The door opened with barely a creak, and little Jenna stepped out into the hallway. She stood there, listening for a moment. Pale blue light spilled into the hall through the bathroom door. The night-light, provided enough light for Jenna to make her way down the hall after dark. Jenna smiled. Sally was going to be in so much trouble. Jenna’s little sister had decided to hum in bed, as soon as her parents had tucked them in and turned out the light. Jenna had asked her as kindly as she could to stop at least ten times now, but Sally refused.
There was nothing left but to go tell Mom about it. Sally was going to be in big trouble this time.
As soon as Jenna stepped into the beam of light spilling out of the bathroom door there was a loud noise from the end of the hall. It sounded a bit like an animal scrambling across the floor, and then a sort of metallic clang. That had never happened before. She turned back towards her room, making sure Sally was still inside. She was, and she was still humming, louder now. Jenna fumed, and continued down the hall.
Jenna froze as the sound repeated, along with something almost like a bark. It had to be the TV downstairs. She started forward again and this time she didn’t stop until she’d turned the corner into the living room, when something large moved before her in the darkness. She could hear it breathing, heavily, almost panting. Then something large seemed to jump on her, knocking her to the floor. “Mom! Help me!”
At the far end of the living room the light on the stairs came on, and she heard footsteps approaching. The shadowy outline of her mother appeared in the doorway. “Go back to bed Jenna. This has to stop.”
“But Mom, there’s something on top of me. Be careful.”
“I know, dear. Just back away and go back to bed.”
“But, Mom, Sally is…” Warm breath blasted in her face and a huge wet tongue licked her face. The thing’s breathing quickened to a pant. “Mom! Help me!”
Her mother sighed, and reached for the light switch. The bright flash blinded Jenna, and she covered her eyes. The thing on top of her made a loud, long guttural sound, and backed away. Jenna rose and stumbled back towards the hallway.
Squinting, she peered into the room. There, staring at her was a strange creature. It looked a bit like one of those giant purple bean bag chairs they had in the kids section of the furniture store, only it had four short, stumpy legs, two huge eyes, a stubby tail, and an impossibly wide mouth filled with thin pointy teeth. The creature barked at her. “Mom, what is that?”
“Why don’t you just go back to bed?”
Jenna couldn’t understand. “Mom, what is… Why is it here?”
“It’s a bumblegrouse. It showed up earlier today.”
Jenna backed further down the hall. “What?”
“It’s no use complaining to me. In fact, that’s the whole problem. Bumblegrouses feed of the whines and complaints of children who are up past their bedtimes.”
“What do you expect? You seem to be getting out of bed four or five times a night with some sob story about how your little sister has wronged you, but every time your father or I come up she’s just laying in bed trying to sleep.”
“Enough! You’re lucky you only attracted one of the things. Anyhow, you better get used to him, he’ll be staying with us for the foreseeable future. We’ve chained him here in the living room, so you can get back and forth to the bathroom at night without being bothered.”
“I don’t like it. Make it leave.”
“That’s up to you. As long as you keep getting out of bed like this, it’ll be here waiting to hear all about your problems. Really, isn’t that what you want, honey? Someone to listen to your every complaint?”
“But, Mom, Sally is-”
The living room light went out, plunging Jenna into darkness. “Frankly, honey, I’m sick of hearing about it. But you can tell the bumblegrouse all you want.”
Jenna listened to her mother’s footsteps receding down the stairs, tears forming in her eyes. She turned and shuffled back towards the bedroom. Behind her the creature seemed to have calmed down, it’s breathing slowed. At the door Jenna heard Sally singing quietly to herself. “Stop that!”, she cried into the darkness. “Just stop it!”
But Sally just when right on singing.
Jenna stormed back down the hall, stopping just outside the living room. “Now she’s singing, can you believe it?”
The bumblegrouse began to pant, once more.