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But it's Halloween! You promised! We always go!
Ani tugged at his father's sleeve, but Schnicks just pushed him away. The mutant Acara was sitting at his heavy oak desk, papers piled high around him. Ink stained his fingers and palms and there were dark circles under his eyes. Even the lively blue flames that normal danced wildly around his face were barely flickering. Ani could tell his father was exhausted, Sal had him working around the clock for days now.
I know your tired but it's Halloween! C'mon!
Schnicks buried his head in his hands. His son just didn't understand...
I know, and I sorry, but I have to get this done. I just can't go with you tonight Ani. Besides I haven't slept in-
Ani jumped into his father's lap and put his little paws on Schnick's shoulders.
Sleep later! It's Halloween!
It took a few moments for Schnicks to respond, he rubbed his tired eyes and gazed woefully at his son. It was times like this that he wished that Ani's mother had stayed with the family.
I know. I know I promised... but I just can't. Im sorry Ani, I really am.
He grasped Ani around his middle and placed him on the ground. The little Acara started to sulk out of the room, but he had a sudden idea and turned around.
I'll just go by myself! I-
Schnicks cut him off before he could finish the sentence. He turned back toward his son,
Just... no. It's too dangerous out there.
Ani stood him to his full height, trying to look bigger.
I'm almost six years old! I don't need anybody to protect me!
Schnicks smiled sadly and shook his head.
I said no. Now go to your room and leave me alone.
I said NO Ani! Now go!
Ani knew to obey that voice. When Schnicks spoke that way, Ani never questioned it. Except this time.
I hate you! Your the worst dad ever!
He ran from the study and into his room, flinging himself onto his bed and burying his now teary face into the soft pillows. It wasn't fair, he thought. All of the other kids got to go trick-or-treating with their parents. The chilly air blew in through the open window carrying the smells and sounds of happy children and Halloween fun. It was then Ani made a choice, a choice that would have dire consequences.
The climb down the trellis outside his window had been tricky, but Ani was a born climber. He had suffered no more than a small tear in his skeleton costume, those silly roses. Even though it was late he had managed to hit more houses than usual, filling up his candy bucket in only an hour. Ani started home, yawning, sleep clouding his vision. The bucket felt like a suitcase full of rocks, he just had to sit down for just a moment...
Hello there little one.
Ani gasped as hands grabbed him, covering his mouth before he could scream. He squirmed and kicked, knocking over the candy bucket in the process. The stranger was too strong though, he just held him tighter and dragged him into an alley. The stranger whispered into his ear,
No one can save you here, not even your monster of a father.
Sharp fingers clamped over Ani's nose and waited for him to open his mouth. Ani held his breath for as long as he could, but when he tried to sneak a quick breath something foul was poured down his throat. He tried to spit it out, but the effect was instantaneous, Ani could fell the energy draining out of him. The stranger loosened his grip but it made no difference, the fight was all but gone from Ani. The last thing he remembered was the strangers voice,
You'll pay for what he did.
Schnicks couldn't recall what time he fell asleep, just that he had woken up amidst papers when there was a knock on the door. Moonlight shone through the window and Schnicks glanced at the clock on the wall as he pushed himself out of the chair. He stumbled out of the study, tripping over Pillow in the process. The plumpy didn't move, it just gave him an angry stare and went back to sleep. Schnicks had always hated the petpet, but he was Ani's and the boy adored it. It didn't occur to Schnicks until later that it was odd that Pillow was sleeping downstairs. The little rascal always slept in Ani's room. By the time Schincks rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and made it to the foyer, Sal had already let himself in.
The door was locked Sal. That means stay out.
Sal shrugged his shoulders.
Never stopped me before.
Schnicks sat down on a bench near the door so that he could rub the sleep out of his eyes.
Why are you here? Don't you know what time it is?
Unfortunately I do.
Schcnicks looked up at his friend. The grey ogrin looked tired, but the worry that was etched on his faced caused Schnicks to believe that something else had been keeping Sal up besides his usual insomnia.
Whats wrong Sal? Did something happen?
Sal sat down next to Schnicks on the bench and rubbed his eyes.
Irene woke me up about an hour ago saying she had a nightmare. She-
That kid is always having nightmares. You woke me up because of that?
Will you let me finish!?
Sal growled at Schnicks.
Ok fine I'll get to the point. The nightmare was about Ani, Schnicks. She said that something bad had happened to him. Not in the dream, but in real life. She wouldn't go back to sleep until I promised that I would check on him.
Schnicks shook his head in disbelief.
This is ridiculous.
Sal stood up and put his hands in his pockets.
Just let me see him so I can tell Irene that hes safe.
Schnicks rose to his feet.
He should be in his room.
They went up together, but when Schnicks pushed open the door, they were greeted with an empty room and an open window; the window right over the trellis.
They had been searching all night when the call came in. The police had found him in front of the station, but no one had seen who put him there. Schnicks knew it was his fault, for not watching him more closely, for not being there to protect him. Ani was all he had, his only child, his only family. Schnicks was never quite the same after that; the grief of losing Ani carved permanent scars in his heart. There was much effort after that night, but neither Schnicks nor those he had paid could find out who had taken Ani away from him. There was a note though, a note that turned up about a week after that fateful Halloween. It only had a few words written, but it said enough.
You did this to your son.
Syiko and Syiku
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