By Janet L. Cannon
“And the gallant knight rescued the beautiful princess from the ugly monster,” Robert read dramatically, his free arm gesturing while his other hand held the book. “The end.” He snapped the book closed and smiled at his six-year-old daughter.
Eliza giggled and clapped. “Read again, Daddy!”
He shook his head and kissed her forehead. “No, sweetheart. It’s time for bed.” Eliza pouted. Robert patted her cheek. “Don’t you want to go to sleep? This is a special night, remember?”
“Oh!” Eliza grinned and pointed at the gap in her mouth. “The toof fairy’s gonna come get my toof!”
“That’s right. And she won’t show up until you’re asleep.” Robert stood, pulled the blankets up to Eliza’s chin, and patted her hands. “Close your eyes.” She squinted them into slits. “It’s your choice, sweetheart. Stay awake if you want. You won’t get your dollar.”
Eliza rolled onto her side, pulling the mass of blankets with her. “Okay, Daddy. Good night.”
Robert stepped toward the door and shut off the light. “Good night.”
He was about to close the door when Eliza yelped and sat up again. “Daddy! Daddy, I heard something in the closet!”
Sighing heavily, he stepped back into the room. “Eliza, we’ve talked about this. There are no monsters in the closet. There are no monsters under the bed. You’re just trying to stay up later. Now go to sleep.”
“But if there’s toof fairies, there’s gotta be MITCs and MUTBs, too, right?”
Although tired and at the end of his patience, Robert realized Eliza had a point. As her father, it was his job to protect her, even if the monsters were imagined. “I won’t let the bad monsters in, Eliza. Tooth fairies won’t hurt you, so they’re allowed. Now go to sleep.”
“Check, please?” she pleaded.
Patiently, Robert picked up a glittering, be-ribboned baton and swung open the closet door. He rapped the baton against the wooden floor and walls, then thumped the hanging clothes and the heavy boxes. “Nothing here except old toys and clothes you don’t wear.”
“Under the bed, please,” Eliza whispered, clutching her stuffed rabbit.
Throwing her a placating smile, Robert knelt down and tapped the baton several times on the wood floor under the bed. He placed the baton back on her vanity chair, tilted his head, raised his eyebrows, and pointed at her blankets. Obediently, Eliza snuggled down under the covers and pulled the edge up to her nose. Robert kissed her forehead again. “Good night, Eliza.”
“Good night, Daddy,” she whispered.
Stepping around the toys that cluttered the floor, Robert stepped out and closed the door firmly behind him.
The being’s translucent wings vibrating soundlessly as he watched her. His delicate outline hovered just outside the window where he could see the girl’s covers rise and lower rhythmically. Yes. Yes. She was asleep, now. His short blonde curls bounced softly around his face as his red lips curled into a calculated grin. The beautiful phantasm drifted closer to the window. For a moment more, he shimmered in the moonlight, then dissipated, leaving the area decorated only in the natural silver gauze of moonlight.
Inside, past the frame of light on the floor, the shimmer coalesced into a humanoid figure. Within human walls, his wings crumpled and melted like microwaved plastic, his body shriveled into a hard, gnarled mass of skin and bones. His chuckle soft, his prey close at hand, he shuffled across the wooden floor, negotiating past Barbies and Teddy bears and stacks of beginner’s chapter books. The creature inched up to the side of the girl’s bed.
His lust burned as he studied how her lips pursed in sleep, the way the curve of her cheekbone paralleled the curve of her jaw line. Surely, the beauty inside her mouth was just exquisite! His withered hands worried across each other, his anticipation growing.
When she turned toward him and her lips parted, spittle dribbled from his mouth. Just as he had imagined, her remaining baby teeth still clung to her gums, waiting their turn to fall like autumn leaves. A wealth of delights so near but just beyond his reach. Why take one at a time from under the pillow when he could have them all right now? Each tooth granted further life, further beauty, further pleasure. Temptation greater than he could bear, he reached toward the girl’s throat, his knobby fingers wriggling in delight.
A creak from the closet door startled him and he felt a thin tentacle of force whip around his throat. At the same time, a massive swirl of dark energy from under the bed seized his ankle. “Don’t think so, TF,” a deep voice boomed by his feet.
The tooth fairy chuckled softly, then clicked his tongue. He glanced at his foot. “A monster under the bed.” His eyes swept over to the closet. “And a monster in the closet. I’m honored you feel I require two custodians.” He tried to jerk out of their grasps but only succeeded in tightening their grips on his emaciated flesh. He laughed lightly. “You know I was just testing, MUTB,” his voice rasped. “Just kidding. You know I would never hurt—”
“Save it, TF,” a lighter but no less commanding voice drifted out of the closet. The pressure on his neck tightened. “We’ve heard it before. Get your tribute and leave.”
The tooth fairy nodded. The pressure on his neck released just enough for him to reach under the girl’s pillow. Her face was so close, he could feel her breath on his cheek. So close. All those little teeth … each a promise of extended beauty and freedom from pain. But the grip on his neck reminded him he was not alone. He pulled out his cupped fist and stood. Hand near his face, he splayed open his fingers and admired the dull glisten of the enamel, the blood-stained root, and the hollow core. As if fearful his prize would be taken, the tooth fairy lowered his head to his palm and sucked the tooth into his mouth. He swallowed it whole, savoring the sweet rush of pleasure his tribute brought.
His body shivered, then re-transformed into that of a delicate, femininely handsome being. His wings lifted and expanded, his spine straightened, his arms and legs filled out to normal proportions. The tooth fairy exhaled, the ecstasy of the change gifting him the fleeting peace he sought each night. He held his hands up in surrender. The slender rope of darkness around his neck and the thicker bulk at his ankle dissipated. He bowed toward the underside of the bed, then toward the closet. “Give my regards to your tribal leaders.” He jumped and his wings began to vibrate, levitating him off the floor. “Until next time.” The tooth fairy turned and flew toward the window, his body shimmering into nothingness as it touched the edge of the moonlight.
A thick, snake-like swirl slid out from under the bed then hovered over Eliza, making sure her sleep hadn’t been disturbed. The darkness glittered softly with satisfaction. “The child still sleeps,” he murmured.
“They get more aggressive each year,” the thin coil from the closet responded, spiraling out through the slats like maple tree seeds, then spinning together above the child. “Two of us may no longer be enough to protect a human child.”
Darkening in agreement, the MUTB slid his tentacle under the girl’s pillow, depositing a pea-sized bit of clay. Instantly, it folded into itself, changed colors, then appeared exactly as her tooth had. “Now that this one is safe, we must move quickly to the next.” The MITC swirled in agreement, then darted back into the closet where the darkness merged with shadows and disappeared. The MUTB, too, slid back under the bed and left no trace of his visit.
Robert could have kicked himself. He should have traded the tooth for the Sacagawea coin before she was asleep. Now he was going to have to risk waking her. As quietly as he could, he turned the knob then pushed the door open. Her content exhale reassured him. Tiptoeing through the swamp of toys, he stifled a grunt of pain when one solitary jack found a tender spot on his arch. Kicking it away, Robert stopped at the head of her bed. Using his thumb to secure the coin against his palm, he carefully slid his hand under the pillow. Slowly. Carefully. Eliza’s breath continued, unchanged. Luckily, the trade was easy and he stood to leave.
It was then he realized the closet door was open. He distinctly remembered closing it. How…? Robert shook his head. Now he was imagining monsters under the bed and in the closet! Grinning at his own silliness, Robert returned to the quiet safety of his own bedroom.
A blonde-headed glitter at the window drew no one’s attention.
Janet L. Cannon is a happy wife, a technology teacher, an avid runner, an origami enthusiast, an obsessive crafter, a gaming nerd, a book hog, a graphic design enthusiast, and happens to have a little time between learning new hobbies to write stories, essays, and novels. She has both her BA and MA in English and is proud to have never had a job that required her to say, “Do you want fries with that?” She blogs at Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold and can also be found on Facebook.