by Profe Steve
Splat. Splat. Splat.
Carlo held his breath as he waited for the next drip to splatter on the cold tile of his bedroom. He shivered and squeezed his eyes tight, afraid to look although his head was screaming at him to open them and see.
El Cucuy. It had to be El Cucuy, the monster that came in the night to steal little boys who were travieso, naughty. He would take them away and eat them. Mami always told him not to be naughty or he would be eaten in the night.
What was that smell? Sweetish. Like syrup... or… or blood? Could it be blood spattering in the floor? Carlo shivered. He slowly peeked one eye open a crack. It was no use. The room was too dark. He couldn’t see anything, and whimpered as he imagined the dreaded monster out there in the dark, slowly getting closer and closer.
Carlo could almost feel hot breath as the sound of slow, steady respiration filled the room, drowning out the pounding drums of his own heartbeat. Was it getting closer? Did El Cucuy even breathe? Of course he breathed. Everything had to breathe, right?
The last drip fell on the bed. Was El Cucuy eating a dead corpse right here in his room? Carlo eased the covers up over his eyes, hoping desperately that El Cucuy couldn’t see in the dark? Could he? Carlo didn’t know. He couldn’t remember what Mami had told him.
A sudden thought froze Carlo to the core of his being. Was it Mano who was bleeding on his floor? Was it his big brother? Had El Cucuy killed his brother and was eating him right here in the room?
A sudden thought froze Carlo to the core of his being. Was it Mano who was bleeding on his floor? Was it his big brother? Had El Cucuy killed his brother and was eating him right here in the room? Splat.
The drop landed in his hair and Carlo bolted up out of the bed, practically levitating. His screams pierced the darkness as he tumbled to the floor on the opposite side of the bed, painfully skinning his knees on the tile.
He tried to scoot under the bed, giggling with fear and the realization that he had filled that entire space with boxes of toy soldiers, baseball cards, and assorted other treasures so El Cucuy would not have a place to hide. Now his brilliant idea was going to get him eaten alive.
Was that a soft laugh in the dark? Mami didn’t ever say that the monster liked to laugh at little boys before he ate them. Whimpering in pain and fear, Carlo curled into a ball and clutched his hands to his head. A finger touched the smear on his face where the latest drip had landed.
It was cold. Wait, what? Cold? Wasn’t fresh blood supposed to be hot? Or at least warm? The drip was sticky like blood, but it wasn’t the least bit warm. Puzzled, Carlo stuck his finger in his mouth. Sweet! Cold and sweet. What??
Footsteps echoed in the dark, circling the bed. Carlo could hear fingernails scraping across the ancient wall paper and imagined filthy, bloody talons that would soon reach for him. He screamed.
Just as Carlo screamed, the light clicked on and laughter filled the room. Carlo looked up, puzzled, his eyes trying to focus in the sudden light. A dark shape loomed above him, silhouetted by the glowing bulb overhead. The figure hissed and snorted derisively, sending chills down Carlo’s spine and eliciting another scream.
Another drip hit his face. “Carlo,” Mano laughed, “if you don’t wake up soon, I’m going to eat this ice cream cone myself. That must have been a really vivid dream you were having!”
Carlo looked around for a second, his sleep-befogged brain trying to get up to speed. He saw his school books still scattered over the bed and understood that he had fallen asleep doing homework again. Face crimson, he reached for the cone in Mano’s hand as he smiled crookedly, relieved that he would live another night