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The Books of Darkness

by Robert N. Stephenson

Table of Contents
Chapter 31

The Ta’ibah

A child was playing by the bronze pigs in Rundle Mall. The sun was setting and thinning crowds of shoppers and workers were on their way home. At first I sat on a bench, just watching. The child ran his hands over the standing pig’s back, the smile on his face enchanting.

There were three pig statues here: two standing, looking as if they were eating, snuffling food from the ground; a third stood on its haunches, front legs against a tall rubbish bin. It was eating a bronze banana from the lip of the bin. It seemed to be an unusual thing to put in a shopping mall, then thinking about how humans eat, it felt a fitting representation of their lives.

I shifted. I knelt beside the child standing beside the pig and let him see me. He didn’t look surprised or concerned. He just stopped stroking the pig’s back and looked up at me.

“I like pigs,” he said.

“So do I.”

He looked like a mini-adult in his blue jeans and boots and dark sweat shirt. The picture of a motorcycle was stenciled in white across the front. I touched the pig, its cool metal cooling more with the approaching night. I couldn’t see his parents, the guardians of such a small soul. I stroked his hair, felt the light within, let it reach to me, tickle my fingers. I dipped a finger through the back of his head, tasted the minute memories, the visions, savoured the emotions. His light, filled with colour and sound, brought yearning, the need to grasp his tiny spark of energy, light, and rip it free.

“I want a pig when I grow up,” he said, turning his attention to the animal.

I could have taken him then and there, fed from his life-light and saved myself part of the search later, but a child’s light is small, unsatisfying. I felt something for this child.

The Dark One fed from children. His presence at Beslan took many, many small lives. He could see when someone was about to die, knew when to take and not be noticed. The school that day didn’t need much effort, nothing in the way of secrecy. I couldn’t see death coming and was thankful in a way. I could create death, bring it early, snuff the light from a life like wet fingers around a candle flame. Looking at the small boy I saw something. A vision from my own childhood perhaps? Whatever it was, it was enough to save his life.

If I had been in Beslan I would have taken. The terrorist, yes, but not the children.

“Where is your mummy?” I asked the child.

He turned and pointed to a small store. A young woman holding a baby was looking at dresses on a rack. This child would be an easy target for the likes of me and for those whose darkness wasn’t so apparent. I took his hand, fighting the urge to absorb, and led him to the woman with the baby.

“Mummy, mummy,” the child squealed. “The man likes pigs too.”

The woman looked down on her child. She couldn’t see me. “What man?” Immediate concern toughened her face. The child looked up. I had vanished from his sight.

“Don’t talk to strangers,” she said, taking his hand.

“But mummy...” Holding tight she dragged the child away.

So easy, I thought, taking a child is just so easy.

I thought of Diana, Sarina and the others. I had to do something soon or he would intervene. He lacked subtlety, fineness; he lacked all semblance of care. I also lacked care, but not completely, not totally.

I drifted into the move of bodies, the lights from shops giving a different life to the night. Tonight I would create nightmares while I thought and planned. The Dark One will find the screaming dreams and accept my offering. While he fed I would be left with time to direct Diana along the path to my own vengeance. I just hoped I wouldn’t have to kill her as well.

Proceed to Chapter 32...

Copyright © 2009 by Robert N. Stephenson

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