A sleeping child is visited in the night by an unusual creature.
The Stolen Child
By Allen May Carpenter
The child was sleeping calmly in his cradle, nestled in pale blue blankets and lit with the moonlight pouring in from the uncurtained window. No dreams stirred his body or pinched his eyes and only a vague look of peace covered his rounded face. The mobile over his head spun lazily in the gentle breeze of the ceiling fan and a monitor buzzed low from the top of the dresser.
A pale, translucent form hovered by the window, spindly fingers splayed over the pane and thin palms suctioned to it. Breath from a lipless mouth fogged the glass and wide, insect like eyes blinked slowly, resting on the sleeping baby. Gentle fingers hooked into the paper thin crack between the frame and sill. The whimsical creature pried it open and perched on the window sill, long toed feet curling around the wide edge and shying away from the inside. The baby stayed still.
The noise of shuffling feet outside the door prompted the turning of the alien head, multifaceted eyes wide and staring. The door handle turned and the creature vanished from the sill as the mother of the child shuffled in, eyes heavy lidded with sleep and her hair in a mess. She passed a hand over the baby's face, murmured the sweet language of a mother to her child, and left without noticing the window. The creature spread its long fingered hands over the sill and pulled itself back into the room from where it had hung suspended from the ledge. It cocked its head to the side as the child uttered a soft sigh and pursed his lips.
Pale, groping hands reached for the edge of the crib, the longest finger resting on the edge of it while the owner stretched from its position on the sill, safely back from the inside edge. The slender arm was riddled with visible veins and thin bones that were barely covered by tinted, see-through flesh. The arm shook and the creature drew it back. The baby stayed still.
The monitor gave a loud crackle and the creature twitched, long hands wringing nervously in front of its body. Its head cocked to the other side as it observed the child, as if the answer to any question lay in his pudgy, placid face. It reached out its arm again, this time grasping the edge of the cradle with its whole hand and pulling its body closer, although its feet remained steadfastly in their position on the sill. The other hand joined the first one seconds later and the creature loomed over the cradle, its shadow appearing like light on the bottom of a swimming pool, shining through its flesh. It peered down at the baby and clicked its tongue against sharp teeth.
A murmur escaped the baby and the creature drew back sharply. It glanced around, staring at the monitor for several seconds as if expecting it to leap from the dresser and defend the child. Then, with delicate, soothing motions, it reached forward and pressed a slightly sticky palm to the baby's face. It jerked back quickly. The baby was warmer than it had expected. A shiver shook the creature's body. Something akin to a sigh escaped the lipless mouth and it dipped its slender hands into the cradle once more.
The baby stayed still and fast asleep as the creature gingerly lifted him from his bed and cradled him to its chest as it drew its body back to the sill. Never had its feet gone over the inside edge of the sill. The creature purred quietly as it gently touched the baby's nose, cheeks, forehead, and tiny mouth. The baby opened his mouth in his sleep for an expected meal and the creature curled its fingers back into its palm. The monitor buzzed again and the baby shifted. The creature stood as if frozen, watching the door with its wide, insect eyes.
Slowly, when no threat made itself known, the creature lifted the baby higher on its chest and turned to face the outside, the moon casting its eerie water-shadow on the floor, darkened by the baby's bulk. It let out a quiet keening sound and then paused, head tilted as if listening. It crept to the edge of the sill and curled its toes around the edge. It glanced down at the baby that snuggled against its cold, translucent flesh. The child's tiny mouth was pursed again and his eyes were pinched. The creature stroked its cheek and it calmed.
A keening from the woods behind the house caught the creature's attention and it gazed in the direction the noise had come from. It raised its face to the moon and called, a warbling string of notes that hung in the air. The child groaned in his sleep. The creature put its mouth very close to its ear.
“Sh...” it hissed.
It spread its wings, huge, pale things that bore more resemblance to those of a dragonfly than a butterfly. Shifting its weight to accommodate the child's, the creature perched on the sill and angled its body to the sky. With a soft noise of discomfort, it launched itself into the sky, dropping swiftly before it caught itself and exerted enough energy to keep itself and the child aloft.
“Sh...” it hissed.
The child stayed still.