‘Conversation With a Teddy Bear’ by guest author John Taylor

Guest Poet John Taylor; Photo credit Chris Daw

My name is David. I am six years old. I like football and support Manchester United. I go to Highfield Junior School, and there is something in my closet.

It has been there for a week. It sleeps during the day, and turns invisible so nobody can see it. It also turns invisible when someone turns the lights on, like when I can hear it scratching around in there and shout for Mum to get rid of it.

‘There’s nothing in there, David,’ she always says, and opens the closet door to show me. But Whatever-It-Is is fast, and always manages to hide before she can get the door open.

I know it is in there though, because sometimes my things go missing, like when I was looking for my Action Man when Paul came round to play last Saturday and couldn’t find it, even though I knew I’d put it in there the day before.

I figure if I keep the closet door closed it can’t get out. I think it’s scared of the light too, which is why the scratching stops if I turn the bedside lamp on. Mum always switches the lamp off when she comes in to check on me, but I only pretend to be asleep, and turn it on again as soon as she closes the bedroom door.

I tried to talk to her about it when it first started. She said I was being silly, that I should stop being a scaredy-cat, but I’m not. I climbed the old tree in the garden when Paul wouldn’t, and I didn’t even cry when I cut my knee trying to get down again. I got told off for that.

It was Thursday night. There was a storm outside. I like storms. I like playing the game where you count the spaces between the lightning flashes. Storms are cool. Mum doesn’t like them though. She gets frightened of them and unplugs the TV and the phone and anything that’s electric. She says it’s just in case. She unplugged my lamp when she checked on me earlier, but I stuck my hand down the back of the bed and plugged it in again, even though I could hear Whatever-It-Is is waking up in the closet.

The lightning flashed again outside. Then the lamp went out.

I tried to turn it back on but it wouldn’t work. Mum said that sometimes, in a storm, electrical things stop working.

There was a noise in the closet like something soft falling off one of the shelves. I knew that if I opened the door I would find that one of my football shirts would be in a heap at the bottom.

Then there was a thump. That would be Action Man.

The lights had gone off and It was waking up.

Now I was really scared. I wanted Mum. I tried to call for her, but my voice wouldn’t work. I grabbed my Emergency Torch from the bedside table, turned it on and hid under the covers. I hoped there would be enough light from the torch.

 

‘What’s up, Davey?’

‘Wh-who are you?’ I stuttered.

‘Doh! It’s me, White Ted. Who did you think it was? The Bogeyman, or something?’

White Ted was my favourite bear. I often talked to him, especially since Dad had gone away. But he had never talked to me before. Not like this.

There was a flash of lightning that lit up the room. I moved the torch. White Ted was lying next to me under the covers. I looked at him.

‘Did you just say something?’

There was a pause. ‘Yep.’

‘But your lips didn’t move.’

Another pause. ‘Well, they wouldn’t. I don’t have lips, Davey. My mouth is sewn on, and it’s a bit difficult to move. See?’

White Ted lay there, unmoving. ‘Yeah. I guess so,’ I said. ‘Why haven’t you talked before?’

‘I’ve never had anything to say.’ That made sense.

‘So, what’s up, Davey, my little buddy?’

I wasn’t scared that White Ted was talking to me. He was my friend. I was scared by the scratching coming from the cupboard at the foot of my bed.

‘There’s a monster in my closet,’ I whispered.

‘Really?’ White Ted whispered back. ‘What kind of monster?’

I thought for a moment. ‘I don’t know. I haven’t seen it.’

White Ted lay still. ‘Then how do you know it’s there?’

I thought for a moment. ‘I know it’s there. I can hear it scratching.’

White Ted was quiet. I started to say something.

‘Shh. I’m listening,’ he said. ‘Nope. Can’t hear anything. You sure it’s in there?’

‘I’m sure.’

‘You sure it’s there, in the closet? You sure it hasn’t … got out?

I shook my head. ‘I don’t think it can get out if the door is shut.’

‘Well, as long as you’ve shut the door then it won’t get out. Ipso facto. Nothing to worry about.’

I nodded beneath the covers. ‘You did shut the door, didn’t you, Davey?’

I had shut it. I was sure I had. I always made sure. But … what if I hadn’t closed it properly? What if I’d left it open just a tiny crack? Was that enough for it to get out?

‘You okay, Davey? Just that you’re making a funny noise.’

I was frightened. Very frightened. Plus, I needed the bathroom. ‘I really need a wee,’ I said.

White Ted sighed. ‘When you gotta go, you gotta go. Just don’t do it here. Mum’ll be pissed off and there’s two of us gotta sleep in this bed!’

That made me laugh.

‘What?’ he said.

‘You said a naughty word!’

‘Oh. Yeah. Well, it’s an emergency situation, so I guess it’s allowed.’

I giggled, but that only made me want to wee more.

‘Tell you what. You go to the bathroom. Sit me on the pillow and I’ll keep a lookout. If anything happens, I’ll yell so you know not to come back in. That sound okay?’

I thought for a moment. I was busting to go now. ‘Okay,’ I agreed.

‘Good. We’re pals, Davey. We’re in this together. Make it quick, and it’ll be okay. And Davey?’

‘Yes?’

‘Make sure the closet door is fully closed on your way back.’

‘Okay.’

I very carefully pulled the covers down over my eyes. I was sweating. I pointed my torch around the room. Nothing. The scratching had stopped.

I slowly slid my legs out of the bed until my feet touched the floor. I grabbed White Ted and threw him onto the pillow as I ran for the bedroom door.

I felt better after using the bathroom, and crept back to my room. I could hear Mum snoring from her bedroom. It was no use trying to wake her up. She had been taking her medicine since Dad left, and that always made her sleep heavily.

I shone the torch into the room. First, the bed. White Ted was lying where I had left him. Then I pointed it at the closet. I had to make sure it was closed.

My mouth was dry and I could feel myself shaking as I walked towards it. I reached out my hand. One step closer. Two steps. I was nearly touching the closet door. One more step would do it.

I held the torch in front of me, hoping that there would be enough light to stop Whatever-It-Is, if it came to that. I pushed hard. There was a click as the door shut properly.

I leapt onto the bed and pulled the covers over my head, terrified. The door had been open! Just a tiny crack…was that enough?

 

My heart was racing.

‘Did you see anything, White Ted?’

‘Well, I might have done if you weren’t in such a hurry that you left me face down on the pillow.’

‘Did you hear anything?’

‘Me? No. All stuffing and fur, Davey. Ears aren’t much use to a stuffed bear. Shouldn’t really be talking, but that’s another matter. Still, as long as the closet door was closed we’ve got nothing to worry about, right?’

I didn’t say anything.

‘Davey? It was closed, wasn’t it?’

I couldn’t speak.

It was then that the torch stopped working. I shook it hard and it rattled. I flicked the switch up and down, but nothing happened.

‘Davey? You okay? Please tell me the door was closed.’

I was shaking now, and felt sick. ‘The torch has stopped. I can’t get it to work!’

‘Davey! Get a grip. Was it closed?’

I took a deep breath.

‘No.’

I thought I heard a scratch from beneath the bed.

‘Now you’re making me scared too, Davey. Can I cuddle up with you? We’ll look after each other.’

‘Sure’, I said. I picked White Ted up and gave him a big hug.

In the dark, I didn’t see him grin.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

They found David the following morning.

The cause of death, they said, was inconclusive, but probably suffocation. His funeral took place on a bright, but cold, Tuesday morning. At the graveside stood his mother, a thin rivulet of tear turning silver as it caught the sunlight. She clutched a single red rose ready to cast onto the small coffin.

Beside her, holding her mother’s hand, stood David’s younger sister. Clasped tightly to her chest was David’s favourite white teddy bear.