Teddy Bears and Demons

by

Matthew Scott Baker



Phillip was mad again tonight and it was really wearing Tasha down.

"Tasha, why donít you get rid of this thing? Itís worn out and ready for the trash pile." Tasha Littleton looked over at her boyfriend holding the battered, brown teddy bear and frowned at him.

"Weíve had this conversation before, Phillip. The bear stays, end of story."

Phillip snorted and turned away, shaking his head as he tossed the bear onto the trunk at the foot of the bed. He never seemed to understand about sentimental things. She stared into the mirror as she finished pulling her hair back, looped it into a ponytail, and then sat there, shoulders drooping as she watched Phillipís reflection climbing into bed. For the most part, he was a nice guy; but, she thought, he could certainly be quite an ass.

Tasha had met Phillip Creedner at a club down the street about seven months ago thanks to an accident. Tasha had been leaning over the bar, trying to flag down the bartenderís attention for another drink, when someone crashed into her from behind, sending her toppling headfirst over onto the other side of the bar. Dazed, Tasha had stood up, red-faced and furious, to see a handsome young man with a brown crew cut and a nice build grappling with a large, thick-necked cowboy in a lime green shirt who was obviously drunk and obviously not in a good mood. Tasha noticed the dark burgundy bouncerís shirt that the nice looking man wore and immediately changed her attitude about what had just happened to her. It was definitely an accident that he had run into her and was certainly the fault of the belligerent cowboy.

The bouncer maneuvered the cowboy over towards the door and got him pinned down on his stomach, a lime green arm pulled back in a hammerlock position. Shouting for the doorman to help, the two hefted the cowboy off the floor and tossed him outside. A small cry of gratitude rose up from some of the bar patrons and the bouncer held his hand up, smiling as he strode back in the room, his eyes alertly scanning the crowd. He locked on to Tasha and immediately hurried over, apologizing to her before he even reached her. Introductions had been made, phone numbers exchanged, even a date was planned, and here they were. Seven months later, they were dating exclusively.

But, for as nice as things were, Phillip had a dark side to him and that made Tasha very uneasy. He had never hit her or even been forceful with her. Nor had he shown any signs of a bad temper. There was just something ... off Ö about Phillip; it was something Tasha could sense, though no physical proof existed for it.

The dispute over her teddy bear had sparked this whole feeling and it had nagged at her to this very day. Their first night sleeping together he had picked it up off her bed and tossed it away in to the corner of the room, as if discarding a used paper towel. She had made a comment, trying to sound casual, as though it didnít bother her ... much.

"Please be careful with that, Phillip. That bear's very old and has sentimental value." He'd given her a funny look, unable to understand how anything so dilapidated could have value, sentimental or otherwise. "I know, it's kinda falling apart, but it's one of those great-grandmother-gave-my-grandmother-who-gave-it-to-my-mother things." Phillip had stared at her with a curious look in his eyes, almost reproaching her silently.

"Youíre kidding, right?" he'd asked. "That thing?" But, because their relationship was new and she really liked him, Tasha had changed the subject and the teddy bear comments had fallen into the back of her mind.

But after a long, hard day like today, Phillip usually tried to bring the subject up, always prying, trying to get more information about the bear and why she kept it.

Sitting at her make-up table, she watched in the mirror as he climbed into bed and folded his hands behind his head, idly staring up at the ceiling. She sighed to herself and stood up. It was time to tell him, she thought. Time to tell the truth and let him decide if he wanted to keep dating her or not. She headed for her side of the bed, picking up the bear as she passed the trunk.

Phillip didn't seem to notice her as she got into bed.

Propping her pillow up, she leaned back and sat the bear on her stomach. "Iíll tell you why this bear means so much to me," she began, "if youíll promise not to ask me to get rid of it again."

He still didnít move.

"Okay?"

He blinked slowly and sighed. "Okay, Tasha. Letís hear it."

Ignoring his condescending tone, she began.

"I loved my dad more than anything in the world. He worked hard to raise me by himself after my mom died Ö I was only three when it happened, so I never knew her. Some type of rare cancer, he said. Wish I could have known her. But, Dad did a good job, I think. Anyway, he worked for the American Museum of International History down on 34th Street, in charge of the Procurement Department; he would work with dealers all over the world to obtain rare artifacts and pieces for the museum. He loved his job, even so much that he would sometimes bring home special pieces to show me."

Phillip yawned; Tasha kept talking.

"Once, he brought home an old, intricate scroll, written in some language Iíd never heard of before. He told me that it was one of the oldest known artifacts weíd ever found, so old the writing should have been impossible."

"Impossible to read, you mean?"

"No, just impossible. The language on the scroll wasn't used anywhere until about a thousand years after the period that carbon-dating of the materials suggested. I think I was eight at the time, so the full impact of that didnít even sink in. I was just happy that he was excited, so I let him talk and tried to comprehend everything he was saying.

"Apparently, this scroll described a tribe of ancient people whose children were plagued by creatures they called night-fiends. These creatures were almost invisible to the adult eye and could somehow sneak into bedrooms and nurseries to terrorize their young and, in some instances, cause death. The Holy Elders of the village pleaded to their gods to help them. The gods heard their pleas and sent down warriors to help protect the children. But, these warriors were truly unique. No more than a foot high, they resembled short, shaggy dogs that walked on two feet. They would wait in the shadows of the childrenís rooms and sometimes even hide under the blankets or the bed; when the night-fiends arrived, the warriors would spring from their hiding places and do battle with the creatures."

She paused, expecting Phillip to make a comment. But he said nothing, watching her with true interest now. It seemed her story was having some effect on him, but she couldnít quite read what.

"Eventually, as the legend went, the evil creatures diminished in number, but were still consistently attacking children every now and then. The scroll became really vague at this point, but my dad filled in the gaps by saying the Holy Elders decided it was in the best interest for everyone if the warriors stayed. And so they did.

"Over time, as more and more people were born and the population grew larger, there werenít enough warriors to watch over every child. So, they began to make fake warriors and gave them out to every child that didnít have a real one. The idea was that hopefully the night-fiends would see the fake warrior in the childís room or bed and be frightened away Ö"

Tasha trailed off as she thought back to her own father tucking her in at night, kissing her forehead and then patting her bear on the head before he left her room.

"And Ö?" Phillip asked.

She looked over at him as she answered. "And that's how teddy bears came to be." Glancing down at the little brown bear in her hands, she smiled. "These little guys are the direct descendants of a long line of butt-kickiní warrior-bears."

Phillip was silent for a moment as he stared at the bear. Then, with a grunt of disgust, he threw back the blanket and stood up. "That has to be the stupidest thing Iíve ever heard, Tasha. If that thing means so much to you, then you can just sleep with it instead of me. Iíve gotta get out of here."

Tasha bit her trembling lip and fought back tears; she hadnít expected a reaction like this. How could he be so insensitive? Phillip grabbed his pants, pulled on a shirt, and was quickly out the door. A few seconds later, the front door slammed shut as he left the apartment.

Silently, tears began to stream down her cheeks. Tasha pulled the bear close to her and lay down on the bed, curling up on her side with her arms wrapped around it. Never in her life had she considered this single object of sentimentality a burden, but it had suddenly caused a rift between her and someone she thought she loved. Why was her affection for this bundle of soft cloth and stuffing such an issue? Reaching over to the bedside table, she clicked off the lamp and lay there in the black, alone with her sadness.

And in the darkness of the room, the small bear smiled as it kept a silent vigil over its charge.

THE END



© 2006 by Matthew Scott Baker

Matthew Scott Baker currently works in Logistics for a major transportation company in northwest Arkansas, but spends the wee hours of the night working on story ideas. His story Mind Jump appeared in the April 2005 edition of Aphelion.

E-mail: Matthew Scott Baker

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