Untreed Reads has released Joshua Calkins-Treworgy’s Mr. Big Ugly in multiple digital formats for $1.50.
Everybody has cherished childhood memories; favorite toys, comfort objects, that blankie that kept you warm in the dark, cold nights. For a lot of us, there was also the joy of the imaginary friends. Sometimes, unfortunately, there were also the monsters under the bed or in the closet. For little Phillip Montrose, the monster in the closet, Mr. Big Ugly, is about to make an appearance like few others have before. A new, disturbing stop along the Roads Through Amelia.
Little Philip Montrose, aged 7, had a big problem. His problem was Mr. Big Ugly, the monster in his closet. Mr. Big Ugly appeared to be a large toad-man, looming at seven feet tall and made of the shadows of his room, with a mouth filled with daggers that he loved to put on display for little Philip.
Mr. Big Ugly was a member of the Uvurum race. Every Uvurum had a job—being the monsters in children’s closets and under their beds. This had been their duty since the creation of their race. Now, Mr. Big Ugly was just that—big and ugly. But he, too, had a problem. Mr. Big Ugly’s problem was not uncommon, but he had never experienced such a dilemma, and so thought it a tad on the strange side. Ever since little Philip had entered the second grade, the frail, waif-like boy wasn’t really all that scared of Mr. Big Ugly anymore. Phil now had bullies to deal with, and they were much more real and hostile toward him. They pushed him, stole his lunch and his money, and called him names. Phil’s fear of them was not the kind of fear that Mr. Big Ugly could feed upon. He needed to be the source of the boy’s fear in order to obtain his sustenance.
The bullies, unbeknownst to Mr. Big Ugly, weren’t Phil’s worst problem. Since Daddy had gone away to California with his nice secretary friend, Mommy had been having “friends” over. Phil didn’t understand this much, because most girls he knew didn’t like boys. His Mommy, however, apparently did. The newest model was Hank. Phil didn’t like Hank one bit. Hank scared little Phil, much more so than did the bullies. Hank would wait until late at night, and then he would come into Phil’s room, and he would hurt little Phil just like the bullies. Hank, however, did this in such a manner as not to leave bruises.
As a result, Mr. Big Ugly, who had been assigned to Phil now for two years, now only irked Phil as a pest of sorts. He could not afford any more fear for Mr. Big Ugly. That, of course, didn’t stop him from coming out of the closet every night. Mr. Big Ugly still made it hard for Phil to sleep. He moaned from inside the closet, scraping the walls with his webbed, clawed hands, chipping away paint and plaster. The worst part of these theatrics for Phil was that the sounds from the closet often masked Hank’s approach in the dead of night.
Whenever an adult approaches a child’s room during the night, a warning tingle goes up the assigned Uvurum’s spine. They then head back to their doorway, be it the closet or the underside of the child’s bed, and slip back into the Uvurum world, which is much the same as our own, but populated by these night monsters. The Uvurum can get in touch with their supervisor by simply reaching a hand back into their world, and often they are advised, just before the parent’s entrance, to leave the child’s chamber for the night.
Mr. Big Ugly was a monster, but he followed the rules of his race to the T. He had been an orderly monster for centuries. Fearsome though he was, he had to admit that sometimes, he didn’t enjoy his work, and it often disturbed him to be doing what he was doing. On this particular night, however, he would be disturbed less by his work than by what he would finally witness. He would also wonder why, later, he would not be advised to return to his world.
It would change his long existence forever.
“Time for bed, Sweetie,” said Mommy to Phil. He lounged on the couch with Mommy, his head nestled comfortably in her lap with his body sprawled out on another long cushion. Mommy, he thought, but Hank calls her “Martha” instead. Phil had found this very strange over the course of the last month, since Hank had started being Mommy’s “friend.” He had always assumed that Mommy was just Mommy, or “Ms. Montrose” as his teachers and friends called her when he was allowed to bring them over.
Already dressed in pajamas covered with Spider-Man designs and patterns, Phil lay watching the credits for Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends roll across the screen. Phil loved this particular cartoon, because it reminded him of his own imaginary friend, General Bruno.
General Bruno had been a courageous golden retriever in a military dress uniform, like Phil’s grandpa wore in all of his old pictures. General Bruno could talk and walk on two legs, just like many of the animated friends of Foster’s. Phil and the General would pass many hours playing war games with his toys in his room, particularly his large collection of Transformers. Yes, Phil had loved spending time with his imaginary friend.
Until just before Daddy left. One night, as he tried not hearing Mommy and Daddy arguing out in the apartment’s living room, General Bruno decided to pull one of his little chairs over to the side of his bed, and read Phil a bed time story. The frail, pale little raven-haired boy lay on his bed, tucked in by the stern but loving imaginary friend, and listened intently, watching the General as he made faces and changed his voice to match the characters in his storybook.
All had gone well until about halfway through the familiar story, when Phil’s eyes had expanded to the size of teacup saucers at the sight of the creature looming up behind and over General Bruno. Mr. Big Ugly, his warped, wobbly toad-man body of shadows and drab olive-green flesh, slunk up behind the General, and slowly peeled his lips back from his teeth. Quaking uncontrollably, Phil found that he could not discover his voice in time to save his imaginary friend.
As slowly and stealthily as an assassin, Mr. Big Ugly parted his massive jaws and stooped down, covering the General’s head and biting it off at the neck. Arterial blood sprayed the chair and floor of the bedchamber, and General Bruno’s arms flapped and thrashed as his body dumped itself off the boy’s chair. Phil, unable to even scream, just watched in terror as Mr. Big Ugly grasped the General’s booted feet and dragged him mercilessly back to his closet domain, closing the door behind him as he tossed the body of the imaginary friend haplessly into piles of clothes and toys therein. Phil remained up for most of the rest of the night, listening to Mr. Big Ugly as he chewed and belched and cackled like an asylum candidate.
Mommy and Daddy hadn’t seen the blood. In the morning, after sleeping only an hour or two, neither did little Phil. But the General was gone, probably forever, and now Phil took some small comfort in watching the cartoon that had just finished on the television. “Can I watch one more?” he pleaded, rolling his head and body to stare up into Mommy’s lovely hazel eyes. Mommy ran a gentle hand through his hair, but shook her head all the while.
“No, honey, it’s already nine o’clock,” said Mommy. “Mommy and Hank want to have some alone time.” Phil sat up and looked over at Hank, who slumped in the living room recliner. Dressed in dark blue mechanic’s clothes, covered in spots of grease, Hank struck little Philip Montrose as just the sort of man Daddy didn’t like. In his right hand he had a beer, of which he reeked. In his left hand, he held the remote. In his eyes, Phil saw as they met his own, Hank held a grim promise to Phil. The little boy shivered inside, and knew that tonight was going to be a bad one.
You can order directly from the publisher here: Mr. Big Ugly