This short story and accompanying sketch are inspired by The Daily Post and their prompt of the day – DARKNESS
Word Count = 921
Teddy sat still in the dimly lit room. His ears searched for any noise in the distance. It was just after eleven at night and Teddy knew that his day was just beginning. He peered into the darkness and waited. Then he heard it. The slow, steady breathing. He listened for a few minutes to make sure that it stayed constant. In. Out. In. Out. Satisfied that she was asleep, Teddy slid off of his place on the shelf and headed to the closet. It was time for this bear to make the nightly rounds while Alice slept soundly in her bed.
The closet was all clear. So was under the bed. Teddy moved slower in his old age. He remembered when he could inspect the entire house in a night but now he was happy to finish the one level. His stitching was not as tight as it used to be. He had a few patches from old rips which slowed him down. And his right eye was missing. Regardless, Teddy did his duty.
Teddy entered the hallway. This part took him the longest because there were no windows to let any light in. He had to rely on memory and feel in order to get around. As he groped along the walls, he reminisced of the early days. He and Alice used to be inseparable. She would take him to school, on play dates and all kinds of adventures. Every night, they would sleep next to each other on her comfy bed. That part made his job more difficult. Sometimes, he wasn’t able to slip out of the covers or away from her embrace. Luckily, Alice had other friends who could pick up the slack when he was tied up. Duckey, Mr. Whiskers, Mee-Mee, Bow-Wow….all good toys. Over the years, they were donated to other children but Teddy was the last of them to remain. Alice even took him to college. Those were interesting years. That’s when his job mainly consisted of avoiding spilt beer and being a source of comfort because of some dumb boy or a mean teacher.
When Alice moved back in with her parents after graduation, Teddy thought maybe his time was up. He didn’t mind the idea of sitting in a box in the attic. It would be a well-deserved rest. Instead, he was placed on a shelf next to some of Alice’s other childhood memories. A picture of her at the beach. Old dance shoes from her first recital. And her first microscope, on which she learned the love of science. Teddy thought it was a good spot to spend his days. Quiet, relaxing, and far away from that little dog Alice’s parents adopted while she was off at college. But it wasn’t. Alice’s sleep was restless. She tossed and turned in her old bed. Some nights, Teddy could hear her crying. She took to staying up late and not leaving her room until nearly lunch time. It broke Teddy’s felt heart.
There is a secret that toys understand which humans do not. The darkness is all connected. The pitch blackness of your closet is connected to the somberness that can sometimes invade your spirit. They are like portals to a dimension where fear, despair, loneliness, hate, anger, sadness and grief reside. They can manifest creatures under your bed and bumps in the night. However, toys like Teddy are there as guardians, combating the darkness and keeping it safe. As Teddy watched Alice struggle night after night, he knew his dreams of retirement on the shelf had to be put on hold. He started his rounds once again in the old house. There were many battles during those first few months. Some nights, Teddy could not even make it back to the shelf on his own. Alice would find him laying in the hallway and think that maybe the puppy got him somehow. More than once Teddy thought all was lost. It felt like too much. But he would never give up on Alice. She was worth fighting for every night. Then, one day, Alice started to fight back against the darkness too. She found help from others and Teddy’s nightly rounds became less harrowing.
Teddy finally reached Alice’s parents’ room. He peaked inside to make sure that everyone was fast asleep in bed. Mom, Dad and puppy. Check. Teddy remembered how surprised he was to also find pockets of conflict here in the early days. It had been a long time since his last battle on this side of the house, but he always checked, just in case. Sometimes, kids are not the only ones who need a toys help.
Satisfied that everything was clear for the night, Teddy made his way back to Alice’s room. He went over to the window and peaked through the curtains. He could see the faintest hint of the rising sun. Alice would be up soon. She would be out for a jog before she went off to her new job. Teddy thought about climbing back up on the shelf but decided to stay right there. He would just lay down, peeking through the window and watching the world wake up to another day. Soon enough Alice would be out of bed and, just like many times before, she would find Teddy, brush him off, and give him a hug and kiss before placing him back amongst her other childhood memories. And that, that alone was worth every scar and pulled button he had ever endured.
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^ that’s either a cool theme or I’m very unimaginative