Darrin McDermott had not wanted his wife to get pregnant. He’d told her up front bad genes roosted in his family tree, and he didn’t want to risk having a defective child. They had agreed before marrying five years earlier that this would be a childless union. But Linda had not stood by their agreement, yet he still loved and adored her–his golden angel.
Darrin now realized he should have used a condom–having a vasectomy had always been out of the question–but Linda had assured him she took her birth control pills faithfully. And she still swore by this, saying the pregnancy was an accident. But he had seen the longing in her eyes when they happened upon a mother and child, and had hurt for her. And perhaps, if he were to be honest, a little for himself.
No, he didn’t believed her, but had never told her so. He couldn’t bear the pain he knew would cloud her beautiful blue eyes if he called her out on it.
In about two months their child would be born, and then she would hate him because he would be the cause of their baby being different.
For a moment, Darrin allowed himself to fantasize about the upcoming birth, holding his son or daughter, (He had forbade Linda to have an ultrasound, telling her he wanted to be surprised.) who would be like her–not him. A normal child, perfect in every way.
Tears clouded his vision. He brushed them away as he pulled the sleek, black Lexus inside the four-car garage, back home from another day at a job that didn’t exist. Had to keep things looking normal, after all.
Darrin plastered a smile on his face, fit the key into the door lock, and let himself in. “Hello…love…”
No Linda puttering around the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on their evening meal. No delicious aroma of roasting meat. “Linda?” And as he passed into the dining room, no candles on the table, no place settings laid out, no Cabernet Sauvignon chilling in the silver ice bucket. (A wedding gift from one of Darrin’s colleagues, who had told him he was making a big mistake.)
He wandered into the opulent living room. No Linda chatting on the phone to her mother, just the gentle whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of the two ceiling fans suspended from the vaulted ceiling. He stepped over to the patio doors and gazed through the spotless glass. No Linda lounging poolside, absorbed in a book. On rare occasions, she got so caught up in a tale that time slipped by her.
But not today.
Unease tightened a fist in Darrin’s midsection.
He turned and stalked toward the staircase. “Linda!” Again when he reached the top. “Linda!”
Complete silence here.
He hurried down the hallway. “Linda!”
Their bedroom door was slightly ajar. He smelled Linda…and something else…familiar…but he couldn’t quite place it.
The fist inside him twisted.
Darrin pushed open the solid oak panel. Horror washed over him. He had worried about the baby, but never this.
Red. The white satin sheets covering Linda’s and his bed, a sodden red mess. And sitting in the middle of the gore, a purple-skinned baby who smiled–showing a mouthful of pointy little teeth–when its yellow eyes lit on him. And then, with a throaty gurgle, the abomination plucked something off the blood-soaked sheets–it was a toe, the nail coral pink–and popped it into its mouth.
Crunch-crunch. Small bones ground to powder behind a sated smile.
“What have you done?” Darrin wailed. “She was your mother!”
His child looked at him, its eyes filled with confusion and innocence.
“Your mother…” Tears ran down Darrin’s face. He should have listened to the other demons, he should have never tried to live like a human. But when he had seen Linda in the graveyard that night, crying over her brother’s grave, he had fallen in love. She was exquisite, a golden angel in a world that until that splendid moment, had held only darkness for him.
He drew in a shaky breath. What was done, was done. Now there was the baby. No Linda. Their child had eaten all of her, sparing not a bone fragment, sliver of skin, or single blonde hair.
All that remained of his wife was her blood–what the sheets had soaked up, at least.
All the beauty drained from the world, drained from his body, leaving a dark bleak place where no man could live.
But a demon could.
His shoulders slumped. His earthly body peeled from him along with his tailored suit. Purple scales glittered. Horns and a tail sprouted.
He heard a growling whimper.
“Daddy’s coming.” He lifted his head. Elliptical, yellow eyes burning, they fell upon his child. His child. There was no Linda. Not anymore. “Daddy’s coming…”
The bloody demon-child smiled as The-Demon-Once-Known-As-Darrin-McDermott scooped it up in his massive arms, squawked like a crow when a gentle kiss was dropped between its tiny horns poking out of blonde peach fuzz.
Then, with fiery tongues licking their bodies, demon and demon-child passed through the wall of the room that held no Linda.