He took one step toward the Clothes Monster as it rose up in the air. The clothes curled at the tip like a white-capped breaker and then exploded like a wave against a ship’s bow. The pile settled once again and pooled, then piled up as the clothes-wave gathered again for another strike.
“You’re a Clothes Monster, Mom,” he said as the clothes scattered and regrouped on the floor around him. Stephen watched in astonishment as the pile gathered together, rose up behind his feet, and snarled. “Stop.” With his arm stretched forward, he held one hand up like an MP as emphasis. Seeing the surprise in her eyes, he added, “I’m not afraid of a Clothes Monster.”
“Well,” Mom whispered, “you’d better run anyway, dear.” She pointed a soft, blue cotton sleeve to direct his attention overhead. Rick had reversed his descent and was now stabbing his way across the ceiling with a continuous clatter. “I think Rick’s a bit angry.” The Clothes Monster bunched into a tight, well-contained pile, glanced quickly back at Stephen, and said, “Duck, dear.” Then it launched a water-cannon wave of dirty clothes toward Rick.
A thundering voice slammed into Stephen’s skull. “Enough!”
Shattered glass flew through the room, lodging in the walls and ceiling as a thick, gnarly, tree limb crashed through the window. “Stop!” A booming voice echoed as the tree’s branches raked deep ruts into the ceiling and floor. It thrashed through the room, leaf clusters smacking Stephen across the chest and abdomen as it swept past. “Cease this nonsense!” The voice rattled Stephen’s ears as the chest of drawers broke apart, dumping out fresh clothes.
The Clothes Monster’s eyes—Mom’s eyes, Stephen thought—grew huge, and her soft, toothless mouth was agape amid the mound of clothes. Jimmy had poked his head out from under the edge of the crumpled rug to get a better view and was anxiously watching the battle. As Stephen’s room exploded around them, Jimmy yelped and pulled the rug over his head to shield his face from the flying debris.
Rick, snatched in midair by the crunching and cracking limb, was dragged screaming through the room toward the now-splintered and glassless window frame as the massive muscular branch flexed around him. The bent limb exploded through the wall with an ear-numbing boom, sending plaster and wood flying into the yard and dragging Rick with it.
Stephen dove into the pile of clothes headfirst to avoid the whirling shards of wood. “Mom!” The words tore from his throat.
“Duck and cover!”
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