Runner Up: The Zipper On The Monster

Sean Rhatigan, Grade 3, Westhampton Beach Elementary School
Sean Rhatigan, Grade 3, Westhampton Beach Elementary School

Children’s minds can conjure up some wicked things. So naive, they are, to think that the scariest thing in the world is a monster under their bed or in their closet, waiting to strike when they fall asleep or have to get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. They get scared by movie monsters, laughable beasts made with the imperfect hands of humans, comprised of paltry arts and crafts that are hardly scary at all to anybody with sense. In these movies, it is commonplace to see mistakes like the zipper on the suit of the monster, reminding us that nothing in those films could possibly be real.

Yet children with vivid imaginations who know no better still cower in fear at the thought of the supernatural. Perhaps these monsters take the shape of a tall man with no eyes, or a vicious beast with fangs and claws, or an evil old lady with wrinkled skin and gangly fingers that beckon them to her embrace. Perhaps they are indescribable, far beyond the comprehension of any human thought. But, like the monsters in the movies, they are nothing more than figments of the twisted maw of human creation, memories of a fear that we all hold deep within.

Except these monsters are real.

We lurk in every shadow in every darkness. In every dark room and long hallway, in every closet and under every bed. We hide in the walls, behind the shower curtains, and in places that nobody dares to venture. We are everywhere, but we don’t like to be seen. It is so convenient for us that you pretend that we don’t exist, that you shove us out of your mind as you go about your day. For when eyes fall upon us, the world changes. We are the whispers in the wind, carrying the weight of a thousand burdens, travelling like silent serpents, entering the ears of those who are foolish enough to listen.

There are no zippers on our backs. When you were a teenager, and still had the mind of a child that was more concerned with sheepish things than what really mattered, we were there.

We watched you grow, blossoming from a young, fruitful child into another hapless adult. We were there when you went to college and pretended like you knew everything, without a care in the world for anybody who disagreed with you. We were there when you met the person you thought you would love forever, and we laughed at you for even thinking such a thing. We were there when you finally got that job you always wanted, and when you realized that you hated everything about it, we laughed, too.

We watched from the storm drains as you struggled. We were there when you had your first fight. We were there when you broke your vows and cried about it like a wounded animal, the hypocrite that you are. We were there when you felt that pain for the first time, the pain of loss, the pain of knowing that no matter what you did, there was nothing that could fix it. We witnessed every moment of your happiness; every single “I love you,” and every hug and every kiss, every feel-good time that you had, every happy memory, and even every bad one, too. We were there for all of that, until you stood on the beach that one summer evening, staring out into the yawning infinity of the auburn sky, with nobody by your side, and whispered, “Can you believe it?”

Can you?

We will always be watching you. We will be there when you try to move on and forget about everything. We will be there when you start over. We will be there when you are driving down the street at night, lurking in the back seat of your car. We will be there when you are all alone, with nothing but the wind to comfort you. We will be there beside you when you turn out the lights and close your eyes to sleep at night.

Then, when you die, and your final breath leaves your body like a soft puff of mist, we will be there, too. And we will be the only thing that comes with you.

By Miller Crowley Croke
Grade 12, Southampton High School

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