Elizabeth believes that monsters are under her bed. Obviously she's crazy, right?
Monsters Under Her Bed
Dr. Miles and Andrews stood at the foot of the large bed looking at the sedated body of a young woman. Their heads were close as they discussed the detailed notes on the chart, whispering in hushed tones.
“Well, what do you think of her condition, Andrews?”
“You’re asking my opinion? I mean after all, I’m just an on-call resident, Dr. Miles. I would think you’d be asking that question of your peers, not someone like me.”
“Oh I’ve talked to all them of course, we’ve discussed her condition at length. I wanted to know what a resident psychiatrist thought about this case. I know you were away from the hospital for a while, serving with the National Guard, but I think that uniquely qualifies you to offer an opinion on her case.”
“Why would my service uniquely qualify me to offer an opinion on her?”
“I’ve reviewed your record in detail Andrews. Your work with soldiers suffering from PTSD, the success you had with them is very impressive. I believe that same kind of approach can help Elizabeth here.”
“Before I could offer an opinion doctor, I’d have to talk to her at length for myself. I’ve not yet read all the reports and transcripts, and would like to do that before I offered you my opinion on it. However, I am very curious as to why she has a king size bed here in a Psych ward.”
“Ahh, that’s part of the overall picture. Tell me, have you had coffee this morning Andrews? I’d like to talk about this, just to see if maybe I’m missing something I shouldn’t be.”
“Coffee always sounds good early. I’ve got time if you do.”
Dr. Miles grabbed his notebook as the two of them walked to the cafeteria. As they walked, they conversed in low tones about general topics. Andrews was curious as to why the Doctor was seeking his opinion about this case. He’d heard all the gossip concerning Elizabeth, a woman who believed that monsters lived under her bed. The rest of the story about her condition was convoluted, and downright strange. Like everyone else, he wanted to know more about the ‘Monster Case’ as some had come to call it.
Reaching the cafeteria, Dr. Miles chose a secluded corner for them to relax in while they discussed the case. Settling in with their coffees, he looked at Andrews and said, “Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?”
“Okay. Here’s the complete history for this case. Elizabeth was admitted to the Psychiatric ward two months ago. Her neighbor had heard her screaming every night for weeks before that. He tried to ask her what was wrong, but she always told him everything was fine. She was finally admitted to the hospital after being found unconscious on her bed. The initial diagnosis was exhaustion, but there was far more to it than that.”
“Now that’s a bit strange, her being admitted simply for exhaustion. Surely there was something else going on.”
“Well, the initial tests and interviews revealed she had slept little in the last three weeks, and..”
“Three weeks? I apologize for interrupting, but Dr. Miles, that’s absurd!”
“The ER doctors thought so too, and figured a good night’s rest would do her a lot of good, so she was admitted simply for that.”
“I can understand their concern there, but wasn’t anyone available at home to take care of her?”
“No, she has no relatives nearby, her husband was killed in action in Afghanistan, and of course never had children. She’s as alone in this city as anyone can be.
“I see. I still find this a little strange.”
“Most definitely, we all did. The paramedics who went to her house said that the house was spotless, almost sterile. After tests revealed a perfectly healthy woman, they were going to release her. But when she was informed of her upcoming release, she became hysterical. Apparently she clung to her bed, refusing to let the doctors release her from the hospital. All along, she screamed that she couldn’t go home, that the monsters under her bed would kill her.”
“Monsters under her bed?”
“Yes. Her ranting became so bad that the doctors feared she would end up hurting herself, and transferred her to the Psych ward. She was placed under 24 hour surveillance by the staff because of her lack of Psychiatric history, and the events that led to her being transferred to this ward.”
“Now there’s something a little odd. She’s just been admitted to get some rest, but was transferred to the Psych ward? I know we don’t normally do that, except in extreme cases. I’m assuming her case is that extreme.”
“Well, at first glance you wouldn’t think so. But the way she was screaming about the monsters under her bed convinced the doctors that she was not in her right mind. Remember, these doctors aren’t trained like you and I, and couldn’t ask the questions we would. But, you sit with her for a little bit, and you’ll see what I’m saying. Let me give you the low down on Elizabeth, then you can talk to her at your leisure. When you’re finished though, I’d like to see your evaluation of her, how’s that?”
“That’s good, so tell me about her.”
Dr. Miles sat back, looking up at the ceiling as he related the story. “In our questioning of Elizabeth, we found that she has a phobia. Of course she has the childish belief that monsters live under her bed. She calls them, the “Demons of Unusual Size and Tenacity.”
“You heard me, Demons of Unusual Size and Tenacity.”
“So she’s afraid of demons under her bed then.”
“No, you’re missing the point. Look at the Demons of Unusual Size and Tenacity as an acronym.”
Andrews gazed off in the distance as he mulled this last statement. Suddenly his eyes lit as he realized what Miles was saying. “You mean she’s afraid of dust?”
“I didn’t say that. I said she’s afraid of Demons of Unusual Size and Tenacity.”
“But the acronym is dust!”
“You and I know that, she knows that. But to her it’s demons.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will. Spend a few minutes, or an hour with her. Talk to her, you’ll see what I mean. I have to look at other things here, and finish my rounds. Let’s meet tomorrow for lunch. You can tell me then what you think.”
“That’s fine, but man, dust?” Shaking his head, Andrews got up and walked down the corridor. Once he reached the psychiatric ward he stopped and reviewed the meticulous notes on Elizabeth’s clipboard that had been penned by one of the nurses. In it, he saw that she had slept well the night before, but like always, she had remained in the center of the large bed, despite tossing and turning during the night. The morning nurse had cleaned the room as required by the written instructions, but Elizabeth had been observed wiping and cleaning surfaces herself. Apparently this was her habit, her way of ensuring no dust would be in her room. Deciding he had to get started, Andrews entered the room.
“Good morning Elizabeth, I’m Dr. Andrews. I’m a resident here, and am now assigned to your care.”
“Another doctor huh. What’s the matter, my last doctor couldn’t crack me, so they send in someone new?”
“No Ma’am, not at all. I’ve been away on duty, but now that I’m back I have to get back in the swing of things; you’re just one of the patients I’ll be caring for.”
“Well, I think Dr. Miles just gave up. Couldn’t cure me, couldn’t see what I see, so he gave up and sent someone else. I hope you’re more open minded than he was, and can keep the monsters away at night.”
“That’s what we’re going to do Elizabeth. Tell me all about your monsters. I need to know and understand them in order to help you. So tell me about them.”
“They aren’t monsters, I’m sure Dr. Miles told you that. They’re demons. They’re under everyone’s bed, waiting, just waiting for their chance.”
“Are they under your bed now waiting for their chance?”
“Oh no, I’m too smart for that. I know their secret, I know how to keep them harmless.”
“Well if that’s the case, why don’t you tell me so we can make sure everyone else is safe too.”
“Don’t be condescending with me Doctor. I know what you are thinking.”
“Yes. You look at me and see just another crazy person, someone who’s lost their mind. But I know I’m not crazy. I know what I’ve seen.”
“Tell me what you’ve seen then.” Dr. Andrews didn’t remember seeing any notes about Elizabeth seeing something. Her voice became low, a monotone lilt to it as she spoke. Andrews found himself leaning forward to hear what she said.
“My mother thought I was crazy, told me that on several occasions. But I’d seen the demons when they were helpless, and saw how to keep them at bay.”
“Helpless? When are the demons helpless?”
“During the day silly. I’m not sure why or how, but they cannot endure sunlight. Exposed to sunlight, they are either paralyzed, or stunned. I don’t know which, but I’m safe during the day. But at night, that’s another story.” Now her voice took on a tremble, her lower lip quivering during pauses in her speech; her eyes wide, vacantly looking at unseen objects in the room.
“So how do you keep them at bay?”
“By keeping my room clean, isn’t it obvious? I dust under my bed every night, and every morning. I know you doctors think my demons are just dust. So, I clean them out in the morning when they are helpless, and at night before going to bed. I also sleep in the middle of the bed, never allowing my arms or any part of me to dangle over the edge.”
“Why? You’ve cleaned them out, aren’t you safe? For that matter, couldn’t you just leave a light on in your room?”
“You really don’t have a clue, do you doctor? I said daylight makes them harmless, not man-made light. I’ve left a light on, and it didn’t work.”
“What happened when you left a light on?”
“Nothing, so far. I had the light on one night, and saw them forming at the edge of the bed. Scared the bejesus out of me. That’s why I took to sleeping in the middle of the bed. So no, I can’t ‘just leave a light on’ as you put it.”
“So tell me more about these demons. How do they coalesce into one entity at night then?”
“I don’t know! All I know and feel, is that cleaning under my bed makes me safe. But the demons can recreate quickly. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of it as ‘just dust’. I know dust is harmless. But at night, it seems to become one entity. It’s still like dust in a way, but even the little that can accumulate over a few hours can be deadly, given the chance. If you leave your arm, or any part of your body dangling over the edge of the bed where it can be grabbed, you’ll be taken.”
“What do you mean by 'taken'?”
“Like I said, the demons become one entity given the chance. But it’s not strong enough to raise itself very high. But even a small amount of them combined together can rise 6-8 inches off the floor, far enough to grab a wayward hand or body part. I know, I’ve seen it happen.”
“What exactly have you seen?”
“I had a dog, had taught him to sleep with me in the bed. But of course, I couldn’t teach him about the demons. Even so, he was fine sleeping with me. But one night something woke him, and he jumped off the bed to check the house. I called him as quietly as I could, trying not to be too loud. I think the demons heard me though, and were waiting.”
Dr. Andrews tried to maintain his professional composure as she spoke, but found himself mesmerized by her story. Realizing Elizabeth has stopped talking, he looked around quickly and asked, “What happened?”
“My dog finally came running back into the room, and jumped on the bed. But as he jumped, it seemed as if his back legs were grabbed. He yelped once, then whimpered as if in pain. That was all I heard. The next morning, there was no sign he had ever been in my house at all. No blood, no body parts, nothing. He was just gone.”
“You didn’t look over the side of the bed to check on your dog?”
“No! What, do you think I am, crazy? I loved that dog and miss him to this day! But there was no way I was going to look over the side of the bed. I would have been next to be taken.”
Andrews had to stifle a smile that came to his face on hearing that. He thought he saw a flaw in her story, one he could use to help her realize how silly her idea of monsters was. Looking Elizabeth in the eyes, he said, “If the demons are dust, then why aren’t other people killed by them? If I went by your accounts, there should be people disappearing every night. But I’ve not seen any news about that.”
Elizabeth looked at him for a moment, then softly said, “Only believers can be attacked by the demons. Only those who believe that monsters are under their bed are at danger. If you don’t believe, you aren’t in danger. But, how many times have you heard about someone disappearing without a trace. How many times have you heard of someone supposedly at home, yet not there the next morning, seemingly having disappeared into thin air. I bet that’s the work of the demons.”
Dr. Andrews looked at her, and realized that it would take far more than a few hours of counseling to show her the folly of her thoughts. Looking at his watch, he was surprised to see that over an hour had passed since he’d walked in her room. He quickly excused himself as he began the rest of his rounds. But throughout the day, he couldn’t forget the story about her dog, nor could he forget that part about ‘only believers were in danger’.
The rest of the day was uneventful for Doctor Andrews, he even managed to spend some time writing notes for his meeting with Miles the next morning. Arriving home, he kissed his wife softly and asked how her day was.
“Just a typical day. Went to the mall, walked in the park, so nothing special. How was yours?”
“Well, it was different, quite different.”
“Oh? How so?”
“Well, I was assigned my first patient, and spent some time talking to her.”
“What? You’ve been back less than a week, and they’ve already assigned you to patients?”
“Well, apparently my experience in Afghanistan caught their eye. They feel that my work with PTSD patients will really help me in working with Elizabeth. She has this weird idea about things, I have to get my mind around it better before telling you more about it, or I’ll end up screwing things up and you’ll never understand then.”
“She must be quite a mystery if you don’t want to talk about her, honey.”
“Well Beth, in short, she believes there are monsters under her bed. But it’s how she feels they are dangerous that makes it all the more strange. Let me look over her case notes for a bit tonight, maybe I can talk to you about it in bed then.”
“That’s fine, Scott. Dinner’s about ready, so get freshened up while I set the table for us.”
The rest of the evening was a relaxing one for Scott. He spent some time talking with his wife before retiring to the den to review the case. By 10pm he felt he had a handle on things, and knew how he would approach it in the morning. Going to the bedroom, he found Beth lying under the sheets watching TV.
“Okay, here’s the scoop.” Scott then went into a short narrative about Elizabeth’s case, and how he planned to approach it in the morning.
When he finished, his wife said, “But honey, I rarely dust under our bed, I’d hate to look under it, afraid of the amount of dust I’d see. Besides, I’m not sure I ever completely outgrew that childhood fear of monsters under the bed.”
“Well here, I’ll look. Can’t be that bad.”
As he finished saying that, Scott bent over and looked under the bed. He saw quite a bit of dust and was about to chide his wife about it when he felt a slight brush as something soft moved across his cheek. A chill swept over him as he thought once again about monsters under the bed. Suddenly, he was viciously pulled to the floor. It felt like a Boa Constrictor was enveloping him, crushing him. All he could see was dust enveloping him in a cocoon. He never had a chance to scream or fight back, his arms pinned to his sides by sinuous ribbons of the fine stuff, his throat clamped in a vise like grip. His last thought was of Demons of Unusual Size and Tenacity.
Beth saw Scott yanked off the bed and started screaming insanely loud. Her words were inaudible, hands held to her mouth, eyes as wide as saucers. She started to blubber through her tears, calling for Scott in a soft, wavering voice.
Suddenly she heard voices nearby, and looked around wildly.
“Shhhhh, it’s okay Mrs. Andrews. We’re here, you are safe.”
“No I’m not! I was lying here with Scott. He decided to look under the bed, and disappeared. You’ve got to help him!” Once again her voice rose to a shrill shriek, her last words undistinguishable again.
“Shhhh, calm down Mrs. Andrews, Scott’s dead, remember? He was killed in Afghanistan 8 months ago.”
Elizabeth felt a small poke as one of the nurses injected a sedative in her arm. Slowly the world dissolved around her, and she fell silent.
The nurses watched her carefully, concern etched on their faces.
Sharon was new on the ward, and asked what had happened.
“Elizabeth’s husband was killed in Afghanistan 8 months ago. After he was brought back here, he was cremated per his Will. Elizabeth had a hard time when he died, she was 4 months pregnant at the time, but lost the baby due to stress. When she got home after that, she was angry at the world. That night she had a little too much to drink, and accidentally dropped the urn with her husband’s ashes on the floor. Most of the ashes spilled under her bed when it broke, and somehow she’s equated his death, his spilled ashes being under the bed as monsters who will take her away in the night. The doctors have yet to figure out how to fight this paranoia, and once in a while she has these panic attacks. I fear for her, fear what would happen if we weren’t here.”
“Monsters under her bed. I believed in that as a child, but not anymore. I wonder what goes through her mind when she has these attacks? For that matter, what’s going through her mind now?”
Elizabeth lay there silently, her hair now astray, eyes unfocused. Slowly a smile came to her face, as once again in her mind, a young doctor named Dr. Scott Andrews came to talk to her, trying to cure her.