“I’m sorry, David. I simply forgot,” she said, rolling to her side of the bed.
“But, you know how hard it is to sleep without a nightlight,” David complained, pointing at the small nightlight naked of its bulb.
“I’ll get a replacement tomorrow. All right? One night won’t hurt. Grow up,” she huffed.
David climbed into their bed and pulled the blanket to his chin.
“You did check all the doors?” she asked.
“Locked,” he answered, leaning to the nightstand but hesitating from turning the lamp off.
“And that cat?”
“Good. Now, goodnight.”
He switched off the light and nestled deep into the pillow watching the view of the walls fade. He waited. It takes the flash of a second for a room to fully grow dark. He laid there, waiting, blinking his eyes to compare darkness. He felt her shift and turn. Her breathing quieted, following that sound of a sleeping body. For that moment he thought his worries, fears, and trepidations were for naught, part of the past, so long ago, so it was okay to fall asleep.
It started. The lifting. In the darkness, he felt the tiny hairs begin to lift. All of them. On the back of his neck, chin, legs, and the tickly ones at the base of his spine. He felt them lift, the hair thickening, thickening, stretching his skin. Then there was the crunching, oh the cracking of bones as they contort to accommodate the thickening. Cuticles flared and splintered, feathering apart. His back arched to the growing scales and the fur traveling across his belly. He tried to turn on his side and ignore the thickening, forcing sleep. It did not work. It was underway. In the dark, no one could see his nails elongate as his fingers curled inward. Toes, too. Claws are never good with sheets, so he froze not to move and shred anything further. The bed began to shift and buckle under the weight. But it felt so good. He stretched, pulling the disks apart along his spine knowing he grew inches just by laying there. He suddenly had a taste for cat. Something got stuck in his neck and shifted out of joint. He quickly cupped his chin in his claws and snapped it to the right sending a pop echoing across the room.
“For Pete’s sake!” she yelled, jumping from the bed. He listened, bending his ear to follow her footsteps through the darkness to the bathroom. The fluorescent flipped on. She closed the door to a crack, sending a strip of light across the bottom of the bed and up the wall. “Is that better?”
Within the shadow he saw her prickly spine of quills flutter. He forgot how beautiful she was in the dark. Huge. Ancient. Fierce.
“David, I just want to sleep,” she said. Her hind quarter glazed the shaft of light. Her hip instantaneously turned pink, smooth, tiny again.
“Turn off the light,” he growled.
Instead, she opened the door farther. She was exposed; turning naked, human, puny. “I’m tired,” she said. “I’d say I have a headache.”
“But we don’t get those,” he growled.
“No. No, we don’t.” she sighed. “Just once, I want to sleep. In the dark. No nightlight. To stretch out and not constantly monitor my skin. Please.” She pleaded in the childish way she never lost in the century he knew her. “It’s been decades.”
The light went out. The bed heaved with her weight. She stole most of the blanket, as she curled into a tight ball, quills extended, relaxed, in the way their kind have always slept. He sighed. “Goodnight Love.” And he curled towards her, lost in the sharpness of talons while avoiding the tips of quills to sleep.
Julieanna Blackwell’s stories have appeared in several publications including Lunch Ticket, Thrice Fiction Magazine, and Ragazine CC. Her work is a regular feature in SCENE Magazine’s yearly beach read issues. A native Chicagoan, she lives in Florida. www.JulieannaBlackwell.com