There once was a girl born to a sunken sun. She befriended many monsters in the darkness, and her monsters loved her very much.
They came wherever shadow fell, the sunken sun always too sullen to rise fully. The fear of darkness—heavy, hard, always pressing at her back—melted away from the girl at the touch of her monsters. They sang to her sweetly, little claws gliding up her spine.
“When light forgets you,” they whispered into her ear with sour breath, “we will not.”
Sometimes, the girl wished they would forget her. Though she loved her monsters, it meant living in the place of lightless creatures. She wondered what lay shrouded from her sight, far from where the monsters ever let her wander.
One night, as the girl watched fireflies dance in the sky, she discovered how darkness was kept at bay.
The next day, a man came who said the shadows could never befall her as long as he remained inside and above her forever. So she took him, laying down, all shallow breath and sharp inhales. She took him, being so young, and afraid of how the love of monsters had begun to feel more tender to her than flesh.
But in truth, the man was nothing more than a boy in clever disguises. And one evening, as he promised her nightless days in thrusts, the poor fool got his heart ripped out by angry monsters who clawed their way through his back.
The little boy’s blood spattered across her lips, but the girl did not mind. “Darklings,” she sighed, relieved to see her monsters again after so many years. Her pink tongue flicked out, swallowing a droplet of the boy’s betrayal. “The day leaves such dull tastes in my mouth.”
The monsters returned to their girl gratefully. Caressing her trembling shoulders, they needed no apology. Only love, and a dark place to hide.
“When light forgot you,” they reminded her, “we did not.”
At the river one day, the girl came across a tall, lean boy with a sad mouth. She nodded at him, asking where he’d gotten his monsters.
But the boy only stared back. “Monsters aren’t real,” he answered blankly. A clawed hand stroked his black hair.
The girl almost laughed she felt so sorry for the boy with the sad lips. Wished she could kiss him—but knew better than to bother with dead men. They’d eat his heart out soon, if ignored long enough.
Next, when winter came, a bag of bones pretended to know what her monsters looked like. She didn’t believe him, but enjoyed his company anyway. The touch of bones, so unlike monsters, had a deathless scent to it. The promise of scavenging—of being ravaged by anything but time and darkness—enticed the girl’s stony heart more than she dared admit.
But, of course, the bones left her too once he licked up every last inch of her rosy skin.
“When love forgets you,” her monsters reassured her, “we will not.”
The girl never sought day again after that, but it kept promising her things anyway.
She met a blue gaze at summer’s end. He turned her insides cold, but told her that was just how light felt as it entered you. She believed him. The blue gaze had no monsters of his own, but whispered lies to the ones growling at him from the girl’s back. Somehow, the lies were enough. Her monsters transformed, purring and curling like kittens on her neck.
The blue gaze knew magic that allowed him to speak without ever saying a word. When he finished, he removed every shaft of his iced indifference from her in silence, and turned to go. Hollowed, she listened to him say that they all could not help but desert her. Without saying a word, he told her that monster girls made bad pets, but excellent sideshows.
When the ice left her, the girl began to hate the clawed things that crawled on her back. The things that had been the only love she’d ever known. What was the use of monsters, she demanded, if they could be cowed and tricked by a pair of blue eyes?
Forget me, she begged her monsters. Leave me alone. Let me be.
But they only shook their heads sadly. “We cannot be forgotten, when all else has left you.”
With no where else to turn, the girl finally found the courage to ask the cowardly sun why he had birthed her into a place filled only with monsters. But the sun, being the sun, of course never answered, his wordlessness leaving more scars on her white bones.
Licking her wounds, leaving her father behind, the girl lost her way.
Without knowing how or why, she found herself in a world submerged under water. All stood still and silent as she sank to the bottom of her underworld. Never before had she felt so weightless, the monsters having disappeared after the merest touch from an ocean.
The girl sat there, drowning, nothing left of her but scuffed marrow. Through the haze of waves, she saw a woman. Large, and glinting down at the girl from very high above. Winking. Shimmering.
Astounded, the girl realized she had never seen another woman before in her life. Only ever herself.
“I will never forget,” she promised her mother moon, “when all else leaves, the big firefly in the sky keeps a light on for me.”