The Changeling

On a breezy summer evening, deep in the shadows of the night, a graceful silhouette slipped through the open window of a humble cottage.  His pointed ears stuck out beneath a wild head of hair. A bundle of tightly wrapped blankets rested in his arms.  On silent toes, he crept towards the sound of soft snores rocking in a cradle.

“It is time,” he whispered into the crook of his arm. “My magic will disguise you, and you will live here as a human child.”  He murmured a few words, and waved his hand over the blankets.  As he pulled back a corner of the silky cloth, a pair of watery eyes and chubby cheeks greeted him.

“But I don’t wanna live with the humans,” the changeling whined.

“You don’t have to want to, but you still have to stay here.”

“But…but…I don’t want to!” Her lips were pursed in a high pout, and tears threatened to spill from her eyes.

“Hush!” He warned. “Stop that!  We’ve talked about this.  This is what we do.”

“I wanna go home!”  Her chest expanded as she gathered her breath.

“Don’t–”

“Waaah!” She bellowed in a piercing wail.

“Shut up! You’re going to wake the baby!” He peered into the crib.  Dazed eyes stared back at him. “Crap.”

In one swift movement, he snatched the frightened child with his free arm, and dumped the bawling changeling into the crib with the other.   He leapt out the window before the baby had time to join in with her own screams.

#

“Baby’s crying a lot lately.” The mother muttered groggily to her husband.  Every night the child’s incessant cries forced her out of her sleepy haze.  Unable to tolerate the noise any longer, she scrambled out of bed and picked the baby up in her arms.  She checked the diaper, but the child was clean.  She tried offering her breast, but the baby refused milk.  She sang, coddled, and rocked the child to no avail.  Finally, she returned to her bed and shook her husband awake before rolling back to sleep. “You take care of her.”

Sighing deeply, he heaved himself off the bed and stumbled over to a nearby dresser.  He opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a half-empty bottle.  Bringing it to his lips, he took three large swigs of the burning liquid.  Wandering over to the crib, he poured a quarter of a shot into the child’s the open mouth.

The howling ceased as the baby fell limply into the crib.

The father plopped into bed as the sound of snores echoed into the night.

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