3:43 by Paul K. Swardstrom
You know that moment? The one where you’re sleeping and you realize something is different … so you wake up and there’s a small face two inches away staring unblinkingly into your eyes? That’s how it began.
“Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad…” I heard Jake whisper in a barely audible tone as I started to come to my senses.
I turned my eyes to look at the clock.
“Go away,” I said to my offspring as gently and as loving as my sleep-deprived brain could handle. I turned my head.
“Dad!” he whispered more urgently as he pulled on my arm. “There’s a noise in the closet!”
“What closet, Bud?” I asked deliriously.
“Mine, Dad!” He replied a little too loudly.
“Shhh,” I urged him, putting a finger on little popsicle-stained lips.
I peeked over at Lucy, and… darn. She was either sleeping or faking convincingly. I couldn’t wake her now and it was obvious that it was up to me to do something about little Jake. Sighing quietly, I slipped out of bed, doing my best to sneak so that Lucy wouldn’t know that I was getting up.
Jake took my hand and led me blinking and stumbling to the door. I paused at the threshold of the door to get my balance and let my eyes adjust to the light in the hall.
The boy looked up at me, a very worried look on his face. “Come on,” he hissed, pulling impatiently.
I rubbed my eyes and let him lead me down the hall to his room. Once there, he stopped and stared up at me with those serious eyes.
“It’s in there, Dad. It’s in my closet,” he said, and I nodded sluggishly and reached for the doorknob.
“Dad!” Jake interrupted as he grabbed my wrist. “Maybe you should take this.” He handed me his Nerf gun, the automatic firing gun that shoots something like a billion Nerf pellets per second. In my sleepy stupor, I stared at it for a second. After a long moment it occurred to me that I should play along. I snapped myself out of my stupor and bent down to his level.
“All right, Jake,” I whispered conspiratorially. “I’ll clear the area. You stay out here.”
He nodded, very serious, but I could see a twinkle in his eye and the start of a smile. This was an important Dad moment. “Get ‘em, Dad,” the little guy said.
“You got it. You stay by your station.” I opened the door, entered the dark room and closed the door again. I was about to just fire off the gun at the floor a few times to satisfy the kid when I saw a light exuding from the closet along with a tinkling sound and some voices.
So there really was something to the kid’s nighttime paranoia after all. I figured that Lucy had probably left a CD player in the closet or something so I walked over to the door and opened it.
There, on the third shelf up, was a creature about nine inches tall. It was about the same size as Jake’s Superman action figure, but green colored, big ears, the whole bit. I guess it must have been an alien or some such thing. The light behind it emanated from a hole in the back of the closet leading to a room with many more of these creatures. I dunno how they made the hole, and at the time I really didn’t care. The green dude turned towards me as soon as I opened the closet door.
“Greetings, kind sir!” The thing announced. “We have come long and far to…”
“Do you know what time it is?” I asked it.
Some indecipherable look went across the green creature’s face and it started speaking again. “We have come so that we may…”
“I mean, you woke up my kid, and he doesn’t go back to sleep very well. I was up until midnight and we’re all going to be a mess tomorrow as a result of this.”
The creature paused and restarted. “We are so glad to meet you. We have come on an important… mmmph!”
I shot him.
“It is with great…” he started. I let several more pellets hit him and he stumbled backwards with each one. He was only nine inches tall. I doubt he weighed more than a few pounds.
He landed on all fours on the other side of the hole in the wall. The green guy opened his mouth one more time, only to get a Nerf pellet right in the kisser.
The hole disappeared, creature gone.
I went back to the hall door and brought Jake in. “Is it gone, Dad?” he asked nervously as I put him in bed.
“Yep!” I nodded, patting the Nerf gun with my best ‘Dad’ bravado. “He won’t come back anytime soon, kiddo. Nobody messes with your dad.” He smiled, reassured, and miracle of miracles closed his eyes.
Satisfied, I left and went back to bed, reassured that I had done my fatherly duty for this night. The monster in the closet was no more.
I was exhausted and bed was calling, but took a moment to consider what I’d done. Really the choice had been simple: a full night of sleep for a small child vs. the chance that I instigated an interstellar war.
I knew I made the right choice as my head hit the sack and Jake was fast asleep.
Besides, the little green dude sounded like a slickster car salesman. I can’t stand those guys.
“When I write I am looking to go on a journey. Sometimes it is a journey of discovery and sometimes it is an adventure. Whatever the journey I hope that it is a journey that the reader will want to travel with me.
I am a husband and a father, a music teacher by day and family man at night. I write when I can and am enjoying the ride.
A Sun Devil who grew up all over but remembers Michigan fondly, I have settled in Oregon.”