Ruffles the Bear went everywhere with Melissa. He sat next to her in the backseat on the way to school, stayed hidden away in her bag during lessons, and even sat on her lap during mealtimes. She took him to her friends’ houses and to family gatherings. Every night she fell asleep holding him, and every morning she woke up with him. Melissa loved that bear more than anything or anyone else in the entire world and would never be separated from him. Ruffles was the last line of defence from the thing under the bed when she was young, and as she grew up, he was her confidant who she shared all her secrets and personal thoughts. Then, with almost no warning for poor little Ruffles, she stopped taking him in her bag to school, he stopped appearing at mealtimes, and was just left to sit in the corner of her bed, wedged between her pillow and bed side table. Occasionally she would still talk to him, act as though nothing had changed, but they both knew deep down that she was growing up and the need for Ruffles was depleting.
Every so often Melissa would wake up and notice that Ruffles had been knocked to the floor during her sleep. She would pick him up, saying something like ‘what are you doing down there you silly bear?’ and place him back in his corner, then as the years started to progress even that reduced to just placing him back. He then ended up on her bed side table, sitting behind her lamp and gathering dust, before he fell from there as well and bounced on the floor. It took her two days to notice, and then she picked him back up and placed him back on the table, but without much care. He fell again a few days later, as the curtain knocked him when Melissa’s mother opened them one morning as part of her cleaning routine. As she was picking up Melissa’s dirty clothes that had just been thrown about the floor, she accidentally kicked the fallen Ruffles under the bed and into the uncertain darkness. When Melissa came back from school, she didn’t notice. Ruffles didn’t even enter her thoughts for months, if not years, as more things got shoved under the bed from childhood, shoe boxes filled with schoolwork, old board games that were only kept due to an over-abundance of sentimentality, and then a couple of boxes of clothes Melissa was too big for, but maybe her younger sister, Sophie, would grow into soon. If he was alive, what could he possibly have been thinking about after all those years. The time spent since going on adventures with Melissa. In his own way Ruffles loved Melissa just as much as she loved him, an orange glow in his eyes that seemed to change whenever she was in the room, and after being stuck under that bed there was no one to see it. Ruffles was as good as forgotten, and that’s where our story begins.
It was three days before Melissa was leaving for university, and she’d been tasked with clearing up her room before she left. Piles of old boxes, and bin bags were laid out in the hallway, blocking off the rest of the house, a fortress against adulthood. Eventually she would leave this room, and Sophie would take it, and nothing would ever be the same.
“So much leaving everything for when I get back at Christmas,” Melissa said to herself as she scrunched up some drawings, she done years before and had long since forgotten about.
It had been decided now that Sophie was a teenager and Melissa was leaving for the majority of at least three years, if she returned at all, that Sophie would take the bigger room. The beds would be swapped around and when Melissa was back for the holidays, she would take the smaller room. Taking down posters that had been hanging for most of her teenage years stung a little bit, even if the bands and movies they represented didn’t mean that much anymore. They were all sitting in a bag waiting to be thrown in the recycling bin outside. The lengthiest part was her wardrobe, that was more of a dumping ground for everything she’d grown out of, than it was for clothes. Every so often her mother would come up the stairs and ask if she needed any help, but Melissa thought that would just make everything take longer, so replied as politely as possible that she would be okay by herself. She pulled out the bags of clothes that had been forgotten about, wondering if Sophie would even be able to fit into them now or had they waited too long to be passed on. Either way they were placed in the corner where her dresser once stood, Sophie’s problem now. Going under the bed again she felt a familiar paw, and pulled out Ruffles, who was covered in cobwebs; his once golden orange eyes were muted with dust.
“Ruffles,” she said, holding him close. “I can’t believe you’ve been under there for so long. I bet you thought I’d forgotten about you. I’ll be taking you with me, don’t worry.”
If Ruffles was alive that would have probably meant the world to him, put the spark back into life and sent his heart into overdrive, but Ruffles instead just lay motionless in her arms as she dusted his eyes and wiped all the cobwebs onto the floor. His golden eyes didn’t shine the way she remembered. In the same way that he was for so many years, he was placed on the familiar bed side table, that was now bare apart from her phone that was playing some quiet music.
“You sit right there, Ruffles. Let me finish up in here and then I’ll get you packed and ready to go.”
It took the rest the of the afternoon for Melissa to finish clearing the room up. The black and blue lidded bins out in front of the house were filled with rubbish and recycling, that contained a good trace of Melissa’s childhood. As a celebration, Melissa’s dad ordered pizza for everyone and they sat around the table talking about how uni was looking, and then Sophie said that it might be the last time the family was together like that for a long time, which set off Melissa’s mother crying. And like so many of their family meals, it ended with everyone having a little row, that got more heated until no one at the table really remembered what started it.
“I’m sorry,” Sophie said. “I just meant that it’s going to be strange without you, I didn’t mean to upset mum.”
“I know,” Melissa replied. “It doesn’t matter. We have another day tomorrow. No, the day after, tomorrow I’m meeting up with everyone from school.” By that point it was only Melissa and Sophie left at the table, since their parents had left to go to bed after the arguing had settled. There were still a few slices of pizza left, that was cold by that point, but still tasty. “It’s going to be weird without you around as well Soph. I’m going to miss you.”
“Oh, don’t make me cry as well,” they both looked at each other and laughed.
“Did you finish your room,” Melissa asked, knowing that once she had they would be switching and then childhood was over.
“Not quite, I’ll finish cleaning up and sorting out tomorrow and we can swap the beds then.”
They finished up the food, put the leftovers in the fridge, and both went upstairs to spend one last night in their, soon to be, old rooms. Melissa closed the door behind her, turning on the light and looking at how bare everything was. With the quietness of the night hanging in the background, everything looked so empty and cold. There were scuff marks on the wall next to where her dresser and desk once stood which was now in her parent’s room, which had been turned into a halfway house for Melissa’s stuff while Sophie’s was moved over. The posters were gone, the wardrobe was empty, her books were pilled up in boxes that were scattered around the house. She moved over to the bed and sat down, looking over at her beloved Ruffles.
“It’s going to be strange leaving all of this behind, isn’t it?” She asked the bear, who just sat and stared straight passed her and towards the bedroom door. “I wonder what you think about all this. Exeter is going to be an adventure and a half. Sorry that you got a little dusty under there, by the way. Good night.”
She looked around the room, lit up by the moonlight coming through the cracks in the blind, and tried to hold back a tear. Everything was changing so quickly. Almost a year before the head of her year at sixth form had said that they may not feel ready for university then, but by the time exams came around they all would be. That was true, but by the time university came around, she was ready to go back to school for one more year and ward off growing up for as long as possible. She lay down and looked up at Ruffles, who seemed to be looking over her. For half a second, she froze, thinking Ruffles had moved. Wasn’t he looking at the door before? She thought, not at me. Her blood froze, but then the moment passed and she just thought it was a trick of the light or she’d knocked him or something like that and then sleep started to take hold. Cleaning and moving furniture for most of the day had taken a lot out of her, and the following day was going to be another long one as well, the last big send off for everyone as they all started to leave and get their lives started.
Later in the night Melissa was woken by a scratching sound. She sat up in bed, and looked around, her heart racing. What was that? She thought. It was repetitive and consistent. She swung her legs over the side of the bed, resting them down on the floor, on top of the dust and little pieces of rubbish that had been pulled out from under the bed earlier. There was nothing under there now, just more dust that would be vacuumed up the next day. The sound continued, as Melissa stayed still, trying to figure out where it was coming from. It sounded like it was coming from the window, so she grabbed her phone from the bed side table, the charging wire slowly snaked onto the floor, leaving the table empty. She stood up and walked over to the blind and peeked through the slats. There was a tree in the front garden, and the wind was making one of the branches hit into her window, tapping on it as if wanting to be let in. She sighed with relief, and let the blind slats fall back into place. She gently tossed the phone back onto the table and got back into bed. Wait, where was Ruffles, she thought before covering herself with the quilt.
Leaning over the side of the bed, Melissa found Ruffles on the floor.
“What are you doing down there, silly bear,” she said and then picked him up.
Almost instinctively she went to place the bear on the side table, but instead held him close and laid back down. She could have sworn that she felt Ruffles hold her back but chalked that down to just being tired and drifted back off to sleep once more. She dreamed about going to school, but all the lessons were wrong and made no sense. There were people from primary school there, instead of people her own age, and the teacher just seemed to be talking nonsense.
A few hours later Melissa woke back up, feeling rested and ready for the day, even though the sun hadn’t risen. She peered at her phone, blinding herself in the process. It was half three in the morning. There was a brief moment where she thought she should just get up as she knew she’d feel more tired when her alarm went off, but at the same time it was so early, and the lure of more sleep won her over. Then she realised that Ruffes wasn’t on the bed.
“Where has silly bear gone?” she said under her breath, deciding whether she should just forget about him until morning or take a look over the edge of the bed.
Ruffles wasn’t on the floor, and she couldn’t find him by swiping her arms under the bed. She sat up completely and that’s when she found him, sitting at the end of the bed watching her.
Something felt off, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. How had he gotten so far down the bed, and sitting up as well? She moved down the bed to reach him and Ruffles’s head moved. Just ever so slightly, but enough to make her pull back. Maybe it was in her head, she was still half asleep, she thought. But then he moved again, going onto all fours and pulling himself towards her, his head with that vacant smile staring at her the whole time. Melissa moved backwards, pulling her knees and the quilt up to her stomach. This has to be a dream, she tried to convince herself, but it wasn’t. Ruffles pulled himself up the quilted mountain of her knees and sat at the peak. His golden eyes staring at her with the same love they had done all those years ago. They sat there for a moment starring at each other, and then Ruffles’s eyes started to bulge out, stuffing squeezing through the edges like tears, and then the eyes popped off completely and were replaced by long black hairy spider legs that wiggled around.
Melissa wanted to scream, but bit it back, thinking this was all a dream and everything would go back to normal soon. She closed her eyes tightly, hoping when she opened them Ruffles would be back to normal, but he wasn’t. He just sat there on her knees with the spider legs roaming around, getting closer and closer to her face.
“You forgot about me, didn’t you?”
The voice didn’t seem to come from anywhere in particular, but everywhere all at once. She started to cry, realising that this wasn’t a dream.
“I lived under your bed for years and your precious bear kept you safe, but I waited and waited until the time was right. Your bear was a tasty treat, but I waited more and more and now you’re here.”
Another two legs burst out from Ruffles’s side, around half way down his torso on both sides, stuffing floating across the room like confetti at a concert. The spider-Ruffles got closer and closer, its four arms waggling around in the air. The bear started to fall apart at the seams, stuffing falling out everywhere as the black mess of legs and eyes sprawled forward and attached itself to Melissa’s face, who in turn tried to scream, the pain proof that this wasn’t a dream. She tried to stop it, as it’s legs wound their way into her ears and up her nose, into her tear ducts and then she fell backwards as it wormed its way inside of her, biting and squeezing, just as it had done to Ruffles under the bed so many years ago. There was nothing she could do, as it was all over.
The next morning Melissa woke up, washed, got dressed, and walked downstairs to the breakfast bar in the kitchen, taking a seat usually left unoccupied.
“Having breakfast this morning?” her dad asked, nibbling on some toast while reading the paper. “How nice of you to join us,”
“What are you having?” her mum asked. “Oh, and I noticed that little bear you had was in the bin outside. What happened to it? It was such a mess. You know you used to take that thing everywhere with you.”
I wrote this story on the 8th August (my birthday) pretty much in one sitting. I’ve barely edited it since then, going over just to check if there are any errors. If there is any that I’ve missed, let me know and I’ll correct it. Otherwise I’m grateful for you reading and if you have any feedback at all, please let me know,