The Shipwrecked Bogey Man can be found in




ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



MOTHER'S VOICE was savage. "Now I don't want to hear one more peep from you tonight!" And she snapped off the light and slammed the door behind her.

For a minute Peter dared not stir in the bed. She had waited outside the door to listen. Then, "Remember, now!" she called, and he heard her go down the hall.

He looked over in the corner. You could see the Bogey Man now, he shone green in the darkness. The luminous green body uncoiled and faced outward from the wall, hands away from eyes, and stared down at the scattered pieces of Meccano.

Peter was suddenly frightened. "It wasn't me, I didn't do it" he called. The big green-and-yellow eyes turned toward him. "No!" he whispered, "It wasn't me..."

No sounds came from downstairs. Dad wasn't home yet, and Mother must be reading, If only Jimmy were around! But Jimmy was away at boarding school and his room next door was empty.

The Bogey Man looked at him, and he could not call out.

Then the eyes turned away, the body crouched on the floor, and he heard the pieces of his toy builders' set being gathered together. He moved his head over to the side of the bed and watched. Click-click, green hands picked up the metal rods and fastened them in place. He heard the screwdriver at work, and saw only vague movement in the darkened room. Click-click! How can he see, Peter wondered. The big eyes turned toward him again and he felt drowsy. He wanted to move, to ask questions, but he was dead tired, too sleepy....

In the morning, first thing, Peter ran to his toy cupboard. Yes, there was the Meccano, packed away on the first shelf. He took out the box and opened it. All the pieces were in place, each group tied in the right tray. It was just like the other mornings, there was nothing to see. Why doesn't he leave me something built, thought Peter. And as he shut the cupboard door he looked into the shadowed corner.

At breakfast Dad made fun of him. "Well, me lad," he said, "I understand you have a visitor."

"I do!" said Peter. "Mother doesn't believe me but I do."

"He's all green and can't be seen," said Dad, and chuckled.

Peter felt muddled and lonely. "He doesn't like the light and you can only see him in the dark," he said.

"Naturally! He's transparent but slightly fluorescent."

"Now Ralph," said Mother, "That's no way to talk. You mustn't encourage Peter to go on. The main thing is—"

"Really! After all, I didn't invent this monster, Sylvia."

"The main thing is to stop Peter from walking around and playing when he should be in bed. You must talk to him seriously, Ralph!"

"Now look here," said Dad, "I was not here when it started, was I?"

"No. Of course you weren't! You never are when anything difficult comes up. Always off on a trip." Mother stood up. "The whole load falls on me. Oh, I'm so tired of it all."

"Wait, Sylvia." Dad got up, too. "Forget what I said. I know it's hard for you...." As she left the room he called, "I'll get to the bottom of this and fix it up, do you hear?"

Peter started to eat his egg hurriedly.

Dad looked at him sternly. "Fun's fun," he said, "But Mother tells me you're out of bed every night. now, playing with your toys instead of sleeping."

"It's not me," he wanted to say, but Dad cut in, "And there's no use blaming it all on this little green man. Look, my boy, you're too old for things like this. You must stop being a baby and think of your mother."

"Aw gee, Dad!" said Peter. "It's the truth. Honest. I'll show you if—"

"No!... Stop that! You get off to school now, but tonight we're going to have a serious talk about this."

"Please, Dad. It'll only take a minute. Come upstairs and I'll show you. Honest!"

But when he opened the cupboard door Dad didn't look quickly enough. Peter glanced up and saw that he had failed. "Don't you see the green?" he asked, "Look!" And he swung the door to and fro, three times in succession.

Dad straightened up. "You go to school," he said, "I'll see you tonight."

It was no use.

That night he was sent to bed early, and the light bulb was removed from its socket. "My flashlight," he suggested, and they took it away too.

"You can't do much fooling around now," said Dad.

So he lay in bed and waited while the room grew darker and the house became quiet. His eyes were fastened on where the toy cupboard rested against the wall. He heard a scraping noise. Something moved in the cupboard. There was a snap—the little door opened, and the green, froglike man was crouched down and backing onto the floor.

The Bogey Man carried something out with him—the builders' set—and put it down. He opened it, and turned towards Peter. The big eyes looked at Peter for a long time, a long, long time....

WHEN he examined the cupboard next day, Jimmy's chemistry set was lying on top of his own Meccano box. And packed neatly away behind were some of Dad's tools-he saw the soldering iron—and what looked like pieces from the radio. Peter grew frightened. "No," he whispered. "You shouldn't do that. I'll get in trouble." He reached in for Jimmy's box and then drew back. The Bogey Man mightn't like it.

He was halfway downstairs, badly worried, when Dad's shout came.

"What the devil's wrong with this damn thing!"

"What do you mean, Ralph?" called Mother.

"The radio, dammit all! That's what I mean! What happened to it?"

He waited there as Mother ran out from the kitchen. Dad was moving the radio around and grumbling.

"Why there's a tube missing!" shouted Dad. "That little devil...."

Peter ran back upstairs and went quickly to the cupboard. Now he was in for it! Jimmy's box, the tools, the mass of wires—he piled them together and gathered them up in his arms. What about the radio thing? Too late—they knew about that. He took the rest and hid them under the bed in Jimmy's room. Now Dad was shouting something at the foot of the stairs and Mother was talking low, pleading. He ran back for the Meccano box, emptied all the pieces from it under Timmy's bed, and put the box in his own cupboard again. He threw the radio tube on his floor and started down for breakfast.

Dad was coming up the stairs. He went past Peter into the room and picked up the tube. "Well!" he said. "Just as I thought. Don't think that's at all funny, Peter."

And later, as he got up from the breakfast table, Dad said, "Hold on, my boy. I'm going to put an end to your playing around in the middle of the night. It's got to stop.... Understand?"

Peter was silent.

"Tonight you sleep locked in your room, We're taking all your things out from there, d'you hear?"

"Yes, sir," said Peter.

"All right. Away you go."

When he came in from school that afternoon his room looked bare. His comb and toothbrush were left on the dresser, the towel Still hung over the radiator. Everything else was gone. He looked in the games cupboard. All his stuff had been removed, even his skates and helmet, and of course the box of Meccano. But far at the back, as he closed the door, there seemed to be a flicker of green.

Peter rushed down the hall into Jimmy's room and looked under the bed. He sighed with relief—they were just as he'd left them.

Nobody was around. It took him two trips to carry everything away, and he hid the lot underneath some things in his clothes closet. When it was clone he felt safe for the first time that day.

Dad took a last look around, everywhere, before he locked Peter in at bedtime. "Understand now, Peter," he said, "I'm going to be listening tonight. I don't want to spank you, but I will if you make me."

"Yes, Dad."

"Nighty-night, old boy."

"'Night, Dad."

Then the key turned and he was alone.

PETER didn't go to sleep. He waited until the house was quiet and then, as silently as possible, climbed out of bed. It was awful, leaving behind the protection of his covers, but he had to do it. He felt naked and defenseless as he crossed the room, and the squeaking of the closet door scared him terribly. All the same, he did what he must—uncovered the pile of things hidden beneath the clothes and carried it all out onto the floor.

There! The whole lot was all right. As he handled things he checked in his mind. The chemistry set, tools, building pieces, wires—everything! His worries were over, he could go back to bed.

He took one step and then froze in sudden terror.

The radio piece!

He'd forgotten the tube!

Coldness crept over Peter and he began to shake. He couldn't move, couldn't think. Realization of failure made him sick, and he didn't know what to do.

It was all so stupid. He'd meant to take Jimmy's radio, the one Jimmy wasn't allowed at school, and which was in the dresser drawer in the next room. Nobody would have known. He'd planned to bring it in with the rest of the stuff.

And he'd forgotten.

Peter went over to the door and tried it. No use, it was locked. There was no way out. He'd 'have to stay and wait for—

He grabbed the handle and shook hard. The door rattled. He couldn't stay in here! Not without a radio tube. A coldness came all over his skin and he got set to shout.

Dad would kill him if he shouted. It would be terrible. He remembered Dad's face in the morning.

With a moan of fear Peter slipped to his knees at the door. He couldn't do anything. Not a thing.

Snap! 

Horrified, he looked behind him. Yes, it was the cupboard door. The Bogey Man! He tried to take his eyes away, and couldn't. He couldn't move. He crouched there and watched the gleaming body back out of the cup-board.

Over to the pile on the floor went the green figure. It bent down and for some minutes examined the things Peter had placed there. The luminous fingers turned over piece after piece, and all the while Peter waited in terror for the discovery.

Impatiently the Bogey Man scattered the pile about the floor. The figure came erect, glanced again at the objects around its feet, and then Peter saw the huge glowing eyes turn full upon himself. Now, he thought-Now!

Time stopped. Nothing happened. Then, slowly, with no noise, the Bogey Man moved toward him. The green-and-yellow eyes came closer, became immense in size—they filled Peter's world. And without knowing why, our even when it had happened, Peter found himself without fear. The green man was beside him, those eyes were on a level with his own, and there was no menace, no suggestion of danger. He watched one glimmering hand reach past him, saw the little piece of metal pushed into the lock of the door—then there was a click, and he knew the door could be opened.

When he went to get Jimmy's radio the little man crouched in a corner with eyes averted from the hall light. Silently Peter returned with his burden, shut the door, and climbed back into bed. Inside, he felt relief and pride—he was all right now, and he had done well.

AS HE LAY there a sense of intimacy with the Bogey Man grew in his mind. He watched the green body crouched on the floor, hands moving busily, and the room seemed a warm and friendly place. Thoughts drifted into his mind—he, too, seemed to be out on the floor, working with feverish haste. Before him the apparatus grew.... Fit this bar here, across the frame. Fine! Now the fields interlock at the point, so the next conductor.... A-ah. There also must the crystal be mounted, or so it seemed, and he glanced aside at the bath in which it was growing.

It made no sense to him, and yet it did. Words and pictures were in his mind. They were unfamiliar, totally so, yet for an instant they meant something. It was the ship, of course. Or a sort of a ship, you might even call it an escalator. That was what the apparatus was for.

Lucky the chemicals were available for that crystal bath. That's the way it went, though, you expected that. And just for luck—in case things went wrong and you had a shipwreck—why you carried a seed crystal with you. They were unobtainable except....

Peter understood about the wreck. The Bogey Man didn't want to be here. It was an accident, or maybe an enemy at home. Anyhow... now the multiplier. Not the same tube as last night, this one would do though. Hook it into the field-guide framework and test for gravitational direction....

There!

He watched while the horn-shaped crystal was lifted from the bath and measured. Good enough—just two adjustments to make in the circuit constants and perhaps.... Wait! One last check over the whole setup....

Peter's head was down on the pillow. It was almost morning, his whole body was desperately tired, but he must stay awake—just a little longer.

Everything was ready now. Soon it would be goodbye. Peter fought his body into sitting position. A friend was going away, beyond his reach forever, and he wanted to watch. He must see it all, the whole thing, and hug it in his memory.

The green hand slipped a plug into the wall outlet, and all eyes in the room turned toward the apparatus. They waited anxiously.... It should work.

Down the hall a door opened. There was the sound of feet, and Peter tensed. What was Dad doing?

The green figure stood erect, motionless. Only the one, shuffling noise could be heard. Closer, closer.... Then Peter relaxed. The bathroom, Dad was going there.

Outside there was a jarring noise, a glass smashed on the floor, and he could hear Dad's low, grumbling tones. Stubbed his toe, thought Peter, and 'he was filled with relief. They were still all right, nobody would come in.

A new yellowish glow caught his eye and he looked back to the center of the room. Exultation arose in him—it was working. A low-pitched, muted hum reached his ears, and he watched the bell-like upturned crystal grow brighter and brighter.

The Bogey Man moved quickly. Hands reached toward the apparatus, touched the bars here and there, did many things that to Peter had no meaning. He watched the horn, fascinated, and saw the black bubble come out and rest and grow. The blackness moved up and around, even in the dark room it was a visible pulsing thing of utter night. Then it grew no more, and hung there. That's it! marveled Peter, the ship—the corridor—and I helped to build—

THE DOOR of the room flew open and his father's shout crashed into Peter's ears. He looked up, shocked, to see Dad framed there in the hall light, but Dad, too, was rigid and Silent, watching. And then with a last wild glance, Peter saw the Bogey Man, hands over eyes, plunge desperately into the hovering black sphere. The glimmering body vanished, and they waited. The sphere hung there motionless, and just as motionless Peter and his father stared into the blackness.

Mother was there. She had made no sound, and yet was suddenly with them, standing beside Dad. She gripped his arm, and he looked at her, startled. He cursed, walked into the room, and then with obvious intent went over to the wall where the socket was.

Peter yelled with fear. "No, Dad! No!"

His father looked back from his crouch beside the wall. "No?" he asked in a hard voice, "Why not?"

"Don't," begged Peter. "Please don't. He's got to get home. In a minute it'll collapse. Just a minute, Dad!"

His mother reached him and caught him to her. "Sh... Peter" she said, and rocked him on her chest. "No, no," she said, "It'll be all right."

"Please, don't!" he pleaded.

"Ha!" snorted Dad, and he pulled out the plug—

There was nothing where the sphere had been. The crystal was dead. The apparatus remained on the floor of the room, lifeless in the hall light.

Dad stood up quietly, still staring into the center of the room. Mother held Peter tight and ran her hand over his head.

And Peter struggled in misery and despair to free himself, and he shouted with rage at his father, "You've done it now. You've finished him. You've wrecked him again!"