The Wee Man

The Wee Man
by D. A. Watson

“Keep going, Daddy,” the wee man says, looking up at me from his bed, all soft hair, pale skin and big shining eyes. I squirm in the chair by his bedside, a chill prickling the skin of my back, an icy lump in my throat. I want to tell him “No, that’s enough for tonight,” but it’s impossible to deny him anything.

I reluctantly lower my eyes to the page of his latest storybook. Oversized text. Vividly drawn. Lurid colors. Terrifying illustrations. The cover like cold dead skin on my fingertips. The books began arriving in the mail last week, every day, addressed to the wee man. No return address. No publisher details. All with the same title: Children’s Stories.

Dread squeezing the marrow in my bones, I keep reading.

“The boy-prince shivered, listening to the sounds coming from under his bed: the slithering, the thick, gurgling chuckle, the tap-tap-tapping of claws on the floor. He wanted to cry, but knew he had to be brave. No one believed him about the monster, not his father the King, not Gidaneon the wizard, not gallant Sir Radstrong, the captain of the guard.

“‘The blood of princes,’ the thing under the bed croaked in a scaly whisper, ‘is sweeter than purest honey.’ It laughed, a sound like bloody, broken bones being ground together …”

The hairs on my forearms bristling, I look down at the wee man again. He looks back expectantly, an expression of rapt enchantment on his face. It breaks my heart.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to read you something else?” I ask hopelessly. Desperately. “Fantastic Mr. Fox, maybe?”

“No, Daddy,” he says, “I want to hear what happens with the Prince and the monster. Keep going.”

I keep going.

“The boy-prince slowly slid his hand under his pillow … and closed his fingers around the hilt of the enchanted dagger he’d pilfered from Gidaneon’s workshop that afternoon. His father would be furious if he knew he’d taken it … but he’d had no choice. No one believed him.”

I really don’t want to go on. The stories all end the same way. Every one of them. Every night. I pause, trying to work some spit into my mouth.

“Keep. Going.” The sudden change of tone in the wee man’s voice … holy Jesus … like rusty razor blades and muddy gravel. He’s got that black, shark-like look in his eyes again.

“Okay, okay …” I stammer. My hands are shaking so badly I can hardly read the text on the page. “The prince sat up, holding the magical weapon tightly in his fist, its blade glowing with a greenish inner light. He peered over the side of his bed… and saw the floor crawl with sly movement … like a nest of venomous blacksnakes. The beast’s tentacles writhed and roiled, seeking him out …” I look down at the wee man. “Please …” I sob, my voice a broken whimper.

His lips quiver and part, revealing little steak-knife teeth.

“Finish the fucking story,” he snarls.

Tears half blinding me, I go on.

“The prince … leaped out of bed with a shout … bringing the flashing emerald blade down, chopping at the thick tendrils … but it was no use. A slimy hooked tentacle wrapped around his ankles and pulled him… under the bed in the blink of a blinded, pus-filled eye. If anyone else had been in the room … they’d have heard a fearful shriek that echoed and slowly faded … like the scream of a boy falling down a deep dark well. The e-end.”

I throw the book to the floor and lurch out of my chair in terror, backing away from the black rope-like things that come slithering and whipping out from under the wee man’s bed. One of them just misses my ankle.

“You’re silly, Daddy!” I hear the wee man giggle behind me as I run screaming from his bedroom.

 Copyright © 2015 D. A. Watson