Summary of “Gotcha!” by Ray Bradbury

Gotcha Ray Bradbury Summary
Gotcha! Summary

“Gotcha!” is a short story by Ray Bradbury first published in 1978 and appearing in the collection The Stories of Ray Bradbury. It’s about a couple who are completely in love who experience a change in their relationship when the woman suggests playing a scary game. Here’s a summary of “Gotcha!”

“Gotcha!” Summary

Beth and Charles are madly in love and spend all their time together. A year into the relationship at breakfast, Beth mentions Gotcha, a game she made up based on a scary story and has played for years. Charles has never heard of it. Beth thinks he’ll love it and it will scare him, and Charles agrees to play that night.

They’re in bed that night after a luxurious and loving day. At midnight, Beth turns out all the lights except the small bedside lamp. Charles lies in the middle of the bed and isn’t to move or talk. Beth stands at the foot of the bed and starts. She collapses her bones slowly, sinking and melting to the floor. Charles congratulates her on the illusion but is reminded he’s not to talk.

After five minutes of nothing, he sits up a bit and looks around. It seems darker. There’s light from the bathroom. There’s a sound like a mouse in a far corner but he can’t see anything. Another minute goes by and he hears a whisper from the floor near the bathroom door. He briefly thinks he feels something crawling under the bed.

The light from the bulb is more like a dim candle. There’s a scurrying like a large spider on the floor and Beth’s echoing voice asks how he likes it so far. There’s two more minutes of nothing and Charles gets more nervous. He sees her hand imitating a spider at the foot of the bed.

The bathroom light goes out. Charles wonders why they’re doing this. A hand appears on the left side of the bed and vanishes. He thinks a hand appeared on the right side. Five more minutes must have passed.

There’s a stirring in the closet and the door opens. He hears movement in the bathroom and by the window. Charles sits up and hears moaning and other sounds. Water drips in the bathroom. A window opens and there’s a cool breeze. He calls out to Beth but there’s no answer. The sounds and movement persist as Charles continues calling to Beth. He doesn’t like the game and wants to stop. It’s been twenty minutes now.

There’s no answer. Suddenly, a dark figure leaps onto the bed landing on four feet. It shrieks and jumps on his chest. Hands seize his neck and a gaping mouth shrieks “Gotcha!” at him. Charles struggles and flails but it clings to his neck and breathes cold air on his face. The strange alien figure that’s only hate and death pins him and screams “Gotcha!” again.

Charles burst into tears and Beth returns to normal. She apologizes but Charles doesn’t accept it. She turns on all the lights and lies next to him, comforting him, but he’s inconsolable. He believes she did it all on purpose.

After a while, Charles stops crying and gets calmer. Beth apologizes and promises not to do it again, and Charles forgives her. He wants the lights left on a while. After an hour, Beth turns them off but leaves the bathroom light on. Charles is still awake. When Beth gets back in bed, he says he loved her so much. Beth changes the tense to the present. It takes her an hour to fall asleep.

In the morning at breakfast, Charles feels a coldness and everything seems alien. He can’t find the words to tell Beth this feels like the end. Beth asks if he wants to play the game again tonight, but they’ll switch places and he’ll jump out and say “Gotcha”. He doesn’t want to see that part of himself. He starts crying.

I hope this summary of “Gotcha!” by Ray Bradbury was helpful.