Cassie’s First Night

It’s been a long time since I last finished any of the short stories that I write. This short piece was written 8-years ago. For some reason, I was reminded about it just this evening.

It isn’t that I don’t have the story ideas, or that I don’t start writing them down: I have dozens of part written pieces just waiting for me to continue working on them, to complete them. it’s simply a case of never finishing the writing that I start these days. Perhaps it’s because I’m never really satisfied with what I’ve written. Perhaps I should make a more positive effort to complete some of my stories.

But in the meanwhile, here’s the short story that reminded me how much I should finish my writings, (inspired by a picture that crossed my timeline); and despite the title, it’s not pornographic or NSFW: if anything, it’s a bit too middle class and innocent.

Cassie’s First Night

Cassie had never spent a night away from home before – at least if you discounted holidays, because then her parents had still only ever been in the room next door – so her first night on her own at university made her feel a little nervous. It wasn’t a bad nervous, not like the time when she’d been afraid on her first day at primary school… she still remembered crying as her mother walked back to the car leaving her in the care of a teacher. No, it wasn’t nervousness like that, but it still seemed like she just couldn’t get to sleep.

Her college room was just so strange: the bed was softer than her own comfortable bed at home; the sheets seemed starched and rigid rather than her own soft duvet that she was used to; a tap dripped intermittently into the sink in the corner of the room; the night was too hot and humid; and the sounds through the window were different to the rustle of leaves in the trees that she was used to back home.

It was a hot night. Unable to get comfortable, she tossed and turned; and just as she managed to get comfortable and started to drift off some strange sound would bring her back to wakefulness. Her mind just wouldn’t stop thinking and her imagination seemed stuck in overdrive.

The streetlight outside cast shadows against the striped curtains, and a slight draft through the open window (it was just so hot and sticky that she’d left it ajar) brought those shadows to life. She started as a snake slithered and writhed against the drapes before dissolving into darkness; and flinched when a dragon flew across the sky, its wings flapping and fluttering, its slavering jaws dripping venom in time with the tap.

Tears welled in Cassie’s eyes and she bit back a scream of terror. “These were just nonsense”, she wanted to say; but a dark sensation of fear seemed to have overtaken her reason. She looked wildly around the room. There on the chair by the door, barely visible in the faint light that filtered through the curtains, was Barnaby. Barnaby had been her teddy bear for as long as she could remember. He’d been her mother’s, and before that her grandmothers. Nowadays he looked pretty threadbare: over the years that Cassie had owned him, his fur had grown patchy, and he’d lost an eye. It was pretty silly finding comfort in an old teddy bear, she wasn’t a child anymore: but there was always something comforting about Barnaby’s presence.

As she calmed again, the monstrous serpents and dragons on the curtain faded back into mere shadows. She began to think about the coming term with more excitement. Here at university, she was sure to meet new friends. She’s have her classmates dropping by to discuss 20th century America literature or politics over a mug of coffee, and of course there’d be boys. It wouldn’t do for them to see Barnaby, they’d think she was still a child. His presence had calmed her tonight, and she smiled to herself. Tomorrow… tomorrow she would put him away in the wardrobe, away from mocking eyes; but for tonight she focused on Barnaby, and the monsters faded, the tap stopped dripping, the night cooled, the sheets softened and she drifted into sleep.

It oozed out of the plughole, slavering and drooling as it pulled itself over the rim of the sink, seeping across the floor and hauling itself up onto the bed. The sleeping girl was completely oblivious to its presence. Perfect! It was a long time since it had feasted on such tender, innocent flesh. It reached out a tendril toward her as it anticipated the fear in her eyes when she awoke to find it feasting on her… the terror that added such spice to its meals.

A flying bundle of fur knocked it from its perch, sending it hurtling to the floor. Barnaby stood at the edge of the bed, glaring at the monster that flopped and sputtered on the ground below. Slithering about to look at it’s assailant, it threw out a tentacle at the bear, but Barnaby parried its attack and leaped down to the floor. Battle was joined: it oozed and flowed, and the bear gasped as a serrated tentacle caught him in the side, staggering him for a moment. But Barnaby was a wily warrior, a veteran at guarding children from monsters such as this, and he barely seemed to notice his wound as he attacked the creature with a series of punches and kicks that knocked chunks out of it. Gradually it fell apart beneath the fierce onslaught of the bear: soon nothing was left of the creature but a rapidly fading stain on the floor.

Cassie woke to the alarm, bright and ready and excited at the possibilities that her first day at university would bring. Today she’d meet all the other new students. The bright light of morning flowed through the thin curtains, illuminating the room; and she saw that Barnaby had fallen from his chair. She skipped out of bed and picked him up, noticing that a patch of stuffing was peeking through a tear in his stitching. Looking at him now, she knew that she wasn’t going to hide him away in a cupboard. She wasn’t embarrassed by his presence: having a teddy bear didn’t make her a child. She’d sew him up, perhaps even find a new button to replace his missing eye; and he would sit propped up against the pillows while she was in lectures. He’d be there as a reminder of her own foolish fears of the previous night: imaginary monsters indeed. And Barnaby just smiled knowingly to himself.

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