Even with the duvet pulled over his head, Jake knew they were out there. No question about it, fins the size of surfboards circled the bed, gliding through the deep pile, silent markers for the jaws beneath the floorboards.
Mum said sharks lived in the ocean, not the carpet. But she was wrong about the tiger in the wardrobe, and the alligator in the toy chest, and the pterodactyl in the bathtub. She was right about the ghost in the garden, though. That turned out to be Dad’s bath towel. She was also right about the bear in next door’s garage, which was in fact Uncle Terence when viewed from behind.
Still, right on some things, or not, Jake knew she was wrong about the sharks in the carpet. Last month he saw one sweep its way across the living room floor with its tail thrashing, rise from the woolly rug, and swallow Skip the family dog.
Worse still, two nights ago one of the sharks cornered Jake in the bathroom. He stood on the lino, well away from the bathtub to avoid the snapping beak of the pterodactyl, while a glistening fin patrolled the doorway back and forth, just waiting for him to step onto the carpet.
In the end Jake had to sacrifice his favourite blue teddy bear. Mister Paws was upset, but he had to understand it was him or Jake. After much debate and a tearful farewell, he bravely sailed across the bathroom threshold into the jaws of the shark.
Yes. Mum was wrong about the carpet sharks.
Jake lifted the corner of his duvet in time to see the very tip of a dorsal sink out of sight. They were clever like that. But he was onto them. Just because he couldn’t see them, didn’t mean they weren’t there.
He let his eyes roam the room. The alligator grinned from the toy chest – its beady eyes basked in the glow of the night light. But that was okay because the alligator always stayed in the toy chest.
The wardrobe door rattled against the weight of the tiger and Jake wished it would escape and come to sleep at the foot of his bed like it did sometimes, but then again what if the sharks got it while it padded across the room?
Light swept the darkness from the corridor beyond Jake’s open bedroom door. Mum in a pink nightdress with messed up hair, stepped out of her and Dad’s room and began a wobbled line toward the bathroom.
Jake held his breath, hoping the sharks wouldn’t hear the telltale footsteps. But even though he lay as still as possible, grey fins rose and sliced their way to the hall straight after Mum.
Perhaps if she wasn’t so sleepy she might have stood a chance, but her pace was slow and the sharks were halfway there already.
Jake sat up in bed. “Mum, look out!”
She turned around and the fins sank down and out of view. “Go back to sleep, Jake.”
“But, Mum, there’s carpet sharks.”
“Don’t be silly,” she mumbled, and walked into the bathroom.
Jake knelt on the edge of his bed, wondering if she’d remember to avoid the pterodactyl. He couldn’t hear it screeching. Perhaps it was asleep.
Mum emerged from the bathroom, eyes half closed. She drifted down the hall, holding the banister, followed by three carpet sharks. Two disappeared, pushed aside by the biggest, fastest fin. The top of a black pointed snout poked out.
“Mum!” Jake wailed.
The carpet shark bulldozed forwards, the gleam of its teeth now visible. Mum spun on the spot just in time and screamed. Jake covered his eyes, desperate not to listen to the crunching, snapping of bones and tearing of flesh.
“Night, night,” Mum’s sleepy voice said.
Jake uncovered his eyes to see a tyrannosaurus rex – dressed in Mum’s pink nightdress – plodding back toward her bedroom with the tail of a carpet shark hanging from its mouth.