I’m a big fan of concept art; games, films, new-age experimental shenanigans—you name it, I probably have a book or saved piece of it.
Part of my current novel-aspiring blunders is writing a complete story. If I’m not missing an ending, it’s the beginning…or the dreaded middle. So scary.
An idea to exercise this writer-muscle is a combination of the things I love—Writing and Concept Art (look at it all come together!).
Below I present the first piece of this new category, Tommy Was Ready. This is a piece inspired by an image in the book Beginner’s Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop by the publishers over at 3dtotal Publishing (pg 144-147, if it matters). It is titled Closet Monster, and created by Rafael Nascimento, and yes, it’s an idea brought on by Disney/Pixar’s Monsters Inc.
Tommy Was Ready
Tommy was ready. Every night, a monster appeared from his closet, took something, and then left. They took his baseball cards, his baby sisters’ teething rings, loose socks–whatever they could get their hands on. When it began, Tommy was frightened. Now, he took pride in finding new ways to drive the creatures off.
It wasn’t always the same monster, they came in all forms. Some were small, and had big, bulbous heads–others were tall and lanky. One trait they shared was their awful smell–a mixture of gym socks and fabric softener, with the pungent sweetness of rotten fruit.
Benny, his pet fish acted as an alarm. Benny was active, but he hid when a monster came through the closet door. They never made sounds themselves, the monsters. Only when they opened doors or stepped on a loose board was their presence made known. Tommy thought maybe they had some sort of ninja training to be so elusive.
Tommy tallied the monsters he’d defeated on his bedroom walls. His parents didn’t appreciate the warnings. Adults never understand. They only understand that Tommy had marked his walls and asked him to clean it. When he tried explaining his reasons, they rolled their eyes and gave in.
By his count, Tommy had fought back close to sixty monsters; you might call Tommy an expert at monster hunting. Tommy never had the courage to try and hit the monsters in their own homes. They didn’t live in closets, Tommy knew that. Denting up the walls of his closet left him with nothing but two weeks grounded. That was alright by him. Every moment away was another chance the monsters had to steal more of his family’s things.
Tonight, however, Tommy had a plan. He would finally cross into the Monster’s home. The routine was the same each night: Mom and Dad kissed him goodnight, the light went off, he’d get comfortable, and then the change in the air as the closet door slid open. Anxious as he’d ever been, Tommy waited.
He kept one eye on Benny–still in sight. Tommy closed his eyes, and the gentle draw of the sliding door trained his eye to his fish. Benny was gone. Not him hiding, the bowl was gone–curse those monsters! Tommy mustered up his courage and sprang into action, as he reached for his baseball bat he saw the slimy, sucker-tipped fingers that held his prized baseball draw into the depths of the closet.
Slide into home, Tommy thought as he leaped to the door. He managed to get through just it closed. He saw the monster ahead, padding down a nasty-looking hole illuminated by a sickly green glow. On the far end was a door like his, but weathered and cracked. Tommy looked back to his room, only to find it had vanished. No turning back. Tommy pressed his ear to the foreign door, hearing no activity. He tried the handle, being as gentle as he could. He readied his bat for whatever awaited him.
The door opened to a small room–a ragged, dingy version of his own. Looking around, he saw all his things decorating the area. He spotted Benny immediately to his left. It would be simple to take the fish and run, but the monster would return. Tommy had to end it tonight. An old bed sat at the far wall, and beneath a heap of patchwork blankets was the unmistakable silhouette of the monster he’d just seen.
Just another one for the board, Tommy thought. He tiptoed to the bed and gripped his bat tight. As he raised it, the figure rolled around to face him. The monster opened its eyes and let a shriek that made Tommy jump and drop his weapon. A light came on, and Tommy whirled around to see another monster come into the room. The monster stared, horrified as it looked on Tommy.
Tommy glanced around the room once more, it was then he understood. Posters featuring monsters dressed in uniform held bats, ready for a pitch. Shelves along the wall sported glistening trophies with little gilded monsters. This wasn’t a snarling monster’s room, this was a child’s room, and in this world, Tommy was the monster.
He turned back to the frightened child clutching its covers, wide eyes darting back and forth as tears streamed down it’s face. The child held his baseball between its tiny suckered fingers protectively. Tommy thought of his own baby sister, clutching her blanket when the wind-swept trees scratched at her bedroom window.
Tommy took a step towards to the bed, the child reeled back in terror. He looked down at the bat he carried, the many summers he enjoyed outside playing with his friends brought on a warmth within. He raised his bat with both hands in a presenting fashion and took a step further. The child looked down at the bat, then behind Tommy at its parent. Tommy felt a gentle hand rest on his shoulder as he gave his bat away.
Every night since, Tommy went to visit the child, swapping stories of victories won on the field, sharing his toys, and enjoyed getting to know his new friend beyond the closet.