Nightlight by Trey Dowell

Nightlight by Trey Dowell
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (9 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Nine-year-old Kayla suffers from horrible dreams, along with the nagging fear that monsters will come for her in the night. Employees of the Stafford Sleep Clinic think they know better, until an astonished technician discovers that beyond all of the machines, wires, and monitors he trusts so completely, the little girl’s fears may not be imaginary after all.

A lot of kids fear the dark at some point during their development. Some of them have much better reasons for doing so than others do, though.

Most sleep clinic technicians don’t see kids very often in their profession. What endeared me to Ben was how quickly he warmed up to Kayla when he realized that she was lonely and scared in a new place. The conversation they have at the beginning of this piece not only reveals important clues about what is about to take place, it gives the reader a glimpse of Ben’s kind personality as well. While there isn’t a great deal of room to delve into the backgrounds of characters in something this short, I really liked what I learned about him during the course of this tale.

I momentarily wondered if such a young child would really be left alone during such a long medical test. While I have a few theories about why the author chose this route, it would have been nice for either Ben or Kayla to mention why she alone at the Stafford Sleep Clinic. Based on what the reader learns about Kayla’s past I’m not entirely sure if this was meant to be a clue about what is happening in her life, but I think a strong argument can be made for this interpretation.

The pacing in this story is superb. I had a knot of dread in my stomach from the very first scene, and the conversation between Kayla and Ben only made me more anxious to find out what happens next. Sleep clinics aren’t inherently scary places, but Mr. Dowell teases out everything unknown about this sort of experience in order to make the setting as unnerving as possible.

Nightlight sent a chill down my spine. This is a great introduction to horror for anyone who is unfamiliar to the genre, although I’d recommend it just as highly to long-term fans. There is something terrifying here for everyone!

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