Beep, beep,beep, beep. The persistent alarm woke me from a dreamless sleep. I forgot where I was for a moment. As I shook away the sand of sleep, I slowly came to realize that it was indeed Monday, and I did have to get up and get Rosa ready for her first day at the new sitter's. I tromped down to her room, rather ungracefully, even for pre-coffee me, and turned on the light. Or rather, tried to turn on the light. It didn't actually turn on. I knew that switch had been acting weird lately. Cursing under my breath, I turned around and went back to my room to get my cell phone.
Turning on the flashlight with one final curse word, I marched back into the room and shined my light on Rosa's twin bed. My four year old wasn't there. Not one speck of her dark, wispy hair could be seen on her princess and the frog pillow case. I shone the light across to the bean bag chair, where she had been known to fall asleep in the past. Not there either. I started to panic for a moment,the beam of light shook as I ran it across the room one more time. "Rosa?" I called out, a bit afraid of my own voice. Finally, I saw her. She was in a deep stage of sleep, her head and arms were lying on top of her blanket on the floor, and the lower half of her torso and legs were hidden under the bed.
"Oh, baby," I smiled as I knelt down next to her and nudged her gently. He eyes opened and she stretched a bit, a cute baby stretch accompanied by a yawn. Together we got up and got dressed for another day.
"Why were you sleeping under the bed?" I ask her once we were loaded in the car. She responded with a grin and said she didn't know.
"You better be careful, there might be monsters under there," I said, then I immediately kicked myself for possibly screwing up the fragile psyche of a four year old. I mean that I kicked myself mentally of course. I don't think I could have gotten very much force behind a real kick. Plus Rosa probably would have thought I was even more deranged that I actually am. I mean, who does that?
"I like monsters," her little voice piped up. "Daddy's a monster."
"Rosa that's not very nice to say." I- mentally- kicked myself again. She must have overheard me talking about her dad again. Yeah, he was a monster. The kind that bails when you get pregnant then doesn't call for months at a time. At least he would bring money when he did come by, which was more than could be said for some baby daddies. Anyway, never mind that, Rosa and I were doing just fine on our own. I pushed that thought to the back of my head and went on with my day, forgetting the conversation completely until the next morning when Rosa was not in her bed again. I knew I had tucked her in and checked in on her an hour later- she had been out like a light.
The first thing I did was check under the bed, which was surprisingly clean for a little girl's room. There was no doll nor toy nor lego nor baby under the bed. No monster either, in case you were wondering. I looked all over that room for Rosa, and I swear she was not there. I started freaking out a little. I ran back to my room and grabbed my cell phone and when I reached Rosa's doorway I heard her little voice saying something I could not understand. It was like she was speaking a foreign language or something.
"Rosa! Where were you?" I controlled my voice, but I am certain I looked rather crazed with worry. Rosa set down her teddy bear, not one I had seen before, and reached her arms out to me for a hug. I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed her in the most comforting hug I could.
"I was right here, mommy." She said. I started to argue with her, but I knew it would be useless. I started to carry her out of the room, but she pushed away from me and slid down to her bed. She grabbed the bear, which was quite possibly the ugliest thing I had ever seen. She squeezed it to her chest and said his name was Arrow. I muttered that maybe it got that name when it lost its eye in the war. Rosa giggled and skipped happily through her morning routine.
When we got home that night, I was determined to find out how she disappeared, so after she was sleeping peacefully in her bed I snuck back in with my own blanket and settled into her beanbag chair. I tried my hardest to stay awake, but the long day got the best of me. It was through the haze just between sleep and awake that Rosa's voice permeated. She was talking to Arrow, or seemed to be, but there was someone else in the room responding to her. I knew I must be dreaming though, because it seemed like the voice was familiar. Recognition pulled at the edge of my consciousness. I was able to open my eyes to see two shadows, one about three feet tall, the other at least double that. I knew I was dreaming at that point because the two shadows literally slid under the bed and were gone. I could see from my viewpoint on the floor that there was nothing under the bed.
That's when I woke up. Rosa was not in her bed or in the room. Maternal strength overtook me and I moved the heavy, oak bed aside to see that the floor was solid underneath it. I stomped the floor in circles, trying to find a weak spot. Before too much of this passed, I found it. I jumped and hard as I could on the floor near the center of where the bed used to sit, and I landed. But I kept sliding. I don't know how long I slid but I do know that at the bottom of the slide Arrow stood, watching me, black eye patch covering his missing button eye.
As I landed in an unflattering seated position, I tried to pretend that the teddy bear standing and moving on his own was not shocking at all. I think I failed at this because the bear chuckled, a low, growling sound. I appeared to be in a cellar of sorts. The floor and wall were made of dirt caked wood that appeared to be untreated. I impulsively ducked lower, thinking of the potential spider webs hanging above my head. For good measure, I also glanced upward. I was surprised at how clean the ceiling actually was, I mean, for being made of dirt. There were no cobwebs.
While the room was a tiny 4 by 6 area, the ceiling was also higher than I imagined it would be. It vaulted up like an elevator shaft and an indeterminate light came from somewhere above, though I could not make sense of where it came from. It actually just seemed that the dirt itself held an incandescent glow. It was by this glow that I could make out the silhouettes of the four matching, dirt-covered doors. Two were on the wall to my left, and one each on the wall to my right and directly in front of me. Arrow was standing in front of this last door, his hand perched on the wrought iron handle.
“I can see that you will not be easy to deter.” He stated. His rough voice held an ironically smooth timbre, and his accent was slight, but reminded me of some fairy tale land where wizards existed and unicorns gave little girls like Rosa a ride through the clouds while pooping rainbows.
“No. Where’s Rosa?” I said, setting my most Mommy Tone possible. I hoped that the displayed confidence would appear real enough that he would just take me to my little girl without delay.
“This way then. Mind your head.” Arrow turned the ornate, black handle with his furry little paw and pushed the wooden door open with considerable effort. I took one final glance back at the slide behind me and hoped I would be able to climb back up it with a four year old in tow once I found her, then I descended into the dark opening before me.
I say descended because the door opened into a small landing which quickly converted into a steep spiral staircase that seemed to lower forever. Rather than the dusty brown of the room prior, this… area… because it certainly couldn’t be defined as a room, was black and gold. The staircase was an elegant affair of cascading black swirls for handrails. Every three feet or so, a new curling tendril of iron arched backwards to meet Arrow’s paw and my own hand. Each tendril was surprisingly warm to the touch, though the air around us was slightly chilled. There was no visible wall space here, just dark shadow with the occasional glittering gold light in the distance that did no good to us on the stairs. The steps themselves appears to be black and gold as well, with the same incandescent glow that I had just seen in the ceiling.
“Where are we going?” I asked, hoping that it was somewhere I could come back from.
“To the king of the monsters, of course, just as you requested.”
“ I did not request to meet any monster king!” My voice was high and gave way to fear more than I had hoped to show.
“You wanted to go to Rosa, therefore you want to go to the monster king.” Arrow was very matter of fact about this and he kept trudging down the steps. I wondered briefly how I managed to get myself into these situations, but I too kept walking downwards- down the seemingly endless staircase. I promised myself something delicious and fattening after this work out when or if I ever got back home.