Strange Beasts

Just as Samantha was falling asleep there was a noise in her closet like two glasses clinking. “Dad!” she wailed.

Thud of feet in the kitchen and wash of light from the hall. Backlit like that, all she could see of him was his silhouette. “What’s wrong, kiddo?”

“There’s something in the closet!”

He laughed and shook his head. “Well, that’s not good. Let’s take a look-see.” As he walked toward her the light leaked around him and picked out his nose and chin, eyes and cheeks, gave him a face. Samantha had the blanket pulled all the way up to her nose like she was supposed to, and her eyes squinted tight. When he opened the door, she squeaked. “Oh!” said her father.

“What? What is it?”

“Here, take a look.” Something was crouched in his hands, all brown fur and bright eyes. It had two hands like hers and a long bony face like a skeleton. When she reached out a finger toward it, it clacked its jaw at her. “Easy, easy.” Her father stroked it gently with the back of his finger and it wrapped its tiny fingers around his thumb.

“What is it?”

“It’s a duclod. They hide in closets and steal shoes. They’re harmless, though. Here, here.” He put the duclod on her bed and it curled up on itself like a pill bug. “It’s scared.”

“Oh, hey,” Samantha said, and brushed it with her fingers. “Don’t be scared.” The duclod uncurled slightly and nipped at her fingers with teeth dry and dusty as the desert.