D. S. Ullery
“Okay Byron. You have a good night.”
Mother planted a soft kiss on her son’s forehead as she lay him down. Byron cooed, his infant mouth curling in a smile. He was in a warm bed and his mother was watching over him. All was well in his world.
She regarded the boy for a moment longer, then glided to the bedroom door. With the flip of a light switch, the warm, amber glow of the night light installed near the baseboards lit the room. Though the shine didn’t completely dispel the shadows, it allowed her to see the crib from the doorway should the need arise.
Satisfied he would be secure with or without her presence in the nursery, Mother stepped out into the adjacent hall. Closing the door quietly behind her, she considered drawing a bath. It had been a long day and a good, hot soak would be welcome.
The sound of Father moving about in the den downstairs changed her mind. It had been forever since the two of them had enjoyed some quality alone time. She’d instead go down and join him in a nightcap.
Smiling, she headed down the stairs.
* * *
It watched from its hiding place, perched high in the corner of the room, talons gripping the walls as an anchor. It had caught the scent of the human child several miles out, while in flight above the desert to the south. Past experience had taught it to wait until the more mature creature was gone. The species were a potent source of nutrition at any age, but the adults fought . They used tools. Their young put up no struggle. Plus, the meat was sweeter.
It had slipped into the nursery earlier that evening, having tracked the scent of the infant through a then-open window. It had watched in silence, keeping perfectly still as the adult entered and placed its pup in what appeared to be a human nest below. It had done this many, may times across a span of years of which it kept no account.
The night was the only world it knew. Daylight rendered the thing practically blind. Once the sun went down, it could perceive the movement of even the tiniest insect from over a mile away.
It’s other senses were equally keen- its olfactory and aural capabilities were unrivaled in the fossil record, as was its speed and strength. It was a perfect predator, able to soar on huge, leathery flaps. The razor sharp claws topping its feet more than compensated for the limited range of the crooked digits protruding from the tips of those wings.
A natural dexterity allowed the thing to contort itself into as tight a ball as necessary, a gift beneficial for both defense and feeding. With a snout full of needle-like teeth, it was a lethal beast, able to grip its still writhing prey while tearing chunks of hot, bloody flesh from the bones. Better still was its physical similarity to the primates on which it fed. Graced with a humanoid frame, its prey would often mistake it for another of their kind cloaked in the dark , not realizing their error until it was too late.
Now alone with the human child, it felt its hunger rise. The smell of this one was particularly sweet, the aroma of succulent meat more enticing than on any previous occasion. Being this close – less than a meter above the crib- the desire to feed had increased to a white hot intensity, overriding all other instincts.
Salivating, it spread its wings and released its grip on the wall, plummeting on top of the baby. It spread its feet as it fell, not wishing to pulverize the meal by landing directly on it. Steadying itself on the soft material of the mattress, it rose to its full height, wings completely spread. It’s mouth stretched, now a chasm lined with ivory daggers.
An unearthly hiss issued from its throat as it went in for the kill.
There was a flash of motion. It abruptly found itself frozen, unable to breathe. Something impossibly strong had wound itself around its neck and was throttling it.
Panicked, it made a furious attempt to flap its wings. It was to no avail. They were pinned to its sides. The beast pulled with its considerable strength, thrashing to and fro, but found itself unable to escape.
Save for a single morning eons ago when it had evaded the torment of daytime by mere minutes, the thing had never known fear. It was becoming intimately familiar with it now, the scarlet orbs of its eyes bulging in terror as it was held fast.
It stared down , unable to comprehend what was happening.
The child was gone. In his place lay a squirming, foul demon. Colorless black eyes sunken in reptilian, slime-slicked flesh glared back. Wriggling tentacles stretched from the creature’s body, winding around the flying beast’s neck and torso, holding it suspended in air above the bed.
Beneath those soulless eyes , the putrid flesh split apart, revealing a pointed beak. This protrusion clacked repeatedly, snapping at air as it slowly pulled its captive ever closer.
It took a bite. Then another. Then another. It happened so quickly, the beast had no time to scream.
One bloody piece at a time, it sliced up the bat-like intruder, until only tattered remnants of its wings and a single, broken talon remained. Noting this, it slid its slithering appendages across the gore-soaked pile, absorbing the blood through its suckers and shoving the last pieces into that deadly beak.
It fell still, sitting quietly in the crib, stomach bloated as it digested the meal.
The feast was appreciated. What seemed like ages had elapsed since it had sensed another night creature in such close proximity. It hadn’t wanted to miss the opportunity for a fresh meal. The demon noted – with some regret – this would be the last kill it would make using this boy. As the host it had entered matured, so did the young mind within begin to challenge the demon’s presence for control. Eventually, the natural consciousness would win out. It knew it would have to leave, to find another.
After a time, the low growl of expelled gas drifted out of it as it finished with the food. This was followed by a high pitched giggle. The ebony marbles it used for eyes rolled back, revealing the bright blue Mother held so dear. The slimy green skin peeled away, rolling over and wrapping his bones with the traditional soft pink as Byron’s human appearance reasserted itself. Tentacles dwindled into chubby arms, culminating in five tiny digits.
From behind the boy’s eyes, it assessed the body one last time. Even the beige pajamas he was clothed in had been restored.
Not a hair out of place, it thought wistfully. Despite being a thing of the pit, the demon felt a twinge of regret. It had grown to like Byron. Ah, well. Such was the fate of the damned.
It slipped out, for now content as it fled into the night, searching for the next vessel.
Back in his crib, Byron curled up on his pillow and fell into a deep, contented sleep.
Later that night, when Mother looked in on him, she saw her son sleeping peacefully in the comforting glow of the night light.
Such a happy baby.