The child glanced up at the monster sitting next to her. “Does it bother you?”
The monster looked down, empty eye sockets filled with swirling lights settling on the child. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean. What you are.”
The monster sighed, exhaling a thick, purple cloud of poison. It made sure the child was clear of the cloud. A long period of silence filled the air as the monster stared into the distance, ruminating. “I suppose not,” the monster said at last. “It did at first, but it gets better over time. Easier to ignore.”
“I guess it’d be that way,” the child replied. She stared up at the sky of the moonless night, before adding, “Do you mind if I lean against you?”
“No. It’d be nice. Not many people tend to stick around.”
The child merely nodded in assent, then tilted her head back against the shadowy column that served as the monster’s arm.
They sat against one another in silence for a while. There was an odd tranquility about that moment.
The child was the one that broke the silence. “Do you miss the sun?” she asked.
The monster contemplated the question, staring unblinkingly at the city in the distance. Harsh, fluorescent lights dominated the landscape, far outshining the faint stars scattered across the night sky.
The monster looked down at the child and sighed, a hoarse, rattling sound. “Sometimes,” it said. “Artificial light just isn’t the same.”
“Aren’t the city lights pretty, though?” the child asked, pointing a small finger towards the lights in question.
“Yes, I suppose,” the monster rumbled, “but it’s not natural. It’s not the sun.”
“Not natural,” the child echoed, a thoughtful look cast upon her face. In the city lights, she looked sharp and unyielding. In the starlight, she looked ageless and wise. She peered up at the monster with large, curious eyes. “Are you natural?”
“I’d like to think so,” the monster replied. “I was born, and I grew, and then I turned into this.”
The child looked up at the sky. The formerly dark, endless expanse was fading into a light shade of purple. Streaks of blue and golden were appearing near the horizon, making for a stunning backdrop behind the city and its lights.
The monster’s eyes seemed transfixed by the golden rays. Small dots of light speckled the ground. The few spots that hit its body sizzled slightly, but it didn’t seemed to notice.
“Is the sun gonna come soon?” the child asked, tugging lightly on the monster’s arm to get its attention.
The monster startled out of its reverie, shaking its dark, amorphous head. “Probably. We’ll have to leave. There’s some time left, though.”
“Oh.” The child bit her lip. “Did it hurt when you turned into a monster?”
“No. It was… it was like I wasn’t there. Like it wasn’t me. But then it ended and I was me again. A different me. Not entirely wrong, but not completely right, either.”
The child furrowed her brows in contemplation. She took one last look at the approaching sunrise, then turned towards the monster. “I’m ready,” she said.
The monster nodded, then reached out a long, curved claw and placed it upon the child’s forehead, careful not to draw blood.
Shadows bubbled and writhed around the point where claw met forehead. Like a flower unfurling its petals, the shadows spread over the child in intricate patterns. They seemed to sink into the child’s skin for a brief, fleeting moment before the child collapsed into a pool of liquid darkness, her eyes the last to disappear. Slowly, a small shape emerged and raised its head at the other monster.
“Done?” the first monster asked.
“Yes,” the second monster responded.
“Follow,” the first monster said, creeping to a nearby dark overhand. The second monster obeyed, trailing its path.
“Sun too bright. Hurts,” the second monster murmured, more of a rasp than a whisper.
The first monster curled its tail around the second monster. “I know. It gets better.”
“I…” the second monster trailed off, shuffling its claws in an embarrassed manner.
“Yes?” the first monster prompted.
“I miss the sun,” the second monster admitted.
The first monster sighed. “I know. I miss the sun, too.”