Mr. Tattersome

"There's nothing in there."

Mom always sounded so frustrated. Then again, it must have seemed so obnoxious and arbitrary to her.

"Check again!" I would insist, "I know there's a monster in there!"

She would only ever check once, though. That was the routine. As soon as I cried out in the middle of the night, she would stomp down the hallway, flick on my bedroom light, and throw open the closet door.

I'd look past her at my hanging, regimented clothes and the pile of stuffed animals, toys, and school supplies hastily shoved in and left in a muddled heap on the floor.

"You have to get over this." She would explain, trying to be as kind as she could given the time and circumstances, "You're too old to sleep on our bed, now. Just go to sleep, and tomorrow you'll see everything is fine."

It was never fine, though. I mean, sure, I never had a scratch on me. As far as my parents knew I'd simply had a bad dream during an otherwise uneventful night's sleep.

It didn't take long for him to learn the process. Within a week he had both my Mother and myself timed out perfectly. As soon as Mom left the room, vowing not to return that night, Mr. Tattersome would appear.

I tried everything I could think of at that age. Hiding under the blanket, carrying a flashlight or toy gun to "scare" him… for a few nights I even convinced myself that he wouldn't appear if I blinked enough times as fast as I could. It became a bedtime "tick" that stays with me even today.

The creak of the door always made me feel sick to my stomach, and the sound of his footsteps wasn't any better.

It was the wet, squishing sound of damp cloth being pressed against the hard wood floor.

Mr. Tattersome, the quilt man… covered in bits of teddy bear, doll parts, and swatches from security blankets. Moons, stars, cartoon characters, the mismatched cloth depicting happy images disturbed me even more than the half-mask of a stuffed elephant that covered his face. The trunk hung limp, almost comically, and just beyond the gray fur I could see the sticky paper maché of children's drawings clinging to the sunken face beneath.

He never touched me. He barely seemed to know I existed, except for early on when my shrieks sent him crawling back into the closet to hide once more… seeming to be a simple heap of playthings…

Out my window he'd go, and if I dared close it while he was gone, he would simply scrape on the glass with his number two pencil fingers until I was driven mad with terror. Then he would find another way back in, anyway.

I watched him a few times when he'd return. He always had new treasures. Toys to add to his mismatched camouflage. He'd separate the soft fur, strip the cloth, and stick it to himself with the dark blood hanging from his hands in thick strings.

Luckily, I never saw Mr. Tattersome again after the house burned down.


I lit the fire.

They knew it, as well, and while I've never heard the end of my "playing with matches" incident, I've not regretted the decision for a single moment. Not ever.

When the blaze were finally put out, I could see directly into my room from the curb. The closet and its contents had gone up in flames, and all that was left within was a black, hardened mass of highly flammable children's products.

I think he's gone, but I can't say for sure. I know I saw a skull beneath that paper maché… but I never saw a skeleton in the debris.

The next time your son or daughter asks you to check their closet, do a good job of it. Something could be hiding in plain sight.

Although, if you don't… I suppose at least your kid is safe, right?

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