Erikreek scratched the floor of the access tunnel with his clawed foot. It made a faint grinding noise in the tunnel, whose darkness consumed all of the ambient noise like an acoustic black hole. Above, through the steam grate, he saw holiday shoppers rushing home with their treasures. Now and then, a snowflake floated through the grate and Erikreek's companion would use one of his tongues to snatch it out of the air.
"Bored," Erikreek said. "So bored. So bored that I might die."
Polungruss raised the eyebrows over several of his eyes and retracted a tongue so that he might speak.
"That cannot be," Polungruss said. "We are of Them Eternal. You can no more die than one of these creatures stomping on the grate can live forever."
"It's a metaphor," Erikreek said.
"Useless," Polungruss said.
A holiday shopper glanced down at the pair of monsters and, although no human could quite see the monsters clearly, she shivered and hurried away from the grate.
"Metaphors can be worthwhile. They can communicate feelings."
"Metaphors. That is like...human eyes. Human eyes can communicate feelings. But only fear. The muscles around the eye contract to expose more of the white, gooey, delicious part," Polungruss said.
"They can communicate more," Erikreek said. He stared upwards. "Look at these people. They are happy, they are content. When was the last time that you were content?"
"Contentment. I have heard the word. I interpreted it to mean the closest thing to death that I could experience, for it meant that I had no drive. And no drive means no motivation, and no motivation is one of the primary markers of the deceased state. That, and having the gooey bits on the outside, which I find to be a more reliable marker," Polungruss said.
"So you're not content?" Erikreek asked.
"Nope," Polungruss said. He skewered a rat with one of his spines and waggled it at one of the shoppers overhead.
"I want to visit them up there," Erikreek said.
Polungruss dropped the rat. "You may not."
"And why not?" Erikreek asked, setting his jaws in defiance.
"Because a Monster of the Gloom may not leave the Gloom. You are destined to stay hidden on the edge of the shadow, balancing on the edge, falling neither into darkness where the living may miss us, nor venturing out into the light."
"What if I want to?"
Polungruss thought for a moment, screwing up several dozen eyes. "Want?"
Erikreek sighed. "You know, how you want to scare people. How you want to repeat to me the same boring platitudes that you have since night and day were created."
"I don't understand."
"What if you couldn't scare people anymore? What if your spines went gummy?" Erikreek asked.
"What is gummy?"
"You know those tiny worms that actually taste good?"
Polungruss drooled and the acidic saliva burned holes in the concrete. "Gummy, yes!"
"Gummy worms, yes. That is the feeling that I have towards leaving the shadow. Even for a bit."
Polungruss, a Monster of the Gloom, ran his wicked tongues over teeth that could crack bones like dry spaghetti and rend flesh like cotton candy. "And you could retrieve for me...gummy?"
"I could!" Erikreek said. "I could go, and come back with gummy worms for you...if you agree not to tell the other Monsters of the Gloom. They would see it as a defection."
Polungruss put a tentacle on Erikreek's pulsating abdomen in a gesture of friendship. "You have my word as a fellow Monster of the Gloom. I understand your use of metaphor now, for I am dying to have gummy."
The Moral: nobody works all the time.