Light faded outside Melinda’s window. The moon edged just above the horizon of trees. A narrow moonbeam illuminated a patch of her pink carpet, the rest shrouded in darkness. She blinked a few times, eyelids starting to get heavy despite how much she wanted to stay awake. The owls would be out any minute now. This was the only time of day she could hear her “pet” owl, Holly.
A single hoot emerged, breaking the silent night. Two more joined it, their calls gruffer, the first almost singsong. Melinda smiled. She could pick out Holly’s hoot from the others.
The owls’ tempo rose, a flurry of sweet sound. From time to time the flap of a wing or the rustling of leaves managed to edge its way to her ear.
She closed her eyes tight, said a prayer, and bid her owl a “good night”. A smile drew across her face. Then she heard a different sort of noise, a low rumbling growl. She drew her covers close.
“A midnight snack, perhaps,” she thought she heard. Her heart skipped a beat. Breath caught in her throat. She tried to scream, but it came out as a whimper.
“I am so very hungry,” came the voice. Her mouth went dry. She gulped hard, easing the knot in her windpipe. The rumbling returned and she managed a piercing yell.
Footsteps thundered from the hallway. Her door opened, letting in a triangle of light. “What’s the matter?” her father asked, adjusting his nightcap.
“I heard a monster,” said Melinda. “Under my bed.”
Her father nodded, rubbing his eyes. “Monsters, of course. Let me take care of them for you.”
Melinda’s eyes widened. “But it’ll eat you,” she said. “It said it was very hungry.”
“It did?” said her father. He picked up a purple flashlight from atop Melinda’s dresser. “Come over here.”
Melinda paused a moment, her pulse still fast. She dropped down out of bed and moved to her father as fast as she could.
“There, no more monsters,” her father said, pulling up a corner of her comforter to shine the light in. “This flashlight scared them away.”
“Thank you, Daddy,” said Melinda. She stepped back into bed as her father turned to leave. “Before you go, could you please plug in my night-light, one last time?”
“I thought you said you didn’t need a night-light anymore?” Her father cocked his head a little to the side, switching out the flashlight for a tiara-shaped night-light.
“Oh, I don’t need it,” said Melinda. Her owl hooted outside. “I’m just afraid Holly will get scared.”