My name is Ik'zo, and I am the leader of the Terror Council.
In case you were wondering, the Terror Council is the agency that controls all of the monsters you humans are so scared of.
We keep track of hauntings, monsters in the closet, mutants, even Bigfoot!
But this particular story is about a monster under the bed.
Now, this wasn't my first choice of job. I'm a sphinx, so I prefer the outdoors, but nobody else in the entire Council would take the job! It was utterly ridiculous.
My client was a seven-year-old boy by the name of Felix Bonte, in Wisconsin. Usually, this would be an easy case. But Felix Bonte refused to be scared.
Two gremlins, two harpies, a vampire, and a ghoul had already quit his case because he hadn't been scared at all!
So of course, they turned to me.
Not that it doesn't make sense. I'm the head of the agency, and even though I'm not always considered a "scary" monster, I've got some pretty sharp claws and a few tricks up my sleeve.
It was my first night, and I'd figured I'd just go after Felix with the basic sphinx routine.
After all, he was only seven, and there was no way he was actually as brave as the others said he was. That ghoul was a total amateur, and the gremlins weren't much better. They must have just made mistakes.
So I crawled through the portal and hid under his bed, waiting for his parents to leave.
After they had closed the door, Felix leaned off the bed and stared under it - right at me.
"Who did they send at me tonight?" he asked. "What are you even supposed to be?"
I stared back at him, offended. "I am a sphinx," I told him haughtily. "And I lead all of the monsters."
I couldn't believe it when he laughed. Hissing, I swung at his face.
I wouldn't have actually hurt him, obviously, because that would be breaking the codes of conduct, but maybe I could scare some sense into him!
He hardly even blinked.
"Oh, sorry, was that supposed to scare me?" he asked. I couldn't tell if he was joking or not, but I was furious.
So I did something no one, not even me, was allowed to do. Ever.
I grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him off the bed. He cried out in shock, and maybe a bit of pain. He hadn't exactly hit the floor gently.
Then I brought my claws to his throat. "Listen to me, you little brat," I growled, my fangs bared.
"I sent you other monsters, and they didn't scare you, huh? Well, I'm the real deal, and I will hurt you if I have to."
He made a strangled sound. I figured it was from fear, and I smiled. I, if no one else, could do my job.
Then I realized he was laughing again.
"Do you realize how ridiculous you sound?" he giggled. "I've faced scarier than you."
"I am the scariest!!" I roared. "Whichever monster it was that scared you? I'M THEIR BOSS!"
Felix stared at me. "It wasn't a monster that scared me," he said incredulously. "I'm not scared of monsters." I stared back at him. "Not scared of monsters? Then what could scare you?"
He glanced to the side. "I don't want to talk about it."
I softened. "You can tell me." (Of course, I was only pretending, obviously. I didn't want to get kicked off the council! I'd never befriend a human!)
"I'm glad you're here," he said softly. I was shocked. He couldn't be serious!
"Because I'm afraid of..." he said, his voice dropping so that I could barely hear it.
"I'm afraid of being alone."
I stared at him as realization dawned. That changed everything.
That meant the only way to scare him was to not send monsters!
But... what if it didn't work? I'd have to personally be sure he was scared, but I couldn't do that without coming to him.
If I stayed out of sight and he didn't know I was there, it could work, but it might not. I'd just have to see.
He saw me scheming. "You can send whatever monsters you like, but none of them will scare me. What do you get from scaring people anyway?" he exclaimed, jarring me from my thoughts.
"What do I get?" I asked incredulously. "I get life. I only live as long as you humans remember me. It's a stupid system, but it's how it works. And we teach kids, too."
He frowned. "You're not teaching us anything, you're just scaring us. And it's mean."
"It's not mean!" I said indignantly. "We teach kids that there are some things you should be afraid of. But we also teach them to face their fears."
He seemed to understand. "Can you come back tomorrow? I want to know more about the agency, but it's late."
I nodded. Not because I was befriending him or anything, obviously. It's just that it was the perfect setup that would terrify him when I didn't show up.
The next night, I watched through the portal as his parents left the room.
As soon as the door closed, I crept into a shadowy corner, where he wouldn't be able to see me, and closed the portal behind me. Just in time, too.
He swung down and looked under the bed.
"Agency sphinx? Are you there?" he called, unable to see me where I was hiding. I almost gave myself away to tell him my name, but I thought better of it.
If he knew I was there, he wouldn't be scared.
He was quiet for a moment.
Then he started crying.
It was very quiet, but quite distinct. I listened, trying to tell if he was faking, but it sounded entirely genuine. He was actually crying.
And it was my fault.
I was supposed to scare him, but he was crying! He'd already made himself my favorite, though I'd never tell him, and now he was crying because of me! Really, I had no choice.
So I climbed out from under the bed. "Don't worry," I said softly. "I'm here."
He didn't stop crying, but it did get better.
After a minute or two, he said, "I thought you were supposed to scare me, but you came so I wouldn't be scared." I nodded.
"But I'm breaking the rules," I told him in a whisper. "So don't tell anyone."
He looked at me and laughed. "Oh, yes. I'm going to tell all my friends that the sphinx from under my bed broke the rules to come and calm me down when I was crying," he said, clearly thinking this was a ridiculous notion.
"That wouldn't make people think I'm crazy at all."
"Well, I'm sorry," I said, slightly offended. "I don't know what kids talk about these days. I don't usually, you know, talk to them."
He smiled. "But I'm special, aren't I? Otherwise you wouldn't talk to me!"
I smiled back at him. "Sure, kid. You're special."
That was four years ago. Felix Bonte is now the only human on the Terror Council, with the title of Human Ambassador. Since he joined us, he's flourished, and he's essentially fearless.
It took some convincing, but now he and I are equal in rank.
And he is, without question, my best friend.