Sour Candy
the boy appeared, standing at the far end of the attic as if he’d
been there all along. Phil pinned him with the light and tightened
his grip on both the flashlight and the chair leg.
    “ But there is a reason,” the boy
told him.
    “ And what’s
    “ Mora.”
    The attic door slammed shut hard
enough to startle a cry from Phil and he almost dropped the
flashlight. He spun and felt a cold blow of fear in his chest at
the sight of the Elders blocking his path, all of them so tall they
were forced to stoop, their hollow eyes boring into him, horns
tangled together like brambles.
    He had expected their intervention of
course. He wasn’t stupid. But he hadn’t expected they would reach
him so quickly. No matter. There was still a chance. He turned back
to face the boy and was mildly surprised to see him still there,
right where he’d been before the Elders had come. Nor did the child
look even mildly perturbed, and this was worrisome.
    “ You ate the candy,” the boy
said. “You ate of her, and so her you will become.”
    It was all more gibberish to Phil and
after a single heartbeat reserved to be sure he knew what he was
doing (he didn’t) and to assure himself there was no time to change
his mind (there was and he knew it, but was afraid to), he rushed
forward toward the boy. As he closed the distance between them, he
heard a muttering sound and was alarmed to realize it was coming
from his own mouth: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
    And then the flashlight beam swelled
in the boy’s face, making it a burning sun in a dying sky, made it
become the only light in the world, and he plunged the splintered
edge of the chair leg into the child’s throat.
    He expected magic, the supernatural,
some last minute sleight of hand gleaned from a thousand horror
movies in which, at the last, the monster cackles and plucks free
the instrument of his apparent undoing, only to rise and wreak his
vengeance on the killer. He expected black blood, green blood, no
blood at all, maybe smoke, fire, ethereal sparks, something
indicative of the unnatural and its unwillingness to
    Instead the child choked as
dark red blood, real blood, normal blood spurted out around the ragged, gaping hole
in the side of his neck, and then he slowly slid down the wall
until he was sitting with his hands in his lap and his eyes on
Phil, who stood over him in sudden disbelief.
    Silence again now but for the child
choking and the spurting of the blood and before Phil knew he was
going to do it, he was on his knees beside the boy, weapon
forgotten, hands clasped around the rent in the child’s neck. “No,
no, no,” he moaned, the blood impossible to contain as the child’s
eyelids began to droop.
    “ I want to wait,” the child
    “ Don’t talk.”
    “ I want to wait for
    It was illogical, impossible, but in
that instant Phil came to believe he had made a terrible mistake,
had lost his mind, and in the morning the world would wake up to
images on their TV screens of him being led out of his house after
committing filicide, looking every bit the deranged
    As the warmth of the child’s life’s
blood coated his fingers and he wept in anguish, his mind became
one of those same TV screens showing him the child and the mother
looking at him in the grocery store, a mother who the store manager
would later say wasn’t there. He saw the crowd, looking not at the
child but at him, the man who maybe had been the only one there who
was screaming. Then the accident and the woman who’d killed
herself. Why? Had he known her somehow? Had she existed at all? And
the police, looking at him strangely, suspiciously. Maybe because
they’d spent most of their adult lives dealing with insane people
and thus had learned to identify the telltale signs.
    And lastly Lori. Was it possible she
had left him long ago, that his broken mind had latched onto that
one final memory as the last good thing worth

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