August 14th, 2000 • Author Shepherd Kirk’s home, Vermont
Wyatt shifted as the sun brushed his face, yawning and stretching his arm across the bed to pull Regan closer. His hand met empty sheets. He drew it back across the bed, finding the place where the boy had been was empty as well. The drowsiness flew from him in an instant, his keen blue eyes snapping open to confirm that he was alone.
Wyatt sat up, taking stock of the room. He had spent the night with his Shadow, Regan Fyra, in the room his vessel had set aside for her. The two had often slept together in the months since they’d made their peace in the form of Morgan. The gunslinger pulled on his boots and stood, buckling on his gun belt, and pulling his shirt back on.
“Regan?” he called.
He stepped out into the hallway. Regan slept in a guest room of Shepherd Kirk’s house. Shepherd adored her, had plenty of room in his life for the presence of such spirits, and had always favored her. He had decorated one of the guest rooms in his house to her liking, and she had slept there for years. On nights when Shepherd’s wife didn’t satisfy him, the author would come to the guest room and lie in the dark, quieting his mind until he could feel Regan lie with him.
For a long time, Wyatt hated this. Shepherd had only ever been cruel to him, but in time, Wyatt had the idea to start befriending his Shadow. If she were so close to his vessel, perhaps she was his avenue to finally make peace with Shepherd. Wyatt had hopes to bring her fully to the Light side, and he’d made good progress toward that end in the past few months. She’d yet to drink the Light for him, but she spoke of it often and asked many questions.
What had brought them together was a son. Regan Fyra had complained of loneliness for years, and all but begged Wyatt to give her a child. She’d seen how Demons created life out of the ether, and wanted Wyatt to provide her with stock for her own spawn. At first, Wyatt resisted, but when Regan started whispering to Shepherd, making the author be kinder to his spirit, Wyatt saw his chance. He and his Shadow conceived a son, a beautiful boy with his mother’s dark eyes. Regan had brimmed with happiness, and welcomed Wyatt into Shepherd’s home, so the boy could be with his father.
For a time, life had been good. She and Wyatt spent their days together doting on their boy, and in the evenings, Wyatt would join Shepherd at his desk, and the two would work on Shepherd’s writing together in ways they hadn’t done since the author was a teenager. What Wyatt didn’t know was that after he went to bed for the night and drew his son to his heart to sleep, Regan would rise from the other side of the bed in the night and do some writing of her own with the author.
This morning, the house was quiet. Shepherd’s wife had left for the farmer’s market early and had yet to return. Shepherd himself was still asleep, and would be until late in the morning. Wyatt crept through the house, peering into the rooms, but found no one. He made his way downstairs, and caught sight of a figure through the front windows. Passing through the front door, he emerged onto the sprawling porch of the old Victorian.
Regan Fyra was sitting in a rocker there, holding their son wrapped tight in a blanket. The boy was but toddler size, and still fit easily in her lap. She was cooing softly to him, and looked up when Wyatt appeared.
“Missed ya this mornin’,” said the gunslinger. “Where ya been?”
“Shepherd couldn’t sleep last night, so we just got up to keep him company.”
Wyatt didn’t like the way she smiled. It was a snakish smile, full of trickery and smug pride. He approached the rocker and knelt beside it, reaching for their son.
“How’s my little pardner this mornin’?”
He pulled back the blanket to see his son’s face, and recoiled. The child hissed at him, mouth opening in a wide maw with piercing mandibles, black eyes glowering up at his father.
“Regan!” Wyatt cried. “What’s happened to him?”
“Isn’t he perfect?” the Shadow crooned.
Morgan unfolded himself from her lap, shaking off the blanket to reveal eight sets of legs, long and spiderlike, with pointed feet that left scratches in the floor of the porch. Wyatt scrambled, pressing himself back against one of the porch columns, agog and awash in horror.
“What have ya done, woman?” he whispered.
Morgan shrieked at him, and spat a glob of black venom, which hissed into the toe of his boot. If Wyatt’s big toe weren’t already gone, he was sure it would have been eaten away.
“The boy has such potential,” Regan told him. “Shepherd and I have been working on him for weeks now. Shepherd finished his writing for us last night– isn’t he magnificent?”
“That’s not my son,” snarled Wyatt. “Ya’ve destroyed him.”
The monstrous child shrank back against his mother’s legs, hissing at his father. Wyatt shook his head, the cold thorns of despair sinking into his heart. “Was this your plan the whole time?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” countered Regan. “He’s mine as much as yours– he was my idea– I ought to get a say in what he becomes.”
“Ya’ve turned him Dark!” snapped Wyatt, and the hideous child spat another mouthful of venom at his outburst. “This is no child, Regan. This is a nightmare cooked up in secret in the evil hours of the night.”
“Shepherd likes him this way.”
“Of course he does! Shepherd fancies himself a horror writer, and hates me with every fiber of his being for what I am to him– what you’ll never be to him!”
“I’m more to him than you are,” snarled the Shadow. “Who has lain with him since he was a boy, so new to himself? Who has shaped his stories to the bestsellers they are? People like Darkness, they thrive on the morbid appeal of it! Your half-assed cowboy tales don’t hold a candle to the profits I’ve turned him. You think he’d live in a house like this on the income you’d earn him? He never asked for you, but I’m exactly what he wants.”
“You shut yer lyin’ mouth.” Wyatt pointed a dangerous finger at her. “I was drawn down to this man by the Light’s order. Yer nothing but the scraps of what we didn’ wanna be.”
“And yet I’m the one he most often chooses to work with. I’m the one he listens to.” Her dark eyes glinted at him in the morning sun. “It doesn’t have to be that way, you know.” She scooped up the aberration that had once been their son, cradling the monster to her chest. “You could join us. Morgan is your key, like you thought.” She walked toward him, carrying their son. “Shepherd and I, we made him this way for you. Just let him taste your blood, and he’ll make you like us, make you like Shepherd wants you to be.”
Wyatt looked down in horror to the clacking, seeking, mouthparts of his son, and suddenly he understood.
“Ya never wanted to love me,” he said. “Ya never wanted the life I thought we were makin’ together. Ya just wanted to turn me.”
“Shepherd likes us this way,” said the Shadow. “Wouldn’t it be easier? Think of the work we could do! If we worked together, Shepherd could sell millions more copies. We could travel the world. We could be a family.”
“One big Dark family,” snarled Wyatt. “I don’t think so, Regan.” He reached down and drew the gun from his hip.
“Wyatt, no!” she cried, trying to turn away from him.
The damning thunder of Wyatt’s gun shattered the morning. Regan’s scream rang across the porch, the lawn, and through the house to where their author slept. The Shadow couldn’t stop screaming. She dropped to her knees, their son’s now black blood splattered across her chest and face. The child’s perverse legs were fallen loose like twisted kindling across her arms. His terrible mouth was gone, blown off by Wyatt’s bullet.
A sob cracked out of the gunslinger, and he backed away from them, down the porch steps, to stand on the brick walk. The gun shook in his hand. He wanted to point it at Regan, but grief weighed down his arm like lead. The loss was too great to compound it with another.
“I am no monster here!” Regan shrieked at him. She lifted the lifeless body of their son and brandished it toward him. “If this is your Light, it is worse than my Darkness.”
Wyatt felt tears spilling down his face and hated himself for them, and for his foolish hope that had led him here. There was the sound of a window opening, and a bleary Shepherd Kirk leaned out of one of the upper windows, blinking in the sunlight.
“What the hell’s going on out here?” the author demanded.
“He’s killed our son!” screamed Regan. “He’s murdered the fruits of your labors, our great hope. He’s done it!” She stormed off the porch, carrying the twisted body of Morgan in her arms so Shepherd could see. “I told you he was no good, didn’t I? I told you only death follows him on his black tracks! I told you he brings doom with every step of those wandering feet!”
Wyatt turned his tearful eyes up to his vessel. “Shepherd, please…” he wept. He searched his vessel’s face, seeking any kind of sorrow or compassion, but found none.
“You are a thorn in my side,” snapped Shepherd. “You ruin every great idea I have–”
Wyatt couldn’t stand to listen to him. He turned and stormed away from the house, passing through the black iron grate at the street, and breaking into a run away from the place.
“Run, if you want!” shouted Shepherd after him. “You can’t escape me. I don’t need you! I’ll lock you back in those books for the rest of your days! You’ll never know a taste of freedom again. I’ll make you rot in those pages for the rest of your eternity!”