Within the festering heart of Lakeisha’s uncle, curling like a thing unborn, Widdershins spied his old enemy, the incubus, Corngrinder. Corngrinder had been a saboteur in the Great Rebellion against Heaven, infiltrating human souls and tempting the lustful Grigori to the side of Lucifer.

Widdershins had engaged the incubi in the benighted huts east of Eden. That was how he had come to find himself abandoned when the cannons of Hell ceased and the Great Accords were signed. Many war-weary angels, loyal or otherwise, had deserted and been caught between when the borders of Heaven and Hell were sealed. These became the thoughtless fairies of man’s legends, driven mad by their separation from the Creator. They established their lawless confederacy of dreams, Fluratrone, and forgot all past glories and iniquities.

But some, like Widdershins, dissatisfied with an eternity of purposelessness, sought a way in from the cold.

The Archangel Michael heard the solicitations of the good fairies, and gave them a path back into Heaven guard the innocence of mortal children from the spawn of Lilith that assail in the night.
Lucifer likewise tasked his orphaned agents with the corruption of human souls.

Although the Rebellion was over, a Cold War of dreams and nightmares continued in the gray meridian between sleep and awakening.

Sometimes it spilled into the real world.

In two-hundred thousand years Widdershins had defeated countless bogeymen, goblins, and bug-a-bears, all intent on stealing the innocence of children. Widdershins had dragged them shrieking across the icy River Purgatory between Earth and Fluratrone, and sunk them in its frozen depths.
Lakeisha Simmons was to be his last posting, and this was the last night of her childhood.

Widdershins knew Uncle James mostly by his reputation. From his place in the walls he had seen Lakeisha’s mother retreat in fright when her brother appeared at family functions, seen him eyeing the children strangely as they played. Lakeisha’s father had driven James from the house, and Widdershins had heard whispers of drugs, abominable deeds, and prison time, and finally, with relief, of James’ suicide.

Widdershins should have recognized Corngrinder’s influence. The incubus had been grooming James, possibly perverting his whole miserable life, in preparation for this final, ghastly assault.

This battle would not be fought in dreams. Corngrinder had poisoned James’ heart until, at the moment of death, it became a cockpit for the incubus itself. Corngrinder had slipped in and assumed command of the physical vessel. Now, it piloted James haltingly across the room. As he bumped against the foot of the bed and fumbled with his belt, Corngrinder’s intent was clear. What four thousand three hundred eighty spirits had been unable to accomplish with nightmares, Corngrinder meant to do by brute force.

But Widdershins had prepared. He flew to the back of Lakeisha’s closet and dove into the dusty old teddy bear the family dog had eviscerated long ago. In his ungainly plush armor, Widdershins clambered over the shoeboxes and burst from the closet, pumping his stubby limbs, sprinting for the bed.

Corngrinder, through James, reached out jerkily for the sleeping girl. Widdershins sprang and pulled himself furiously up the coverlet.

Corngrinder pinched the pink drawstring of Lakeisha’s nightie between James’ dirty fingernails. Widdershins leapt from Lakeisha’s pillow and grappled James’ hand.

Instinctively, Corngrinder withdrew, bringing James’ hand closer to see what had impeded it. Widdershins struck.

Beside the teddy bearskin, Widdershins had stowed a silver pendant. It had been a gift from Lakeisha’s mother, lost under the bed years ago with earring backs and wayward toys. The purple box it had come in had been marked ‘Paisley Park.’ It was a glyph unknown to Widdershins, sharp angles curling around a plunging arrow, perfectly suited to the task at hand.

Widdershins swung it two-handed. Because it was a silver gift of pure love, it cut into the dead man’s heart like an ax of lightning through a withered tree, impaling the surprised incubus nestled within. Widdershins rode the falling body to the floor, where, deprived of Corngrinder’s animation, it splashed into puddles of inky shadow that coursed to the corners of the room to await the purge of dawn-fire.

Widdershins held his prisoner aloft, twitching on the arrowhead of the pendant, a sickly, blinking will-‘o-the-wisp dripping red and firefly-yellow blood.

At the back of the closet, Widdershins hung Corngrinder from the hawser of his tug, an old discarded bath toy he had installed with a bodach’s heart so that it could navigate the frozen Purgatory. The slow-burning heart had twisted the once smiling toy’s face into a withering grimace. Corngrinder bobbed like an angler’s ghostly lure, lighting the dark ice cracking before the scowling bow, and finally dwindled in the depths of the cold dark.

A greater light awaited Widdershins.