“That’s different,” he said. “Those are just…”
Animals? Flesh is flesh. Blood is blood. Life is life. You’re not destroying it, Andrew. You’re just moving it around.
“I… I can’t…”
You’re dying by inches, Andrew. You’ll die slowly and painfully, freezing from the inside out. You’ll waste all you did with your life, all you learned, for something that will probably never turn out to any good? Look at this world, Andrew. Your child will never be great. At best, he’ll just be another statistic. At worst… The shadow’s words trailed off, and it shrugged.
“So instead of me freezing, it’ll be Daniel?” Andrew’s voice had gone hollow, and his throat was dry.
No, he won’t. He’ll just die peacefully in his sleep. Painlessly. He’s just a baby, he won’t live through the shock. But it’ll be a mercy, to spare him from this cold world.
Andrew closed his stinging eyes. The battle was already lost, but he tried to rally one last time. “I can’t. I don’t know how to…”
The shadow grinned again, all teeth and points. I do. I can give you the knowledge, and I can give you the ability.
And Andrew knew. He knew how easy it would be to crack open his son’s shell and take what he wanted. A strange warmth passed through him. More important than just knowing, he had the strength.
Andrew reached down and touched his son’s forehead. The shadow mirrored his gesture. Do it.
“Good night, Daniel,” he whispered.
Something was boiling on the stove. Smelled like pasta. Andrew looked over at Michelle at the kitchen table, reading a book and waiting. “Shelly, hon?” he called quietly, his voice tinged with concern and fear.
She looked up from her book. “Andrew? Is something wrong?”
Andrew closed his eyes, looking pained. “Daniel… I think he stopped breathing. He’s cold.”
Before he had finished, Michelle had sprung from the chair, her book flapping and thudding to the floor. “Daniel!” she cried, rushing past Andrew to the child’s room. After a moment, she yelled out, “Andrew, call nine-one-one!”
Andrew was already slipping on his shoes and pulling on his coat. He patted his pocket, felt the reassuring weight of his wallet. He paused, then turned on the cordless and dialed the three numbers. He set it down on the table while it rang.
“Nine-one-one. Hello? Hello…?”
The screen door shut quietly, and Andrew began walking down the street. He did not stop for quite some time.