When she closed her eyes at night, Erin Keller often found herself lost in a wondrous world of magic. On some nights, the world she visited was indeed inhabited by fairies and wizards; after listening to Alan tell the grandiose tale of his latest holodeck adventure, it was almost hard not to dream up a vast mythical world at night…
Still, there were nights when Erin found herself alone in bed, far from Alan’s influential tales. She was never fond of those nights, for it was almost always difficult to fall asleep… And so, her mind would begin to wander. At times, her musings would take some odd directions, but ultimately, Erin always found her thoughts returning to one magical notion: family…
Nearly a year had passed since her most endearing vision. At the time, it had seemed like little more than a pleasant fantasy, and when she awoke from the dream, Erin made certain to hold its kindred spirits in her heart. So pleasant was the memory, she never wanted to let it go. But on that fateful eve one year ago, Erin had no idea her fleeting moment of bliss was more than a simple dream. It was her destiny—and it was about to be fulfilled…
On the heels of another uneventful day, came what Erin Keller hoped would be an equally uneventful night. Her wedding was only a few days away, and the last thing she wanted was some sort of major disaster to ruin the event. Of course, if something terrible was going to happen, it was completely beyond Erin’s ability to control… but she remained optimistic that the silent universe would maintain the status quo for just a couple more days. Besides, the universe owed her a favor or two…
The relative light of day had long ago receded into the darkness of simulated night, and though Erin had no idea what the display on her chronometer read, she had the distinct feeling that it was very late in the night. Naturally, sleep proved as elusive as the shadows in her darkened lair, and her mind began to wander…
What secrets did the darkness hold? Once, several years ago, it had occluded a curious Yelss from Erin’s sight; she had been unable to sleep for weeks in the aftermath of the incident. Even now, as she recounted that dreadful night, a chill crawled down her spine, and she was tempted to call for the lights, just to be certain that she was safe…
But she was safe. Resting comfortably at her side was Alan Christopher and—though lost in a deep slumber—he would provide whatever protection Erin needed from her shadows in the night… Comforted by the sentiment, Erin’s eyes almost immediately grew weary, and practically begged her to sleep. She smiled, and slowly rolled onto her side to do just that—entangling herself in a mess of sheets in the process.
Erin swiftly kicked herself free of the trap, and then heaved some more sheets from Alan to compensate for the ones she had lost to the floor. He did nothing to try and take the sheets back; he never did. He would simply grin and bear it, telling Erin the following morning that he had let her have them in one of his “magnanimous acts of charity.”
Erin’s mind wandered for a few more minutes, pondering what might happen when she woke up in the morning, considering what she might do that day… And then sleep started to whisk her away…
…Until the faint sounds of tiny feet dragging across the carpet shattered Erin’s uncertain slumber. For a fraction of a second, her silly little fears suspected a tiny monster was approaching the bed, but then, Erin’s mind kicked in, and she realized the little monster was anything but.
“Mommy,” came a quiet voice from amidst the darkness, “I had a bad dream.”
It was Angela, and much like her mother, she did not like to be all alone in the dark. And so, with a wry smile upon her face, Erin slowly tossed aside the covers she had worked so hard to procure, and slid out of bed to comfort her little bundle of joy.
The excitement managed bring Alan from his slumber and, prompted him to activate the dim reading lamp that rested on the table beside their bed. Erin looked back, and greeted him with a warm smile, which he promptly returned—along with a candid sigh, of course. It seemed that the many dark spaces in the Christopher abode bred monsters continuously, as this was the third time in as many nights that Angela had visited. But Angela was certainly worth every second of her parents’ time.
Erin turned back to Angela. Clutched in her tiny little hands was a ragged pink security blanket, appropriately named “Pinky.”
As Erin wrapped her arms around Angela’s tiny little body, she ran her fingers through the little girl’s mess of blonde hair and assured her that everything would be okay. “It was just a bad dream,” Erin told her softly. “There’s nothing to worry about.”
She nodded into Erin’s shoulder, and with her delicate little arms, gave her the biggest hug she could muster as thanks for the protection. Erin smiled, trying her hardest to force back the tears welling in her eyes. Nearly a year had passed since Erin had foreseen this very moment, and after the long and arduous struggle to bring Angela into her life, it was certainly a momentous occasion…
When she was content that her tears were being held at bay, Erin scooped Angela from the floor and set the little girl down beside her on the bed. “What was your dream about?” she asked her in a kind, gentle voice.
Angela considered it for a moment, kicking her little feet off the edge of the bed the entire time. She seemed to be drawing a blank.
“Were there monsters?” Alan suddenly asked a moment later.
Like a whirlwind, Angela turned around to face her daddy. “Big ones!” she proclaimed, as if the dream had suddenly come back to her. “They were green and blue!”
Alan nodded. “Did they have big, ugly teeth?”
“Yeah,” she said, carefully crawling across the bed and seating herself between her parents.
“They didn’t floss,” Alan replied. “That’s what happens to people that don’t floss. They turn into monsters.”
Angela giggled. “Do I floss, Daddy?” she asked, fingering at her tiny white teeth just to be sure they weren’t monsterish.
He smiled, and ran his fingers through her mess of hair. “Not yet.”
Angela gasped. “Am I turning into a monster?” she asked innocently.
“You’re a princess,” Erin warmly added, the smile on her face widening. “They don’t turn into monsters.”
Angela nodded, and turned back to Alan. “Does Mommy floss?”
A wry grin cracked Alan’s face. “She misses one or two days each month,” he quipped.
For a moment, Angela seemed confused by the statement, but then she turned to Erin and gave her a big, wet kiss on the cheek. “Mommy is a princess, too,” she chirped. “But what about the monsters?”
“They’re not going to get you,” Erin assured her.
Angela shook her head. “But they’re under my bed! I saw them!”
“They’re all gone,” Alan told her. “I had Uncle Lucas go under there with his phaser.”
Sitting quietly, apparently content that the monsters were gone, Angela’s fears began to subside, and her fatigue grew considerably. She yawned, struggling to keep her delicate blue eyes open.
“Let’s go back to bed,” Erin told her before planting a gentle kiss on her forehead.
Angela’s eyes flew open. “But there are new monsters!” she protested. “With big teeth! They’re gonna eat me up!”
Erin knew that there were no monsters under the bed. Angela probably knew that, too. She simply didn’t want to go back to her bedroom. Even if there weren’t any monsters, it was still a dark, scary place, and she would have to brave that darkness all by herself. But here, surrounded by her parents, she would be safe, and she knew it.
Erin smiled, and lifted the covers. “Get in.”
Angela quickly made herself comfortable under the covers. Cuddling with Pinky, sandwiched between Alan and Erin, Angela was totally content. “I love you Mommy; I love you Daddy.”
Alan couldn’t help but smile. “We love you too, sweetheart,” he said, brushing some of her wild blonde hair out of her face.
And with a faint smile on her face, she closed her eyes.
“Sweet dreams,” Erin whispered as the little girl fell asleep.
Erin’s eyes wandered to Alan. He was still looking at Angela, but after a moment, he met Erin’s gaze, and smiled. “We’re only fragile threads,” he whispered, “but what a tapestry we make…” He blew Erin a kiss, and then reached back to the light beside him. With a simple little bleep, the darkness returned.
But Erin wasn’t alone…
* * *
When he looked back upon his life, Kendall Johnson could easily pick out a number of days he would describe as “bad.” In fact, he would describe most days in that unfortunate manner, because most days were simply not that great. The universe was a cruel and loathsome place, filled with unspeakable evils and a day could not pass without some unfortunate occurrence. Indeed, there were plenty of “bad” days… but then there were those rare days that filled Kendall Johnson with dread—and one of them was on the distant horizon.
In just a few short days, Erin Keller would be wed to Alan Christopher—and he knew that the very moment they vowed to spend eternity with each other, his eternity of sorrows would begin. Kendall would still dream of Erin’s ethereal face every day, hear her warm voice in his mind… but that voice would never whisper sweet nothings into his ear. They would not fall in love. They would never marry. Their waning years would be spent light years apart. And Kendall Johnson would be alone…
Tormented by this bleak reality, Kendall wearily rolled over in his bed and expelled a solemn sigh. His throat was raw, his nose dripped, and tears welled in his deep green eyes. He didn’t want to be alone; more than anything, he wanted a companion in life—and he wanted that companion to be Erin Keller—but he had long ago accepted his lonesome destiny.
And as he had done many times before, Kendall Johnson rolled over and cried himself to sleep…