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A Bad Idea 119

David lay in bed, silent and alone.

After all their talking and hugging, he’d convinced his mother to go home. She hadn’t slept in a while; he could tell by the bags under her eyes.

She’d appreciate sleeping in a bed, he knew. He’d already caused her so much pain and discomfort. He had to do his best to make it up to her. So he had. But that left him alone, in the hospital bed, with nothing but his breath and his thoughts.

Night had fallen. Some pile up on I-95 meant that all the nurses and doctors were elsewhere. He could hear the hustle, hear the chaos.

But he wasn’t a part of it. He was elsewhere, alone in the bed, drifting.

He breathed in, breathed out.

He was alive.

“You feel guilty,” a voice said.

For a moment, David had difficulty placing the voice. Then he saw a glimmer — a sliver of gold, reflected in the moonlight.

“I do,” David told the sliver of gold. It was called The Golden Man, though he didn’t know it yet. David had no idea what he’d missed, buried six feet under.

“They didn’t all die because of the demon.”

David struggled to breathe. It wasn’t a matter of physiology, but of tears. He had to hold back the tears. His throat wavered.

“Rick?” David said, remembering his old teammate, who was known by most people only as The Exxterminator. “Is he still alive?”

“No,” The Golden Man said. He allowed David a few moments.

The boy choked. Tears fell, but each one struggled to get past his eyes. He didn’t want to cry. He couldn’t start crying, because he wasn’t sure he’d know how to stop.

And yet there he was, crying.

“The demon’s not the one who killed him,” The Golden Man said. “I saw a sad girl’s memories — felt her guilt. Her emotions spoke to me, suggesting memories I never would have fathomed. I believe she’s the one who did it.”

“Who?” David asked.

“They call her Shade,” The Golden Man said.

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