It had been born in a chance encounter between fork lightning and a hillock already gravid with the old magics. Now all the wildling had to do was survive until adulthood worked its own brand of enchantment making it invulnerable to attack. But that was a long way off; a journey fraught with danger.
Rather like the one it was now embarked upon in the wee small hours of a Monday morning. It had broken into a ground floor flat at 18 Marchmont Road as the occupants, a young couple called Babs and Jamie Robertson and their two month old baby Noah, slept. It had been watching the young family for three weeks and it knew their movements with an intimate if unloving precision.
Babs, a nurse at the Royal Edinburgh, was on maternity leave and struggling with the demands of a new born baby. Jamie, a freelance graphic designer with too much time on his hands, generally got under her feet feeling more than a little put out that he was no longer the sole focus of her attentions. So far, so normal. Neither of them had the slightest inkling that they had caught the attention of a malign spirit, one that was bent on getting rid of their child and taking its place in the nest forcing them to care for it; identical to their lost son down to the last eyelash. Unlike the cuckoo though, the wildling would eventually murder its adopted parents at the moment it reached maturity. A bloody rites of passage that was the hallmark of all its kind.
But tonight was only the first small step on that road and the wildling needed to make sure this part of the plan went seamlessly. It stood, a smoky shadow without substance or form apart from a dull red glow that throbbed somewhere in its core. It looked down at the sleeping child, dark lashes fanned out on each plump cheek and felt contempt for such a weak, lumpen creature. It was going to have to take on the appearance of this mewling ball of flesh while its harassed parents tended to its every need. They’d wonder what had happened to their placid baby boy, why he was so cruel and vindictive, first to them and then later to other children. His teachers would huddle in groups in the common room discussing his latest essay, the ways in which it showed what a disturbed little shit he was and endless referrals to an army of psychiatrists and psychologists who would all come to the firm conclusion it was the parent’s fault.
It reached into the cot and took the child, smothering its face before it could cry out. It was important to keep it alive for now so the replication process could begin. It would of course end when it neatly slotted into the cot recently occupied by its true owner some time before Babs and Jamie woke. It wrapped the struggling baby into a blanket and fled, this time having to use the door which shut with a gentle click. Aided by a loosely worked spell of forgetting, no one noticed it as it ran through the chilled night air up Marchmont Road and headed for Blackford Hill, a lonely spot at this hour where it could begin its work.
Finally it came to rest on a little hillock much like the one where it had been spewed into existence and laid the child down on the ground.
Life, it reflected to itself as it began to put on its first flesh overcoat, was a funny old thing…