It had been several months since Pitch Black had lost to the Guardians, forced back to his underground lair where he was mercilessly attacked by his fearlings. The nightmares whispered dreadful things, horrifying tales of loss and damnation until Pitch could no longer take it. He spent weeks running from them, hiding in the shadows, trying to recover what strength and composure he could.

Slowly, he regained control over his fearlings. The world was still full of fear, it just came in smaller doses – a close call with a speeding car here, a spider in the bath there – but Pitch took what he could. The weeks leading up to Halloween were a helpful boon, but he couldn't help but grouse to himself that it wasn't like the old days, not when people really were scared of ghosts and monsters. Now it was all sugary candy and superheroes. But people love a good scare, and watered-down fear was better than nothing.

Now it was November, and Pitch was as strong as he'd been since Easter, but children still passed through him without a thought, and the fearlings still circled him when he slept. He hadn't spoken to anyone since that horrible night in Burgess; none of the Guardians had bothered to check up on him in all that time.

None except one.

A ray of moonlight encroached on Pitch's shadowy path as he skulked on the outskirts of a sleeping town. He looked up, into the full face of the moon. "You," he spat. "This is your fault."

The moon did not reply. It never did.

Pitch slinked into deeper shadows and returned to his underground lair. Nightmarish shapes skittered along the walls, welcoming their master. He waved them away with a dismissive hand, but he knew once he let his guard down, they'd return. They'd bring with them recriminations of failure, and older, deeper images that he didn't recognize – a golden ship, stars burning in the skies, and a little girl's eyes.

But he was tired, and hopefully strong enough to keep the fearlings away for at least an hour or two. He lay down on a slab of onyx he called a bed and shut his eyes. Those blasted Guardians, he thought to himself, especially that insufferable little glowworm, Sandman. Probably up at the North Pole, drinking eggnog and laughing merrily, while he lay down here, no one for company but his nightmares.

Don't you like being alone? Said a voice that didn't quite sound like his inner thoughts. Pitch was too tired to notice. His eyes shut and as he drifted off into a restless sleep, he answered:


I wish I weren't alone.