’s face. He was sideways, as though laying on his side, and his gap-toothed mouth was spread into a wide smile. His eyes were gleeful dark crescent moons. “Hi mommy!” he chortled.

“Hi baby, how are you?” Cassandra said. Her son’s face made her feel light and warm and happy.

“I’m—“ Simon began before erupting into laughter.

“What’s so funny, baby?” Cassandra asked.

In response, Simon laughed even harder, apparently rolling onto his back and rocking side to side. Cassandra watched as Simon looked off screen and through his giggles hissed, “S-s-stop it!”

The young boy’s laughter contagious, Cassandra started to chuckle a little herself.

“Honey, what’s going on?” Cassandra asked.

Simon’s laughter subsiding, he said, “Nothing mom. How are you?”

“I’m tired, sweetheart,” Cassandra admitted. “Mommy’s had a really long day. But I’m so happy to see—“

Simon erupted into a new fit of wild, squealing, laughter. “Stop t-t-t-tickling me!” Simon yelped between guffaws.

“Who’s tickling you baby?” Cassandra asked.

But Simon didn’t answer. By now he wasn’t even looking at the screen, but instead at the off screen tickler.

“Is Carl tickling you?” Cassandra pressed.

“Stop stop stop!” Simon begged as the laughter continued.

Behind him, Cassandra could see the wall. She could make out the shadow of her son quaking with mirth, and hovering over him was a shadow.

“Tell Carl to stop, honey. Mommy wants to talk to you guys.”

“I c-c-c-can’t!” Simon laughed.

It was cute, Cassandra decided, but it had gone on long enough. She plucked the cell phone from her pocket, and dialed Carl’s phone. The whole time she watched as her younger son turned red from laughing.

On the third ring Carl picked up the phone.

“Hey mom, how was your flight?” he asked.

The smile died on Cassandra’s face. In front of her, Simon was laughing harder than ever, the shadow on the wall tickling him mercilessly. But Carl… she didn’t hear any of Simon’s laughter through the phone, nor did it sound like Carl was in the middle of a massive tickle session.

“It was fine, honey,” she answered. “Hey… are you… who is tickling Simon?”

“No,” Carl said. “Simon’s in his room.”

“Do you have a friend over?”

“No. You said no friends, remember?”

Cassandra frowned. On screen, Simon had turned to stare at her through his crescent moon shaped eyes, the laughter now having gone on so long it had become silent. He was still shaking. The shadow was still there.

“Carl!” Cassandra snapped. “Who is over there right now? They’re tickling your brother. I’m watching it on Facetime!”

Carl’s voice came over on the phone, small and quiet. “Mom. There’s no one here but us.”

On the tablet screen, there was a blurred image of a hand, one much larger than either Simon’s or Carl’s, and then the screen went blank.

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