A Faerie Good Night
Rain hammered the windows like the percussive beat of a million minute drums. Two pairs of wooden blades, green and black, blurred above. Their discordant colors were drowned out by the yellow tinge from the ceiling-fan light.
Tofflepotts found a small measure of relief in the brightness. It made it easier to spot monsters and, slay them. He craned his neck, straining his muscles as he looked up at the edge of the bed.
A child lay curled at the lip of the bed. He was bent into a shape only possible by humans of his young age. One leg close to dangling off of the end, another folded back—heel pressed to his bottom. A pudgy hand was held against his mouth, brushing his lips up like he’d pressed them to a window. His black hair was a static-charged frenzy. Parts of it splayed out against the pillow as more rogue strands tried to reach into the air and fail, creating mini arcs.
The young boy, Samuel, was a mess. But, he was Tofflepotts’ mess. His charge. To be protected from nightmares, things that nibbled on feet in the night and, of course, the irritating mass of fur the family had been duped into caring for.
Samuel pawed at the black satin mask covering his eyes.
Tofflepotts sucked in a breath, hoping the child did not remove the obscuring piece of fabric. Guardian faeries were to operate unseen. His fingers trembled as he ran a calming hand through his shock of electric-aquamarine hair. Strands as fine as cotton fluff broke apart in his grip, taking to the air.
He didn’t mind. They’d grow back to full length by the next morning.
Samuel burbled. A pool of saliva frothed at one corner of his mouth before inflating with air. The bubble hung in place, refusing to burst.
Tofflepotts fought the smile inching across his mouth. The toothpick-sized faerie found delight in the tiny human oddities.
Another bubble formed on the child’s face. It emanated from his right nostril.
Tofflepotts found his delight tempered a bit.
Something scuttled along the ceiling. The coin-sized mass of inky-black raced across the walls.
Tofflepotts tracked its movements as his jaw hardened. He brought two fingers to his lips and released a piercing whistle.
Samuel squirmed in his bed, causing the tiny faerie to hold his breath once more.
Mortals were not supposed to be able to hear the tiny folk’s voices.
Perhaps he had whistled wrong?
His lips pressed together as his mouth pulled downward. Tofflepotts didn’t have the time to linger on the question. Rows of vibrant colors crept out from the dark places in the room. The scene emerging from under the bed reminded Tofflepotts of the brightly colored sticks of wax young Samuel colored with.
Countless faeries scrambled out of the dark. Each faerie’s hair was unlike any other’s within eyeshot. The closest, a bronzed male, waved at Tofflepotts.
Tofflepotts did not return the wave.
The approaching faerie wore a tattered collection of taupe rags.
Tofflepotts shut his eyes, recalling where he’d seen that color and material before. The family curtains in the living room. His frown deepened.
The drapery-wearing faerie stopped inches from Tofflepotts, snapping to a salute that shook his mess of fine, burgundy hair.
Tofflepotts returned the salute, eyeing the faerie’s shaggy haircut that fell to his eyes. It most certainly did not fit regulation. His own hair was exempt from the rules by the nature of his rank of course.
“General Tofflepotts!” The faerie quivered in place as his arms fell to his sides and his posture straightened.
More faeries pooled from behind the monstrous bookshelf, which towered to the same height as the child’s bed. It was like watching a neon washed rainbow flood the room. They ran towards him, a faerie carousel of color.
Each dressed in odd bits and bobs plucked from the house they guarded. One wore thin sheets of paper adorned in flowery print and held together by clear tape. Another was wrapped tight in a clear plastic with bulbous protrusions containing air, that if subjected to pressure, would pop to many faerie’s shock and delight.
Tofflepotts counted four dozen faeries. It was quick and easy math. All one had to do was total up the number of differently colored heads of hair. It was made easier by the fact Tofflepotts couldn’t in fact count. But four dozen seemed right to him.
And I’m always right, even when wrong, most especially right then. A short-lived smile broke over his face before it hardened again. He pointed to the ceiling.
All eyes honed in on his finger.
He stamped a foot, grinding it against the smooth polished wooden floor. “Not at my finger fluffle brains. Look!” He pointed again to the ceiling. “At that—that black ominous bulb of vileness!”
The faeries fixed their eyes to the darting arachnid. They gasped in unison, some raising a hand to cover their mouths. Seconds later, their faces mirrored Tofflepotts’. Each set their jaw and glared at the intruder.
General Tofflepotts snapped his fingers. “Formations!”
Four dozen or so—possibly less—faeries formed a sharp line.
“We all know how young Master Samuel feels about the icky bugs that nibble and feast on fingers and toes in the night, do we not?”
Faeries bobbed their heads in agreement. The bronzed, burgundy-haired one raised a hand.
“Arachnids,” said Puffle.
Tofflepotts blinked. “What?”
“Spiders are arachnids, not bugs.”
Tofflepotts took two steps forwards and jabbed a finger at Puffle’s chest. “Spiders are spiders, don’t you know? And, they bug Samuel. And bugs are bugs, isn’t obvious? It is so!”
The line of faeries nodded once again.
Puffle pursed his lips, titling his head. A second later he smacked the base of his fist into the open palm of his other hand. “Of course, it makes complete sense. This is why you’re in charge.”
Tofflepotts puffed his chest and harrumphed. He fixed his glare on the spider, which had stopped above Samuel’s head. The faerie general sucked in another breath. “It goes for his face! His face, his face!”
A chorus of angry faerie cries filled the air. They rushed to assemble.
“Quick-quick-quick, to the bed, to the bed!” Tofflepotts jabbed a finger several times in the direction of where young Samuel slept.
Faeries followed the order, sprinting towards it. They huddled together, locking hands and arms, forming a tight ring. Several faeries clambered atop them, adding to the formation. The process continued until a small, wobbly tower of little folk reached the lip of the bed.
Tofflepotts covered the distance to the tower of faeries as fast as he could. He came to a stop, his chest heaving as he looked for an old friend. “Where’s Savore?”
The teetering tower of faeries shook harder as countless little folk chittered an incoherent response.
“Here!” piped a voice.
Savore stood at attention, posture rigid, hands to her side. The faerie wore a short dress made from royal blue fabric, clearly pilfered from the dining room tablecloth.
The family would hardly notice the missing section.
Savore had pressed gold sequins to the dress, giving it a shimmering flair as well as much needed armament.
Always practical. Tofflepotts grinned at his lieutenant.
She tilted her head, eyeing him quizzically. “You called?”
He shook his head and sputtered nonsensically for a moment. “Urhm, yes! I did that.” Tofflepotts lost his train of thought as he stared at the object on her head. “What is that?”
She blinked several times. “What is what?”
The faerie general pointed to his head. “This, that!”
She squinted, leaning towards Tofflepotts. “That’s your head…”
“Not mine, yours!” Tofflepotts pointed towards her.
“That is my head, general.”
He sighed. Working with faeries was difficult. Most were not well equipped to handle the level of intelligence he possessed. He pointed again. “Not your head, on your head.”
“Why didn’t you say so?” She shifted her posture, balling her hands and placing them on her hips.
“I did, I did in fact, just now!”
She rolled her eyes. “That, this, is my hat.”
Tofflepotts’ eyes widened. “What’s a hat?”
“This.” She pointed with both index fingers to the object sitting atop her head.
He squinted at it. “It’s a thimble…”
Savore puffed up as if she’d been greatly offended. “It’s a hat for battle.” She gestured at it once again.
Tofflepotts stared harder at the object. It had been painted a soft, dark purple like eggplant dusted with sparkling diamond dust. A small ribbon of iridescent sapphire sequins wrapped around its base. They reminded him of dragon’s scales. A lone, bent brass pin protruded from one side. It clung to her head by way of a thin rubber band that went under her pointed chin.
The general found himself perplexed by the oddity. “What does it do?”
“It protects my head.” She wrapped her knuckles against the object.
His eyes swelled further. “Really?”
“I require one of these.”
Savore eyed him askance. “I don’t think the great general needs to protect what’s in his head.”
He pursed his lips and thought on that for a moment, coming to the same conclusion. Tofflepotts nodded. “Of course. My head is most safe as is what’s inside it.” He paused, licking his lips. “What’s inside my head?”
Savore folded her lips and looked away before turning back. “I think we’re forgetting something.”
The faerie general stared blankly. “Are we?”
She pointed up.
He fixed his eyes to her finger.
Savore stomped a foot. “Not my finger, what I’m pointing at!”
“Of course, I knew that. How any faerie could make that mistake is beyond me!”
Several faeries in the towered murmured in agreement.
Tofflepotts followed the finger and screamed before composing himself.
Savore gawked at him. “Did you just scream?”
He puffed his chest once again. “Of course not. You heard it didn’t you? It was a battle cry. War on the spider! Bring death!”
“Bring death!” shrilled the small army of faeries.
“Come-come!” Tofflepotts beckoned with a hand as he scrambled atop the first tier of tightly bundled faeries. He clawed his way higher, his heart leaping in his chest as nearly missed a step. He struggled for balance as his foot plunked down on a most strange surface.
“Oi, watch it, bumble brains—eeek—sorry, General Tofflepotts.” The mustard-yellow-haired faerie had the grace to look apologetic as Tofflepotts’ foot sat planted over most of his face.
“Kee, why is your face in the way of my foot?”
Kee had no answer for that.
“Ai!” Tofflepotts shook as a fist-sized area of his bottom blossomed in dull pain. He looked down.
Savore hung just below him, staring at him with her eyes narrowed. “Move!”
“Did you just punch me, your commanding officer?”
She shook her head. “Of course not. I would never strike such an important, clever and inspiration faerie leader.”
Of course not. No one would strike me! The logic held as far as General Tofflepotts was concerned. Hitting him was ludicrous.
“You must have imagined it, sir. The spider is real, however.”
“Right, right. Haste-post!” He scrambled faster and higher.
Savore sighed. “Post-haste, sir.”
“That too!” he called as he climbed closer to the top of the tower. Tofflepotts unceremoniously planted his feet atop the faces of a few more fae. The faerie general drowned out their disgruntled sounds as he dug his fingers into the fabric of the bed. His feet beat against the cushiony material as he struggled for better purchase.
Savore scrambled behind him.
Tofflepotts paused his ascent to glance at the spider.
The spindly-legged monstrosity hung from the ceiling, suspended by a silver, almost translucent line protruding from its rear. Its body sank almost the full length of a faerie. The creature juddered as it descended once more.
Tofflepotts’ jaw hardened and his hands shook.
“We’ll stop it, sir.” Savore followed his gaze, staring hard at the spider.
“Yes. We will.” Tofflepotts put two fingers to his lips and released a piercing whistle. Faerie bustled below to make their way to the bed’s surface.
A sound like hail striking a window rang clear over the pouring rain.
Tofflepotts and Savore turned towards the source.
It came from above the white shelf beside Samuel’s bed. Sitting atop it, legs dangling off the edge, was another faerie. His heels drummed against the faux wood with almost woodpecker-like speed. He waved a hand fast enough to cause Tofflepotts worry. Any faster and the limb would surely come off.
The general saluted the newcomer. “Ho, Gama!”
Gama, brushed his hands against the closefitting, rubber-like material clinging to his skin. The drumming ceased and he planted his heels against the shelf before pushing off.
Gama tucked his knees to his chest, tumbling through the air before straightening. He bent his knees and hunched, crashing into the soft base of the mattress. The faerie used his momentum to carry himself forward in a roll to absorb the impact. He sprung to his feet, turning around and bowing at the waist with a flourish.
“Show off,” Tofflepotts and Savore muttered in unison.
Gama dismissed the gripe, cricking his neck to the side and appraising the situation. He brushed a finger against his thick, dark mustache as he gazed at the spider. “Plan?”
Tofflepotts’ mouth twitched and he held his stare on Gama’s odd clothing. “Yes, we have one. What are you wearing? Why is it lavender?”
Gama’s eyes remained fixed on the descending spider. “Made it from a glove—rubber glove—very tight, comfy, and waterproof!”
Savore and Tofflepotts exchanged glances.
“Good for diving.” Gama made it sound as if it were obvious.
Tofflepotts didn’t think so. “Diving? Where, why?”
“Bathtub. Dangerous thing. No stopper, big trouble.” Gama twisted his torso like he was loosening his body. He bent at the waist, reaching for a sliver of metal pinned to his calf with a tiny zip tie. The latex-clad faerie plucked the sharpened piece of metal free and thrust it into the air in a gesture of challenge.
“Oh no. Gama, what do you think you are doing?” Tofflepotts raised his hands in a gesture of calm. “Think carefully, soldier.”
Gama ignored him and turned to face the bedroom wall closest to the descending spider. “Yip-yip!” He threw back his head and shrilled incoherently and charged the wall. “Yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip!”
Tofflepotts turned to Savore, wide-eyed and quivering. “Do something!”
Savore blinked, looking from the charging Gama to the spider. She yawned, particularly disinterested. “Oh no. Gama, don’t. Come back…” Her hands went to the brim of her hat, adjusting it.
Gama closed in on the wall at a ballistic speed, threatening to break through it. He released a final, “Yip,” and leapt. His legs kicked as he hit the wall and raced up it.
Tofflepotts’ jaw hung open.
Savore fiddled with her hat, unconcerned with Gama’s hasty, and reckless ascent.
“Yp-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip!” The faerie yipped with each step he took and narrowed the distance between himself and the spider.
Tofflepotts sputtered a series of indiscernible words and jabbed an angry finger towards Gama. “Savore, what’s he doing? What are we going to do? I had a plan. He’s going to steal my, my…something!”
“Glory?” Savore wriggled her nose as she weighed the situation.
“Yes, that. Faeries, go, do the thing!” Tofflepotts pointed to the sleeping boy’s face.
The rest of the faerie warriors traded quizzical glances, unsure of what their orders were.
“Make sure the spider doesn’t land on his face and bite him, or worse!”
The faeries nodded, racing towards the boy’s feet. Several of them surrounded one of the child’s feet, protruding from his blanket. One fae clambered atop another, using her newfound height to reach for the tip of the boy’s loose, blue sock. She grabbed hold of the fuzzy piece of clothing and tugged hard. The sock inched its way up. A final tug cleared the sock from the child’s foot, the momentum sending the faerie tumbled back and off of her partner’s shoulders. She crashed to the bed with an oomph, buried under the garment.
The faerie scrambled free, taking hold of one end of the sock as other little folk grabbed additional bits of it. They raced with it atop the blanket, stepping as lightly as they could.
Tofflepotts directed them in with hand gestures in silence.
Gama pushed off of the wall, releasing a shrill war cry as he pirouetted through the air. The spinning faerie cast the metal sliver into a wide arc towards the silken thread suspending the spider. Gama’s scream reached its height and the blade severed the strand of webbing, sending the spider tumbling down and away from Samuel’s face.
The arachnid’s legs thrashed in the throes of spasmodic terror.
Tofflepotts threw his hands to his mouth, hooting several times. He raised a hand, extending his thumb before turning it upside down, hoping Gama caught the gesture.
The airborne faerie noticed the command and inverted his body, following the spider as it fell. He thrust his tiny blade out, angling his body to better follow the spider’s fall.
“Time it right.” Savore pointed at the spider, tracing its descent with her index finger. “Get ready…”
The spider closed on the bed.
The faeries stretched the sock out, shuffling in place in the hopes they had gotten it right.
“Death to the spider!” Tofflepotts drew his thumb across his throat.
“Death to the spider,” echoed the faeries.
The arachnid impacted the sock, bouncing once and writing.
Gama readjusted his body, leaning back and bringing himself to an upright position. He reversed the blade in his grip and cried out. “Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi!” His sword turned away most of the weak bedroom lighting, but managed to catch a glint before it plunged into the back of the spider. Gama’s feet struck the sock, sending him back into the air. He clawed at the fiend, fighting to grab hold of its legs.
“Mount rescue!” Tofflepotts jabbed a finger at the spider.
The faeries abandoned the task of holding the sock, sending Gama and the spider falling the last inch. They rushed to Gama’s aid and surrounded the thrashing arachnid. The faeries pummeled the spider without mercy. They bludgeoned it until its frenzied movement ceased.
Gama sprung to his feet, pulling his sword free. Viscous and gelatinous fluid clung to the weapon’s edge. His face pressed tight in disgust as he shook the ichor free of his sword. Gama tilted his head, eyeing the spider. With a flick of his wrist, he cast the sword into a tumble that cut clean the creature’s mandibles.
Tofflepotts and Savore exchanged a quick glance. “What was that for?” they said in unison.
Gama bent at the waist, snatching one of the fangs. He gave it a waggle. “Trophy, spoil of war, souvenir.
Tofflepotts eyed Gama askance. “Urhm, well, yes. Excellent. You…keep that why don’t you. Highly unsanitary, but, well earned.”
Gama snapped to attention, bringing the mandible to his forehead in an awkward salute.
Tofflepotts blinked before turning to address the rest of the crowd. “Well done, soldiers. Today, you have not only shown brave bravery, you have shown tremendous courage!”
Savore nudged Tofflepotts with an elbow and leaned in close. “Sir, brave bravery is redundant. Courage is the same thing.”
Tofflepotts’ mouth twitched. “Yes, well, they don’t know that do they?” He pointed a finger to the smiling faeries. “Let them enjoy their victory.”
Savore pursed her lips, but said nothing. Her gaze drifted to the far wall near the door into the room. “Victory is often short-lived.” She reached over and prodded General Tofflepotts, gesturing to the wall.
He turned, eyes ballooning at the sight.
A flat, black mass formed on the wall. It spread like a nebulous cloud of darkness. The blackness morphed across the wall like it aimed to cover every inch of it. After expanding without stop, it contracted, pulling into itself and taking shape.
Tofflepotts stammered incoherently, taking a step back while ushering Savore forward with a shove of his hand.
She stumbled a step in front of him, casting a glare of her shoulder. “That was most uncalled for!”
Tofflepotts pointed a quivering finger at the shadow. “Assess the situation, faerie!”
Savore tilted her head, eyeing the mass and taking a cautious step back. “It looks like trouble.”
Tofflepotts squinted. “Well, you’re not wrong. It is most troublesome looking.” Something black flashed by the edges of his vision.
Gama stepped to his side, waving the recovered spider mandible. He thrust it towards the shadow. “Yup, trouble.” He blinked as if considering something, then turned to the general. “We should stab it.” He gripped the mandible tight like it were a dagger.
Tofflepotts placed a hand on the excitable faerie’s shoulder. “Gama, I don’t think you can fight a shadow with a piece of a spider and your sword.”
Gama tilted his head, staring at the general as if he were speaking another language. “Why not?”
Tofflepotts blinked, taken aback by the question. He turned to Savore, giving her a look that asked for help. “Yes, why not?”
Savore rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to the shadow.
It’d taken a form much like that of a young boy. Most boys however did not sport a pair of horns sprouting from their forehead. Nor did a ridgeline of spikes race down their backs like minute, jagged mountains. The shadowy creature hunched over like it couldn’t hold itself upright. Its arms lengthened as did its fingers, becoming like the ends of a rake.
Savore swallowed audibly. “I think, sir, it’s a Nightmare.”
Little Samuel shivered once in bed as if the word alone had disturbed his sleep.
The Nightmare managed to turn its flat head and give the faeries a look like it could see them.
Tofflepotts found that an interesting feat for a creature with no eyes to pull off. “I don’t like this.” He recoiled another step, his attention turning to young Samuel. The faerie general realized he had no choice.
Duty trumped personal desires. It was a call to something greater—higher than oneself. He wasn’t in charge for the sake of being in charge. He had his position because he was trusted to do what was best for the young boy under his care. The same went for the faeries he led.
He inhaled deeply and puffed up his chest. “Aaatenn…shun!”
None of the faeries moved to obey, still reveling in their victory and unaware of the growing threat.
Tofflepotts quivered, letting his fury flow into his extremities. The tiny faerie vibrated in place and worked not to lose his head. “Attention, fuzzlebrains!”
Every faerie turned and raced to form a line. They snapped to a salute in robotic unison.
Tofflepotts clicked his heels together before spinning towards the wall. He thrust a finger at the shadowy monstrosity. “Faeries, the enemy comes to us in the form of a Nightmare.”
The faerie army gasped, some going as far as to lifting hands to their mouths. They stared wide-eyed at the wall.
Tofflepotts watched them quiver in place. He shifted his gaze to the wall without turning.
The shadow crept along, moving at a pace reserved for a worm. Every move came in a disjointed, spastic fashion like the creature couldn’t control its body properly. Bits of its mass trailed behind before snapping to follow the rest like it was made from stretched rubber.
The faerie general fought his body’s desire to shake. He had to set an example. Tofflepotts imagined an iron rod going along his spine. He snapped straight and pulled his shoulders back. “Do not fear, faeries.” He jabbed a finger at the shadow. “The enemy wants you to fear. That is what a Nightmare feeds on. It takes and twists the things you do not understand. It shapes the little doubts and fears you carry into larger ones. Do not let it. That is why they come in the night, why they lurk in the dark.” Tofflepotts put his hands to his mouth. “Coward!”
Savore and Gama exchanged a quick glance, catching onto what Tofflepotts was doing. They followed his lead, shouting out after him. “Coward!” Their cries echoed along with the general’s, showering the monsters in taunts.
An uproar reverberated in the spaces around the trio. The rest of the faeries joined suit, screaming at the monster in defiance. Their shouts washed over one another and prompted their skin to tingle.
The faerie general’s mouth split into a wide and feral grin. “Fear has no real power of us. It is a dirty trick. Something meant to shake us of our duty, our resolve. We will not have it!” He stomped a foot.
A thunderous stomp echoed back as the entire army mimicked his gesture.
“Fear is like a weed. It takes root and spreads. Once it does, it’s hard to beat back. So we pull it out. We tear it free. We tear free our fear. We conquer it, and the monster!” Tofflepotts threw his head back and let loose a roar of defiance.
Every faerie shrieked in unison.
A mass of white fur darted by the bottom of the bedroom door, slipping in as if in reaction to the faerie war cry.
The white, cotton ball-like feline bounded into the room and stopped halfway to the bed. Its hackles rose. The cat turned and glared at the shadow, letting out a spiteful hiss that managed to go unheard by the sleeping Samuel.
Tofflepotts breathed a sigh of relief. Faerie voices were magically obscured from the little ears of children, cats were not.
And they could be rather loud and raucous creatures.
“Hsst!” Tofflepotts beckoned to the creature with a hand wave.
The cat turned, its large chatoyant eyes gleaming. It stared at Tofflepotts and its pudgy mouth looked sunken as it tilted its head.
“Hsst. Yes, yes. You.” Tofflepotts waved. “Come here, beast.”
The cat snuffled and shook its head.
“Oh, don’t you play daft with me, you bloated uppity fluff brain.”
The cat’s eyes narrowed and it bared its teeth.
“Don’t you dare you fuzzle-faced-snortle-puff!” He pointed to the shadow, which had neared the edge of the first wall. “That is the enemy, not me.”
The feline seemed nonplussed.
Savore leaned in, putting a hand to the side of her face to muffle her speech from the cat’s keen ears. “Try being nice to it. They’re fickle things. Use its name.”
Tofflepotts blinked and looked for help. “Does anyone know what the human family calls that razor-clawed cotton puff with a stubby tail?”
The faeries murmured, but no one answered.
“Very well, then I shall name it.” Tofflepotts hollered at the creature, calling it close.
The cat approached gingerly, eyeing him as it drew near.
“Oh move on already. Hurry.” Tofflepotts moved to the edge of the bed, flashing Gama a wink. “I think it is time to take a page from your book.”
Gama’s lips pursed and he gave Savore a questioning look. “I don’t—we don’t—that is to say, sir, it’s dangerous.”
“I laugh in the face of danger!” The general threw his head back and cackled like a madman.
Gama and Savore’s faces went flat. They eyed Tofflepotts as if he’d lost his mind.
The cat sat at the foot of the bed.
Tofflepotts leapt. “Huzzah!”
Savore and Gama gasped and raced to the end of the bed.
The cat released a pained mrowl before settling itself.
Tofflepotts clung to the fur of the back of its neck. “There, there, calm. We are friends now, and for that, I shall name.” He pursed his lips, running his tongue around the inside of his mouth as if trying to identify a new taste that had graced it. “I shall call you, Emila Fuffletuff Von Snarklepuss de Pawsington.”
The cat shivered and bucked as if the sheer mention of the name caused it discomfort.
“Erhm, Emily for short?” Tofflepotts gave the feline a gentle and reassuring pat.
The cat agreed, settling and releasing a soft rumble.
Tofflepotts held tight and booted the sides of the animal’s head. “Very good then, Emily.” He raised a hand, chopping vertically through the air in the direction of the shadow. “Charge!”
The cat scrabbled against the floor, fighting for purchase before it made its way to the wall.
Tofflepotts held tight as they approached. He watched the shadow turn its attention to the oncoming pair.
It ceased moving towards young Samuel, instead jerking in place like it was being pulled apart by a million unseen hooks. Black particulates pulled into every direction before snapping back into the main mass. The creature seemed to be at odds with itself, fighting its own being.
The cat paused, rearing up and hissing in defense as one of the creature’s hands peeled away from the wall.
Tofflepotts stared in horror. The monster had pulled itself free from its two-dimensional confinement. He swallowed. “Well, that is rather unfortunate.” He gave Emily a gentle prod with his heels. “Come on now, no need to be a scaredy-cat.”
The cat bristled at the comment.
“Well, you are in fact being one. Charge the fiendish fiend, or stay put. The decision rests with you.”
A low burble formed in the cat’s throat.
The shadow shuddered, peeling its other arm free.
“Decide faster, please, little furry one.” Tofflepott’s eyes went wide until a chorus of angry cries filled his ears. He looked over his shoulder.
His faerie army had climbed down the bed, charging towards him.
He smiled, digging his heels into the cat. “Onwards you fuffle puff!”
The cat mrowled in a grumble of agreement and leapt towards the shadow.
Ink-like black unstuck itself from the wall, taking physical shape. It towered over the feline-riding faerie pair. The creature stood close to the height of the child, Samuel. It may as well have been a dark reflection of a human child. The Nightmare carried none of the light nor happiness that surrounded mortal children. Devoid of any facial features save a sinuous mouth that parted to reveal rows of needle-like barbs.
Emily hissed and lowered herself in challenge.
“Yes, yes, scare the scary thing back!” Tofflepotts leaned back as if shying away from the monster.
The Nightmare spread its hands wide and lunged, threatening to grab hold of the cat and faerie general.
Emily pounced to the right of the creature and deftly avoided its raking hands. The cat lost no momentum, coiling as it hit the ground and bouncing off again. She landed behind the shadow and jumped at the back of its leg.
“Yes, attack! Exactly as I planned, feline.” Tofflepotts pumped his fist, cheering the cat on.
Emily grabbed hold of the Nightmare’s leg, burrowing her claws into the dark mass.
The creature opened its mouth, a dry and hollow rasp left its lips. It shook and stumbled.
A faerie war cry rolled over him. The hairs on the back of Tofflepotts’ head stood on end. The subarctic chill went under his skin and prompted him to push the cat further. “Bite it. Bite the Nightmare!”
Emily obeyed, opening her jaws and sinking them into the back of the Nightmare’s knee. She wriggled her head and tore at the shadow.
The creature shuddered and released another hollow-sounding cry that echoed through the room.
Young Samuel jerked once in reaction to the noise. He settled a moment later.
Tofflepotts pressed his lips together and mused. The longer the battle went on, the more chances for the Nightmare to stir Samuel up and ruin his sleep. Worst, should they fail, the Nightmare would plague him all night.
Nightmares had a nasty habit of lingering with a child long after a night had ended. Gone unchecked for too long, they’d never let go of a young human’s mind. They’d cling, fester and grow over the years until profoundly changing a person.
Tofflepotts ground his teeth against one another. His fingers dug into the cat’s hair until his hands balled tight. He refused to allow that to happen to little Samuel. “Tear it apart, little foofle beast!”
Emily was of the same mind. The cat climbed up the shadow’s body, raking its mass in a frenzy.
The shadow thrashed and stumbled forward. Its hands went wild, swiping at and over its body in a failed attempt to bat the cat.
And then the faerie army descended on it.
They hollered and swarmed the creature’s legs.
Tofflepotts shook and fought to hold on as the cat clung to the Nightmare. He watched his faeries pull, claw, and tear at the shadow-monster’s feet.
The creature released a low drone before falling to a knee.
Seeing the dark monster fall invigorated the faeries. They shrilled and plucked at it like they were possessed.
“Tear it apart, housecat!” Tofflepotts jabbed a finger at the creature’s back.
The cat obliged and shredded its claws against the broad of the shadow’s backside. It tore lengthy furrows along the Nightmare’s body, digging through the black mass. Emily refused to relent, running her paws along the creature like a dog upheaving the earth.
Strands of former shadow fell to the floor like bits of black hair. Only, they riled and undulated like living worms. They flailed on the ground without stop as the faeries and cat continued to shred the Nightmare.
Tofflepotts eyed the stringy masses warily. Something felt odd about the Nightmare’s remains. He watched as a faerie broke off from the main body of the attack to address a thrashing strand of shadow.
It was Gama.
The overzealous faerie raced over to the piece of Nightmare and raised a leg.
“No, watch out!” Tofflepotts reached out with a hand as if almost desiring to pluck Gama away from his position.
Gama stomped on the on strand of shadow without pause. “You uppity, murfle, mumble, grumble, piece of—ayii-yooo!” Gama flailed in panic as the shadow took umbrage at his assault and fought back.
Dark matter flattened under the faeries foot before snaking out and coiling around his leg.
Gama shook his limb furiously in the hopes of freeing it from the shadow’s grip. “Get off me.” He dug his fingers into it and pulled.
The creature would not be deterred.
“Get off, this is my leg. You go find another.” Gama fumbled for his blade, snapping it out in a short slash that cut through the strand.
It parted into two slivers, thrashing before lashing out again.
“Oh no.” Gama leapt back.
“Emily, to his rescue.” Tofflepotts hooted and pointed to Gama.
The cat released its hold on the deteriorating Nightmare and landed on all fours. She scurried the short distance to Gama and raised its forepaws. Emily fell on the wriggling strands, flattening them to keep Gama safe.
The little faerie breathed a sigh of relief before looking up at the large beast. “Um, General Tofflepotts?”
“Yes,” said Tofflepotts.
Gama wriggled his mouth as if thinking before pointing to the cat. “I want one.”
Tofflepotts blinked. “Maybe after the battle.”
Gama saluted, bringing his blade a hair’s breadth from his forehead. He completed the gesture and leapt back into the fray.
It didn’t last long. The Nightmare fell in on itself, unable to hold together from the damage. Countless ribbons of black shadows rained to the floor. They wriggled and lashed out, reaching for the nearest faerie.
Every faerie scrambled away from the grasp of the living shadows.
The dark tendrils pulsated like liquid sloshed through them before contorting. They contracted into black balls that shook violently.
The faeries stood in silence, watching and on guard.
Spindly legs sprouted from each of the black balls. A set of eight ink-black eyes followed as did mandibles.
Spiders made from the remains of a Nightmare.
A cold chill went through the faerie general’s spine. “On guard! On guard! They might be like the Nightmare itself. Keep your distance!” He rubbed Emily’s head and leaned close so only she could hear him. “Stomp them all. Every last one of those foulsome things!”
Emily purred in delight and leapt towards the closest spider, flattening it. The cat went on a rampage, beside herself in pleasure at chasing down the scuttling arachnids. She batted one into the dresser before squishing it into a splotch of black.
The spiders ceased chasing the fleeing faeries and turned on the cat.
Tofflepotts wondered if they’d realized their mistake.
Emily pounced onto each and every one of them, occasionally flailing wildly with her front paws and squishing countless spiders. It wasn’t long before every bit of the former Nightmare had been pressed flat.
The puddles pulsed once like a last act of defiance before going still. Seconds later, the faded from sight.
Every faerie stood panting. Gama looked at his leg like he still harbored concern as to whether it was fine.
Tofflepotts exhaled and composed himself. The threat was over…for tonight. “Well done, faeries. That is one night concluded. But tomorrow is another morning to rest and recover, for tomorrow night brings new dangers. The night is scary and monsters will lurk in it. They will attempt to harm our charge. But will we let them?”
“No!” the faeries cried.
“No we will not. We will fight tomorrow night, and every night till the day Samuel no longer needs us. That is how you conquer fear. That is how you beat back the terrors. You fight every day and night until you no longer have to.” He pumped a fist into the air and the faeries mimicked him, echoing his cry as well.
One night complete.
Countless more to go.
And they would fight each and every one of them to keep Samuel, and children across the world safe and tight in bed.
I hope you enjoyed it.