Harry sat in his chair with a notepad and pen, trying to concentrate on his writing rather than let his thoughts race down the path his needless fear of the dark always took him. He couldn't exactly call it a baseless fear given he knew quite well where it had come from, but there was something cruelly comical about his inability to put his own daughter to sleep without a nightlight on. Cheryl was quite unafraid of the dark, enjoyed hiding in cupboards to spring out at him as a game, but then, she had no reason to be scared. No one had yet convinced him of residual memory from birth, and for that he was thankful; memories of charred flesh and failed demi-gods weren't something you could look up in the average book on parenting.
He'd only been putting out the trash for God's sake. It wasn't his fault the light over the apartment bins had gone out but he'd ended up throwing the bag into the shadows the main dumpster lay in and running back inside, slamming the door regardless of the late hour and slumping down in the lobby to try and regain his breath. Whoever was in charge of CCTV was probably having a great laugh at his expense, but damn. Most people just felt a sense of threat or danger in the situations they feared. Harry had neon visuals of everything flash behind his eyes, vivid black and red memories, and always, always Lisa Garland.
He remembered Dahlia burning, Cybil's bloody collapse, but it was Lisa Garland who haunted his dreams because she had been so innocent. She'd been so delighted when he first found her, like a little girl who'd been lost, and so terrified when she realised what was wrong with her. How in Hell did you comfort someone who just figured out they were already dead? And she'd come at him, bleeding and bleeding, and he'd closed the door on her and locked her inside. He'd never forgiven himself for his cowardice, not touching a nurse afterwards just in case it was her, but she was the only one who bled like that, and he'd known it when she dragged Dr Kaufman back to the place she'd been condemned to.
Every time he walked through shadows he thought of her reaching out to him for help he could not and would not give, wondered if she would come through grids to drag him back to where he might belong too. Cheryl was of their world and it did not seem far-fetched to imagine that the town would call them back again, or worse, come for them. He had tried to keep her as separate from Alessa as possible, buying her any toy but dolls and keeping butterflies out of her life altogether, had even caught himself checking prospective school's uniforms just to make certain she wouldn't end up wearing blue. He knew full well that if she wanted to dye her hair when she was older, he wouldn't complain about it once. Anything that kept her from being Alessa's image.
The notepad page was nearly full from top to bottom with pen drawings of the infinity symbol, the movement required to draw it being simple and perfect for absent-minded activity. He couldn't imagine it meaning anything, had distant memories of his mother having been exactly the same to the point of little swirls being visible in the strokes on her oil paintings from when she tired of shading. It was something to do when you wanted your mind to wander. At the moment he wanted to do anything but let that happen.
Sighing, Harry put down the notepad before walking into Cheryl's room and sitting down in the chair by her bed, thankful as ever that he had paid a little extra to get a nightlight that cast a faintly golden glow over the room as opposed to one of the horribly chemical green or blue glows sold in most shops. She looked like a little cherub, pink-cheeked and fully relaxed in her sleep. His first daughter... his Cheryl, even if she hadn't been entirely his, had never been able to relax her face as she slept. Her eyes just refused to stay closed unless she frowned slightly. The little girl in the bed before him had a face smoother than a newborn baby, and the difference was strangely comforting. Any signs in her of difference from his first daughter he welcomed with open arms, knowing he would damn near face death rather than go through Silent Hill again. Whenever people spoke of their 'terrifying experiences' on television after being put through some minor ordeal or allegedly abducted by aliens he wanted to shake them, smack them with a firm dose of reality. These were people who thought true evil came in the form of a lawyer or a fast food waiter spitting in a salad.
But the cultists had said similar things in their writings, how mankind needed to experience cleansing pain and suffering if they were to be pure again. It didn't do to dwell on the same manner of thoughts that had led people to burning a little girl and forcing her to cling on to life. Alessa had that look of someone to whom excruciating was a meaningless word, no surprise given she had burns she should have died from many times over. Someone with burns half as bad as her would be placed in a chemically induced coma if she were in a decent hospital, because the sheer pain would kill her with shock. Most martyrs were beaten then burnt at the stake, shot with arrows, crushed to death – her cult had apparently decided that wasn't enough suffering in itself.
He shook his head, forced himself to start counting the polka dots on Cheryl's pyjamas to clear his mind. It was a repetitive but safe process, having the same placating effect on his psyche as completing a rosary might for a Catholic. Once upon a time Harry had loved night, finding his best novel ideas came at obscene early hours of the morning, but until very recently he had more often than not caught himself staying awake and counting down the minutes. Tablets from the doctor soothed his nerves enough that he could sleep with something approaching regularity these days, but there were always... moments. Moments like taking out the damned trash before, or four, maybe five days ago when he nearly smashed the window in fear on seeing a moth with a six-inch wingspan try to batter its way in towards the light. There had been endless moments before he moved into this set of apartments too, given his first house had a basement. He'd nearly turned into something from The Shining when they lived in that house, completely unable to cope with the fact his home had somewhere dark that could hide anything without his knowledge. He was human, and he had a right to his fears.
Cheryl stirred slightly in her sleep, lips smacking together for a minute as she turned over before pulling her blanket tighter around himself, and he could not help smiling. She was no demon. Even Alessa had just been a scared little girl at heart. It was the thing growing inside her that had caused everything, and Harry had sworn some time ago as soon as he realised there was nothing satanic about Cheryl herself that he would protect her from anything that tried to reclaim her for the town. She was a normal, healthy, sweet natured girl, and she deserved a regular life.
Harry thumbed the necklace around his neck, bought on impulse from a gypsy woman who took one look at Cheryl and blanched, before removing it and hanging it on her bedpost. It was a small gesture for now, but he hoped one day he could make up for failing to stop Dahlia on time. He'd never live to see quite how much it did.