The Monster on the Top Floor by Caitlin Erhard
2015 Magic Town Literary Contest. Second Place: Age 13-17
Age 13. Falcon Middle School. Teacher: Ms. Altendorf
Thud! The morning paper hits the door. Slowly I push myself out of my somewhat stained beige recliner and slump over to the door. It is a challenge to reach, due to the condition my apartment is in. There is clutter scattering the floor, and dust bunnies lurking in the corners. I have not cleaned it since my wife died 20 years ago because of breast cancer. Now I am an old man just rotting away by the second. Once I’ve managed to reach the door, I bend down to reach for the thick newspaper. My fragile back screams in agony. While I reposition my back into its regular spot, an undersized pair of hands comes into my field of vision. The hands reach for the paper and offer it to me. My eyes slowly travel from the shaky, clammy hands to the head. Then I recognize the trembling body as the paperboy.
“Thank . . .” I begin to say.
Before I can finish my sentence, the boy darts off as if he has seen a ghost. As he sprints around the corner, a small slip of paper falls from his tan leather satchel and lands on a table. After he has disappeared down the hall, I saunter down the hall and pick up the tag that he dropped.
I read the name aloud, “Nathaniel.”
When I am back in my deflated recliner, I unfold the newspaper looking over the articles. I skim over the ads, can hear that it is raining cats and dogs outside. Suddenly my eyes flash over an article entitled, “A Monster in Magic Town.” As my eyes scan the text, my face falls into a drooping frown. The article reads:
A monster is living in Magic Town! Be alert and aware. He was spotted outside Tony’s Pizza at 10 o’clock last night. Its skin is slick olive green, and the eyes burn red with hatred. The monster’s teeth are sharp as a blade and stained a vile color. The beast is skinny, which means it will be on the hunt for food. We assume that it is a man-eater; this is why it was on the streets. It was looking for its next meal. It retreated to the top floor of the apartments right next to Tony’s. We strongly caution you to supervise your children at all times. If anybody has an encounter or a sighting, please contact the police immediately.
I set down the paper and stop reading. Sorrowfully, I look into the cracked, dust-covered mirror that leans on the wall in front of me. I don’t see a monster, though. I see a lonely, misunderstood, elderly man who can’t afford dental, has a skin disease, allergies, and is underfed. However, the cruel people of Magic Town call me an “it” and above all, a monster.
I sit quietly for the next few minutes and stare at the name-tag that Nathaniel dropped. I would like to return it, but I am afraid of what lies behind my door. I hold the tag up to the light and vague lettering appears. Skeptically, I turn over the paper to see a note written on the back. Once I have read the words, I know that I must return it. I grab my coat and hat and stand by the door. My hand is hesitant to turn the brass handle. Before my hand makes one move, I remember the note on the back of the name tag. In finely printed black marker there were the words:
Before I know it, my hand has turned the knob, and I’m on the streets of Magic Town. In astonishment, I look up at my apartment. Even from here, you can see the cobwebs and vines that conceal my home. Hopefully no one will notice me. Thankfully, it is Halloween night, and I will blend in with all of the ghouls and other creatures. I pass Tony’s and make it to the Crown Theatre when a young girl dressed as a princess approaches me.
“Trick or treat,” she says with an sxcited tone.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t have anything,” I say sympathetically, kneeling down to her level.
“Marcy, leave him alone,” says who I’m guessing to be the girl’s older sister. “I like your costume, Mister.”
The princess comes up to me and starts to tug at my skin.
“This is really stuck on,” she exclaims backing away.
“It’s the monster!” Someone shrieks.
The people of Magic Town become panicked and chaotic. Everybody is swiping up their children and bolting into the nearest building. When they’ve reached the maximum amount of people, they start locking the doors and windows and closing the shutters. I fumble to get my coat that has been blown against a vandalized wall, but my hat is nowhere in sight.
I struggle over to a bench across the street from the theater. My eyes are blinded by tears. I am too busy weeping to notice the goblin walking towards me.
His hand comes into sight and I see that he is offering me candy. Once I accept it, he seats himself next to me. I dig around in my pocket and find his nametag.
“This is for you, Nathaniel.” I had him the laminated paper.
“Thanks,” he says, but pushes my hand back. “But you can keep it. Oh, and you can call me Nathan. . . . If you want to, that is.”
For a moment we just look at each other and smile. For the first time in twenty years someone cares about me. For the first time in twenty years there is someone who won’t call me a monster.