The Man Under the Bed
when she glides
across the floor and hops into bed. I hear the springs groan, her soft sighs,
as she wrestles with the pillow, gets comfortable for the night. Sometimes she
reads for a while or talks on the phone. Tonight, though, she must be sleepy,
because I hear her light breathing and tiny snorts that tell me she is
dreaming. "Close your eyes" my
mother used to say, "and go to Lily White's party." I whisper this to
Rachel, so quietly the words barely brush past my lips.
It's not comfortable
yet it has become a home away from home. If I lift my head, my nose brushes the
slats and springs. I can't roll over, or sleep on my side, as my shoulders
might catch under the mattress and wake her. So I lay here, regulating my
breath to hers. My hand clutches the knife like I have night after night, and wonder
why I have not yet slid out from under here, grabbed her by the hair, and slit
her throat, spraying blood across the room and on to her lavender walls.
It started innocently
you call premeditated murder innocent. I noticed Rachel one day in the drugstore
down the block, a mile from my apartment.
I was standing by the bus stop, when I saw her swing through the doors,
leaving a trail of sweet scent, beckoning me to follow. Because they always
beckon, you know? These girls in their tight skirts and open blouses with their
bra straps showing and their fake tans, begging to end up in a ditch
somewhere. "See me, want me, but
you can't have me" should be tattooed on their round little asses as they
sashay by. They never notice me. I'm the
overweight, balding guy who stands alone at bus stops. Your basic, anonymous
woman killer. That's me. How do you like
THAT Mom, and your ridiculous Lily White parties?
Ah, but I digress. Back to Rachel. Rachel with the raven
hair shot with burgundy
in the sunlight. The strong Mediterranean nose. Legs that go on forever. Legs
that will spread for me in death like angel wings. She wandered down the
feminine products aisle, and I felt a stirring. This one was special. When I
looked at Rachel, I thought of
weddings and honeymoons, kids and a house with a picket fence. I surprised myself
with these thoughts, but concentrated
on the task at hand. Stalking. She stepped around me as I stood in the middle
of the aisle and smiled as she whispered "excuse me." I couldn't help
but smile back. What a girl. What a
nice, fucking, all-American girl. I
couldn't wait to follow her home.
Much to my delight,
right across the street. I was following too closely, but it paid off when the
doorman said, "Hey there Rachel, how are you?" I was giddy with the
information. It was a small building,
about 50 units. With my sharpened skills, it would be easy to find out which apartment
was Rachel's. It was.
She turned to
the doorman. "Charles,
I have an issue with the kitchen sink and called a plumber. He'll be stopping
by sometime tomorrow.
Please let him in to the apartment."
"Sure thing, Rach," Charles said,
and I felt a surge of anger.
"Getting chummy with her, are you?"
I thought. I wondered if Rachel understood that this guy was dying to get in
her pants. Women can be so stupid.
I almost skipped
ruminating in my head. In the closet were several uniforms; UPS, car mechanic,
plumber and painter outfits. Even a police uniform that has given back tenfold.
Women will follow a cop anywhere. I pulled out a white jumpsuit with the fake
name Peter Cochrane on it, above a small crest that said Uptown Plumbing. Now
to finesse old Charles into believing that I was a guy coming to give a second
I spent the entire
sitting on the bus bench across the street, straining my eyes to see if the
damned plumber ever showed. "What a fucking slacker," I thought.
"Just show up, asshole. Let's get this thing moving." It wasn't until
3:00 when a guy in a blue uniform climbed out of a van that said "Down the
Drain Plumbers". I snorted. What a
stupid name. Mine at least had class. I watched
him as he entered the building, timed him, saw him leave. It was getting late
in the day. Tomorrow will be my turn.
I'll spare you
because I don't want to give away secrets to just anyone. I'll only say I was
brilliant and organized enough to talk Charles into letting me in the next day.
In Rachel's apartment, I fiddled with the joints under the sink, adjusting this
and that, until boredom overtook Charles, and he went back downstairs, saying
he would check with me in a while. Standard practice and a classic mistake, this
laziness and lack of responsibility. I counted on it. Scurrying to the window
that goes to the fire escape, I broke the latch in such a way that it looked
locked, but will never lock again, and prayed that Rachel didn't double check
every little thing at night. It was as
though Rachel was Natalie Wood in West Side Story and I was Tony, meeting on
the fire escape. I'd tell her how much I
cared. Not really. I will break
and enter, then slit her throat. I
hummed "Tonight" under my
breath as I ambled down the stairs
instead of taking the elevator, checking every floor. This will be a cinch.
It was. Just
two nights later, I
tip-toed up the fire escape two floors above ground and crouched in the
darkness. The apartment was black as pitch. Rachel was either out late, or
sound asleep. Inching the window open, I held my breath, listening. I froze
when I heard her voice, light mumbling in the next room, her bedroom. I longed
to step through the window, but I'm not a slave to disaster. One needs to be
careful. Her voice grew louder,
laughing, then she said, "Night, Amy", and the scuffling sound of a phone hanging
Ah, so she is alone, I thought, and just like that, I let myself in. I stood
alongside the window and counted my heart beats. Held my breath, strained eyes
and ears and
nose to gather all senses. This was the
best part. The part that makes me cream
myself sometimes, because it's when I am most vulnerable, getting ready to
pounce. Anything could happen and often did. Sometimes it was a clean stroke,
an easy kill. Other times it got messy, but they always went down as I flipped
their switch and cut them into ribbons, watching their blood flow out and puddle
on floors, sidewalks, or streets, and sometimes in the back of my old white
The city cast
a meager light
through the bedroom window. Rachel looked like a princess lying there, hair
tossed about her face, sleeping in a Mickey Mouse tee shirt. I drew the knife
from the sheath on the belt slung low on my hip. It gleamed in the slanted light.
I gasped when something bumped the back of my
legs. Looking down, I saw a huge cat, a Siamese, staring up at me,
purring. I shifted my weight, and the
cat twined around my feet, rubbing
against my shins. If I killed the cat, Rachel might wake up screaming and I
can't afford loud
noises in an apartment building. Rachel stirred.
"Truffles," she murmured. The cat
left my side and leaped on the pillow near her head. I dropped to my knees and
froze. She tossed
about, waking up fully now, and swung a leg over the side of the bed, just
missing my shoulder. As quietly as I could, I squirmed under the bed, blade
ready. Then, it was silent. I held my breath. I could tell she was holding
Rachel's fingers pressed the buttons on her
phone. There was a pause, then she whispered, "Amy, sorry to wake you, but
I'm scared. I think someone's in the apartment."
I softly exhaled, my heart slowing. She didn't call 911.
"No, Amy, I don't want to call the
police. I'm just...you know, a little
I heard the murmur of a voice on the other end
of the phone, and Rachel answered.
"No, it creeps me out. I don't want to look around. Okay,
Rachel got out
of bed and walked
across the room. She closed and locked the bedroom door, then hurried back to
"Am, I heard no more noises, and I locked
the door. I think I'm safe now. It must have been Truffles. Sorry to bother
you. You're right, Amy, I need to protect myself better. I promise I'll look
After a few more words, she hung up. I almost
laughed out loud. She just cut off her only means of escape. This was going
better than planned.
I laid there
for hours, trying
to will myself to slide back out from under the mattress and get the party
started. Truffles crept under the bed next to my head, bumped it with his,
purring and kneading the carpet next to me. I reached out a finger and stroked
his sleek neck. He settled in, and we both regulated our breathing to the sound
of Rachel's above us, a trio of souls.
I'm still not
sure what happened,
but by the time I roused myself, her alarm went off and it was morning. I was
still there, with no way out but the fire
escape. Crawling out her window in broad daylight was risky. Killing her now
would be messy and noisy. So I watched her feet and ankles as she walked
lightly across the carpet and into the bathroom. Rachel left the door open as
she climbed into the shower. She turned on the water and stepped in, pulling
the curtain closed around her. I smelled the soap and shampoo, heard the hiss
of water, but still I could not seem to move.
It was best to
stay until she
left for work. The prudent thing to do. This was getting far too complicated
for my liking. Her pink painted toenails came back into the room, gliding over
the carpet while she dressed, humming a light tune. My eyes followed her feet
out past the bedroom door. I heard the
everyday sounds of coffee perking, the opening and closing of the
microwave. Rachel took an endless time, but
at last she bustled about, grabbed her purse, coat, and a briefcase. She left,
taking care to double lock the door with a dead bolt. In the distance the
elevator chimed. Then, only silence except Truffles cleaning himself on the
carpet in a shaft of sunlight.
I slithered out from under the mattress and
wandered around her apartment. In the light of day, I could see Rachel was not
particularly tidy. There were newspapers spread on the sofa, a dish or two on the
table near the television, at least three pair of shoes shucked on the living
room floor. Thank God I didn't trip over those. I chained the door as an extra
precaution and continued to poke around the place.
Going back into
the bedroom I flopped
down on the bed, inhaled her perfume, rubbed my face on her pillow like a cat,
stroked the sheets, kneaded the mattress with my fist. Poking through her nightstand,
my blood rose when I found a long snaking pack of condoms. "Well, well,
Rachel, what have we here," I leered, and ripped one off and stuffed it in
my pocket. Her top drawer overflowed with panties and bras, nylons and
socks. Nice stuff, I thought, as I
stroked the lace and peered at the bras.
36B. I couldn't wait. Her medicine cabinet had skin care products, makeup
and deodorant, a few pills, and cough syrup.
back to the living room and rummaged through the drawers in an old desk that
sat in front of a window. There were letters and post cards, stamps, and
several photo albums jumbled together. I plopped myself down on the couch and
looked through them. There was Rachel as a baby, a young girl, a cheerleader.
Then there she was standing tall in a cap and gown with a college diploma. Sometimes
there was a young man in the photos, a blond beach-boy type in tight blue
jeans. My eyes narrowed. He looked like
a privileged asshole. I was happy when
he dropped out of the albums, right about the time Rachel graduated.
Hungry, I grabbed
a yogurt from
her fridge and turned on the television, muting the sound, and gazed at the
news. Truffles sat on the couch with me, and I idly stroked him. The entire day
was spent poking through Rachel's life, taking care to put everything back the
same way I found it, priding myself on how stealthy I was. I even spread out
the containers of yogurt on
the refrigerator shelf, so she wouldn't notice the missing one, rinsed off the
spoon and put it away. Just for fun, I
took one pair of shoes and placed them neatly in her closet, chuckling.
I needed to get
the hell out of
here, but how. The damned fire escape flanked a busy street. Going down the
stairs and out the front door
was out of the question. Charles would recognize me as the plumber. Feeling
stuck, I convinced myself to wait until nightfall, kill Rachel, then leave. I
read the newspaper, took a leak and did a few stretches when, by early evening,
I entered her bedroom and slid under the bed, Truffles right by my side. I
liked this cat. Might even let it live. After
all, it couldn't pick me out of a line up. I snorted in mirth, then laughed out
loud. Finally, we settled in and took a little nap.
It wasn't long
before I heard
the door open, and the light steps I already knew by heart. Truffles ran out
from under the bed when she
walked in, snaking about her ankles, begging for dinner and Rachel obliged. She
came into the bedroom, stepping out of her
clothes along the way. My pulse sped up
as her panties hit the floor, and she bustled about changing into sweats and
that stupid tee shirt again. I pictured Mickey Mouse splattered in blood. I
would cut right up the seam of those sweat pants and find the delights behind
them. This was going to be a wonderful evening. I lay there like a statue,
listening to the sounds of her life surround me until things slowed and she
turned in for the night.
I wrestled with
myself for hours
under that mattress. I didn't want to kill her just yet. Maybe not kill her at
all. I was drawn to her and her little
story, her brown cat, messy apartment, Mickey Mouse tee shirt. It was confusing,
exciting, and sad.
Just before dawn,
I slid out
from under the bed and eased through the window and down the fire escape,
stepping as lightly as a ghost. When I hit the alley, I walked briskly out and
around the corner, then on to my flat, where I showered, ate breakfast, and
thought about Rachel. I was getting
dressed when my hand froze at my waist. I had left the knife under her
bed. My knife, filled with fingerprints
and DNA and all the microscopic things that can wedge themselves into the bone
handle and read like a damned novel to the cops. Now I had to go back. A shrink
would say I left it there on purpose
as an excuse to return. Shit, I don't know. I do know, though, that I got a tremendous
hard-on just thinking about slipping back under that bed.
I headed out
that night around 2
am. It was dark again at Rachel's. Just like before, I eased in through the
stood still, eyes adjusting to the lack of light. Truffles strutted over. I
reached down and
chucked him lightly under the chin. Together we headed for the bedroom. Rachel
was snoring, which I found adorable, little noises like a puppy, as she lay
tangled in her sheets, one silky leg exposed. Oh, how I wanted to touch her,
but instead I quietly slid back under the bed. My new home. Truffles joined
me. I groped in the darkness, found my
Some people might
say I'm going
crazy. Maybe I already am. I've killed
women and tortured them. Sipped the last
drop of life from them as I licked their breasts and eyelids and watched them
let out that last sigh of release. This is different. I'm content to lay here and
share the night with Rachel, then curl up on her couch all day, waiting for her
to come home, just like Truffles. I'm content to hear her talk to herself and
the cat, or on the phone with her friends and family, gleaning every little
nuance of her life.
I painted my nails with her polish so we'd
match, groomed my thinning hair with her brush, my strands married into hers.
Took a pair of panties and sprayed them with her cologne, to keep me company
during the long night. Then I brushed my cheeks with her blush, kissed her
lipstick in a wide, angry slash across my mouth, wound her scarf about my neck,
wrapped her sweater round my shoulders while Truffles and I watched CNN. God,
what is wrong with the world today, I think. So much violence all over the
planet! It's disgusting.
It was a Friday
night. I had
been hanging out at Rachel's for several nights now. I unchained the door and
slid under the bed at my usual time, around six, waiting for her footsteps. But
tonight they didn't come. I waited like
a faithful dog. Jesus, can't she come
home and feed Truffles? He's hungry, for
Christ’s sake. This wasn't like Rachel at all, and I worried about her. I
started to sweat and toss about under the
Much later I
heard the elevator
ding, footsteps heading towards the door. It opened, and she burst over the
threshold, flicked on a light and laughed, the sound of glass tinkling.
"Come on in," she said softly, and I
saw the feet and lower torso of someone behind her. A guy. What the hell! He followed her into the living room and immediately
grabbed at her ass, and she grabbed back.
A white-hot rage built up behind my eyes. My hand tightened around the
knife until I thought it might break in two. They were moaning now, and she
walked him towards the bedroom.
That bitch. How
could she betray
me like this? How could she get into bed with another man when I am right here
for her! They landed on the bed and the springs smacked me hard in the nose. I
started to rise up and out from under the mattress in a fury. I would kill them
both, watch their blood mingle on the sheets and have a good time doing it. But
then I froze because I'd never fought a man before. There were two people
instead of one, and the guy might be stronger than me. I could wait until they
were asleep, then
kill them, but what if this guy had a knife or a gun? I didn't know what to
do. For now, I had to endure what was
going on, whether I liked it or not.
I will spare
you the awful
details of the groping and thrusting and fluids exchanging right above my head.
The murmurs and yelps of pleasure. The growl he made when he came, and the whimpers
she made when she did. All the heavy breathing and the words and the bullshit. I
was aching and angry and violently aroused at the same time. As a final insult,
he said to Rachel,
"Hey, get this cat off the bed," and poor Truffles was dumped on to
the floor, shaking his fur indignantly. He climbed under the bed and I held
one arm. I don't know how it even got
there, but a single tear tripped down my cheek and wet his soft fur.
I needed a plan
but wasn't sure
what it was. I have a very healthy survivor gene. A man didn't get this far,
for as long as I have, by doing something foolish. I pride myself on my brilliance,
stealth, and caution. The entire long night was an exercise in controlling the
blinding rage that seethed through my pores and the need for release.
They woke up
in a froth and did
it all over again, then stumbled together to the shower, these two sluts,
laughing as they soaped each other up behind the curtain. I sprang into action.
Came out from under the
bed quickly, walked over to the window and climbed down the fire escape, paying
no heed to the sky pinking with dawn. If somebody saw me, I'd thrust my knife
into their belly and watch them writhe.
I actually wanted somebody to see me, to witness the pain and betrayal.
I don't even
remember how I got
home. All I know is I entered my apartment and destroyed everything in sight. I
threw the lamp across the room, slashed my sofa to ribbons, crushed things in
my hands. Pulled food out of the refrigerator and smeared it in my hair, on my face,
through my fingers. In anguish I broke a wine bottle, ran it across my leg and
watched as the blood rose and spilled down my thigh as though it were crying.
When the pain set in, I fell on the bed and gave in to huge wails, thrashing
from side to side like a toddler having a tantrum. Hours later, still shaking, I
finally got hold of myself. This was ridiculous. Rachel has to go. It has to
end. I either have to stay away from her forever, or finish her.
I'm going back. Tonight.
I was wearing
a police uniform.
Nobody bothered me as I climbed the fire escape that evening and entered
through her window quickly, sliding into the room. Truffles trotted out to
greet me. I reached down and stroked his arched back. I was looking into his bowl
to see if he had been fed when I heard the elevator ding. Sprinting to the bedroom,
I hustled under the
bed just as the door opened and Rachel stepped through.
As soon as she
closed the door, she
started to cry. Throwing her shoes against
the wall, she crumpled on the sofa and sobbed. Then picked up the phone and
"Amy, it's me" Rachel hiccupped.
"I couldn't face him at work today. Just couldn't. I had no idea he was
married. He's new here and never once
mentioned a wife and two kids. When I
heard about it at the meeting, I almost threw up. I thought he was the one." She cried again. "Here I am, thirty-eight
years old and
never married. My life is ruined. Nobody
will ever love me. Ever. Amy,
do you hear me?" her voice rose an octave, then came back
down, filled with grief.
I tuned out the rest of the conversation, but
it was spiked with sobs, anger and confusion.
"Now you know
like to be betrayed, Rachel," I thought to myself. I was upset.
What kind of guy does that to a nice girl like Rachel? What a jerk.
I would never cheat on my wife or trick a woman like that. I'm a
gentleman. I felt oddly protective of
Rachel, like a father might feel. And then, in a split second, I longed to stab
her foolish heart and end this nonsense once and for all. I felt dangerous and
protective all at the same time, as though my mind were split and I was looking
into one of those cracked fun house mirrors. I was losing my grip.
Rachel hung up,
got some kibble
for Truffles, and swore as she dropped several pieces on the floor. One of them
rolled towards me. I knew if she got
down on her knees to pick up the cat food, she'd see me. I held my breath, gripped
the knife harder. Truffles scampered across
the floor and ate it. I sent him a
the bedroom. I
watched from under the bed as she prepared for the night. She snapped her
briefcase open, set something on the nightstand. Tossed the briefcase and her
purse on a wicker chair in the corner. The dresser drawer opened with a sigh as
she pulled out her night clothes. Rachel's suit fell to the floor and she
kicked it out of the way. A red lacy bra floated to the ground, landed inches
from my face. She slid under the covers,
turned off the light, tossed about, getting comfortable.
Rachel started to cry again, soft sounds that
reverberated under the bed, her wracking sobs vibrating the mattress springs
above my nose.
It got very quiet,
then she must
have sat up in bed. She switched on a lamp, reached into the nightstand drawer. I
heard a tearing sound, then a soft
In a quavering
with defeat, Rachel said, "You can come out now".
[Acknowledgment: “The Man Under
The Bed” originally
appeared in The Literary Hatchet, Issue #20, April 2018.]
Sharon Frame Gay grew up a child of the
highway, playing by the side of the road. Her work has been internationally
published in anthologies and literary magazines, including Chicken Soup for the Soul,
Typehouse, Fiction on the Web, Lowestoft
Chronicle, Thrice Fiction, Crannog,
Saddlebag Dispatches, and others. Her work has won prizes at Women on Writing, Rope and Wire Magazine, The
Writing District, and Owl Hollow
Press. She has been nominated twice
for the Pushcart Prize. More information can be found on Amazon @ https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01HN5AGXK Facebook: Sharon Frame Gay-Writer. Twitter:
Noelle Richardson comes from a relatively
large family and has been illustrating and painting for about twelve years.
She writes a little on the side, plays a couple of
instruments and dabbles in tattoo design.