The Swallower of Light

Prompt Day #360: Invent a swallower of light.

Swallower of Light

I have a little nightlight, I keep beside my bed

It scares away the monsters, I know, ‘cause mommy says

I used to be afraid of them, when I was only three

But now I’ve got my nightlight, and they’re afraid of me.


“Remember what I told you,” Mickey’s mom reminded him as she tucked him into bed. “As long as the nightlight’s on, the monsters will stay hiding in the shadows. They can’t get you.” She kissed his cheek and told him goodnight. Mickey knew that at ten years old, he shouldn’t even believe in monsters but that only made sense if you imagined monsters in your closet or under your bed. It was an entirely different thing if you’ve seen them with your own eyes, wiped their drool off your face, or been dragged under your own bed once by an overzealous dust bunny. Monsters were real and his room seemed to be some sort of gateway between their world and his.

He saw the first one, a hairy behemoth whose pelt was infested with centipedes, when he was three. That one army crawled out from under his bed and stood over him, squirming parasites falling onto his blankets and frantically searching for shelter. He screamed and ran to his mom and dad’s room. They bought him the nightlight the next day and his mom made up that silly little poem that she recited to him every night thereafter.

And it worked, surprisingly, the monsters stayed far from anything the soft light touched but Mickey could still see them, lurking just beyond. Sometimes he could only smell them; the smell of wet dog or musty basement. Other times, he could hear their raspy breathing whispered in the darkness.

But these last few nights, something had ventured closer, into the light, bringing the darkness with it. It shone night that cloaked the nightlight’s glow. Mickey didn’t like it. It felt as if the monsters were growing, evolving to deal with the protective radiance of the little 35 watt bulb. This is what frightened the mature, pragmatic child he had become. Now here he was, alone, in the sparse light of the room and he could feel a chilly, almost arctic absence of heat waiting in the corner near the closet, daring him to try to sleep.

But no. Mickey would not. He would remain ever vigilant. He watched the corner, straining his eyes for any hint of movement. He felt his eyelids grow heavy. The thing in the corner stepped forward. Now he could make out a shape. He was reminded of the story his mother used to read him about Mr. Toad. If Mr. Toad had been six feet tall. The thing inched further and now it was standing fully within the light. Its yellow eyes flashed and the creature opened its impossibly wide mouth.

The noise it made was exactly what Mickey imagined a black hole would sound like. Like an inverse roar. The cone of light emanating from his nightlight first bent towards the thing’s mouth and then Mickey watched helplessly as all the light was sucked into the bellows of the evil thing. As croaked whisper echoed from the same place.

“I am the swallower of light, the eater of dreams, the consumer of magic.” There was not a speck of light in the room, yet Mickey knew the thing was coming closer to him. He could feel it. He pulled the blankets over his head as he’d done when he was three. The only warmth he found was that of his own breath falling back on his face. And then he was asleep.

The following morning, in the shower, Mickey found his first pubic hair and knew that his childhood was over.