I feel the monster slam brutally into my midsection, the door actually flies open behind me, and my eyes snap open to see the looming Shmee on top of me. He's staring at the bed, where Squee is sitting, mutely.

Trying not to draw attention to myself, I wriggle out from under him. Shmee seems shocked, off-balance. Perhaps in his rage he didn't know his own strength, or know how weak the door was. In any case, he doesn't notice as I free myself, still gazing at Squee in something like horror.

"Todd...?" He asks, meekly, the tentacles stock still, the pointed ears drooping somewhat.

Squee just stares, terrified into silence, the bedcovers clutched in his hands. Shmee rustles his wings and walks forward slightly on all fours.

Not a very good way to state his case against ME being dangerous; he looks like a walking movie monster.

"Is...is that you, Shmee...?" Squee asks, nervously. He recognizes fragments of his old, cuddly friend beneath the twisted exterior, and Shmee is wearing a truly pained look.

"Yes." He responds, ducking his head, "Please don't be afraid of me, Todd. It was all for you. All of it. I took them into me to protect you from them..."

Squee looks toward me, helplessly, but I'm too stunned to seize the opportunity. Shmee stops at the foot of the bed, in all his evil glory, and repeats, "Please don't be afraid. I was going to show you, when you got a little older... I didn't want to frighten you. Believe me, Todd."

Squee nods mutely, then shifts to a standing position on the bed to look at his teddy more completely. "Are you going to kill me?" He asks, timidly.

"No!" Shmee's response is vehement, "Never! I am here to protect you, Todd, I don't want to kill you!" He sounds hurt, tormented, a regular bundle of angst. Like Nny on an off day, or D-Boy on a good one.

The teddy seems to have forgotten me altogether as he clambers up on the bed: Squee seems to unconsciously lean back a bit to even the distance, still wary.

I'm recovering from my scare just a little, enough to wonder why Shmee doesn't just shift back to his older, more visually pleasing form. But I'm not about to dispute it, backing towards the door and wondering what the number is for the local exorcist. Squee meets my eyes, and I guiltily stop, nearer to the door than before, but still too far to make a run for it if Shmee goes ballistic again.

"Does it hurt?" Squee seems to be getting over his own shock, addressing his toy. The bear's eyes, usually coal red, have become much less glittery.

"Yes...all the time... but I had to. I had to, or you would have ended up like your neighbor, crazy, unable to deal with it... and him." He nods to me, "He is a product of that sick, twisted mind."

"First of all, I'm a product of a demon from another dimension," I snap, "And secondly, you're not exactly a poster-boy for a mentally healthy friend. Don't forget that you tried to kill me two minutes ago."

He growls, drawing lips back from elongated fangs, and I come to the realization that he's gotten worse. Much worse. The changes are accelerating, and...perhaps even becoming permanent.

With this knowledge, I take aim again, "Not to mention the fact that you look like the sum total of everything Squee fears. Why would you have any reason to protect him?"

"Why would anything change between us?!" Shmee growls in return, losing control again. His fur looks glossy black now, his eyes deeper red, tentacles longer and crueler...almost demonlike, "You're an intruder, a foreign body, a virus into my human's mind, and if you don't leave him alone, I'm going to rip you in two!"

"Now, see, Squee? Which of us is more rational?" I ask, sweetly, "And which would you feel comfortable having in your room while you slept?"

Shmee howls, growing more and more uneasy with my apparently excellent self- control while his is so poor, and pounces for me. I'm more than ready for an attack and duck to the side, and he lands softly, harmlessly on the carpet behind me. He turns, "Todd, I protected you for so long, and comforted you, and advised you as best I could...Does my appearance now matter so much?"

He's getting worse. Much worse. Now any traces of what he used to be are buried under the nightmares straining to break free from him, he can't keep a leash on any of them. Just like Nny, playing with fire and trying to dictate to otherworldly beings how things are.

Squee is looking from him to me and back again, and I can't help but feel pity for the poor child, having to choose between us.

"But...Shmee, I want the old you back." He says, quietly.

And then, from the horrified look on his face, I know he's come to the same realization I did: that it's far too late for any change to occur, that he's lost control of the monster, and he's got nothing to lose anymore.

He turns to attack me, to try and bring some final pleasure in taking down his nemesis, when my eyes catch motion from outside the door, and I gasp. I can tell he's measuring my response, not wanting to be tricked again, and then he inclines his head and moves just slightly to view the door. The shadows are seeping in like a mist, moving for Shmee as if pulled by a magnet, and he lets out a panicked squeak as they congregate and sweep down to engulf him.

There's never any hesitation on Squee's part. The kid jumps down from the bed and plunges headlong into the mist to find his favorite toy, and to my shock, the mist moves aside for him. Squee reaches for his friend-turned- beast-of-darkness, and the mist darts away from Shmee again, taking with it all the changes. Horns, claws, wings, tentacles, darkened fur and blood red eyes, all disappear as though they never were.

And the mist chuckles in a voice that I recognize.

Suddenly, it becomes clear to me. "D-Boy!!" I point accusingly at the shadows, which return with the same maddening chuckle, then plunge towards me. Squee clings to Shmee in terror, not understanding what I do-that D-Boy was returned as a cleanup crew by the demon to destroy all traces of its failed attempt...all traces including me.

The room goes dark as the specter clamps down on me, and its touch burns.

"No!! Noooo!!! Not again!!" So cliché, but the best I can come up with as my body is ripped to shreds, D-Boy fades away like a bad dream, and I land somewhere, hard.

No words, not yet. Not for this disappointment, again. Voices are chattering away; I don't know where I am, everything is dull, numb confusion.

My eyes trail upwards to a sign, reading it once, then twice, then again in disbelief.


An anguished scream tears from my throat at the message on the wall, at the hopelessness of my new situation. I'll be damned...