15 Years Ago…

Mary Agatha, formerly of the Sisters of Salvation, stood in the shadows of the many birch trees that filled the park across from the orphanage of the before mentioned Sisters. She was in the same spot that she had taken upon her arrival, long ago that morning, when the sun had barely cleared the horizon.

The passing of the day into night had gone unnoticed by Mary Agatha, her concern, and her concentration, focused only identifying those that she knew would be responsible for freeing the darkness.

Mary knew that it was her duty - no, her destiny - to enlighten those that were blind to the terror that had taken the form of a child.

Two years ago, when the baby had been brought to them, Mary had seen what no one else had; the essence of darkness that hovered about the child.

A tingling ran up and down her skin, and Mary's eyes narrowed as she focused on the front entrance of the orphanage, her determination firming as she saw the couple that strolled happily out the front doors. Though it had been some time since she had last seen Lilith, Mary knew that the toddler carried in the arms of the woman was she.

Nearly two years old now, the thin strands of hair that she had been born with were now thick, jet-black mange that laid straight. Her eyes were two black pools that were piercing and knowing beyond what a child should be capable of displaying.

If the physical characteristics weren't enough, there was also the gray teddy bear the child held. The same teddy bear that had mysteriously appeared in her crib her first night at the orphanage, and which had defied all attempts to be disposed of.

Bolting from her hiding spot, absolutely certain that the couple descending down the stone steps was the one that had claimed the darkness, Mary bounded across the street to intercept them.

Pat and Henrietta Burke looked up, startled by the sound of screeching brakes, and watched in puzzlement as an aged woman ran towards them, heedless of the heavy traffic.

"Please," called the woman, reaching the safety of the sidewalk and homing in on the couple. "I must talk to you."

"Do we know you?" asked Pat, after exchanging a quizzical glance with his wife.

"You've picked her, haven't you?" asked the woman, eyeing the little girl that Henrietta held closely. "The baby girl with the black hair, and even blacker eyes."

"Do you work at the orphanage?" asked Henrietta. "Did Mother Superior send you after us?"

"I used to work here," answered Mary, her eyes seeming to go distant for a moment. Then, refocusing on the couple, she said, "Please, you must listen to me. I have to warn you!"

"Warn us about what?" wondered Pat, ready to push past Mary and get his wife into their car.

"About Lilith," said Mary, desperately. "She's evil incarnate. She mustn't be taken from the boundaries of the orphanage. Only the Holiness of the building contains the dark energies surrounding her!"

"That's quite enough," growled Pat, brushing Mary aside and opening the door for his wife.

With Henrietta and Lilith safely in the car, Pat stepped around the ranting woman, mindful of the heavy traffic, and climbed behind the wheel.

"What was that woman…oh!" Henrietta let out a startled scream as Mary began pounding her hands on the roof of the car and screaming at them.

"Blasted loony," muttered Pat, starting the car and throwing the gear into drive. A short spot opened up in the flowing traffic, and he stomped the accelerator, drawing several angry curses and honking of horns as he merged with the flow.

"No!" screamed Mary, running out into the street in a futile effort to halt the Burkes.

The driver of the semi cursed and slammed on the brakes as the frantic woman ran out in front of him. His curses turned to screams as her body burst apart against the front of his rig, blood, flesh, hair and clothing spraying up and across his windshield.

In a blind act of panic, he turned on the wipers, a pulpy, stringy eye stuck to one of the blades, glaring at him accusingly as it was forced back and forth across the glass.

Half an hour later, miles away from the orphanage, and oblivious to the accident far behind them, Pat looked over to his wife as she cuddled Lilith close to her and smiled.

"Keep your eyes on the road, honey," chastised Henrietta. "You know how nervous this road makes me."

"Yes, dear," he conceded. Living high in the mountains afforded them the country piece and quiet that they both loved, but the twisting mountain road was the one aspect that his wife loathed.

Pat, on the other hand, enjoyed the road immensely, and would often push his car as hard as he could, when his wife wasn't with him, just to see how well he could handle it.

"You could slow down a little," commented Henrietta, her eyes looking from the speedometer to her husband.

"We're only doing fifty," muttered Pat, taking a quick glance at the gauge.

"We're coming up on that curve," countered his wife, her tone admonishing him for not realizing it.

Pat sighed and stepped on the brake, stifling a curse as his foot slipped off of the pedal and hit the gas.

"Pat!" cried Henrietta as the car surged forward, the flimsy and ancient wooden barrier of the curve suddenly being revealed by the car's headlights.

Pat slammed his foot down on the brake, fighting off the panic that was threatening to overtake him, and his heart skipped a beat as the pedal barely gave.

Moving his foot, trying desperately to look down under the dash, Pat felt a rush of terror as he saw a tiny gray lump wedged beneath the brake pedal.

The black button eyes of Lilith's teddy bear looked up at him, and Pat would have sworn that it was smiling wickedly.

Henrietta's scream barely covered the smashing sound of the wooden barrier as their car went careening through it and out into open space. The car landed with a bone-jarring thud and only rolled for a few feet before it hit a large boulder that flipped it over onto its roof, which crumpled immediately, crushing Pat and Henrietta instantly.

Hours later, after the wreck had been reported by a passing truck driver, EMS workers arrived to find Lilith sleeping peaceful in the small space between the dash and the floor of the car, a small, ragged, gray teddy bear locked in her embrace.

Anthony Burke dropped down into his leather chair as the news of his brother's death was relayed to him. Pat and Henrietta had been the only family that he had in the world, and now they were both gone, taken from him by something as senseless as a traffic accident.

"Are you sure that…yes, yes…very well," said Anthony, trying to remain stalwart in face of the news. "What? Child? No, my brother didn't have any…Oh…I see…Well, yes, certainly. I'll be more than happy to take her into my home."

Anthony absently nodded as the state worker on the other end of the phone explained things.

"Yes, please bring her here immediately. You can do your inspection at any time. I think you'll find my estate more than satisfactory."