He's the perfect little boy, physically speaking, but Damon Blackley has a signficant character flaw. His secret friend, Boda, guides the child in the ways of evil. This kid is on his way straight to the top!

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"What do I do now?" asked Damon, as he stood inside the backdoor, his eyes wide in the gloom.

'What do you want to do?' whispered his secret friend, Boda.

"I don't know," returned Damon softly. Nervously, he raised his right hand to his mouth and sucked his fingers.

'Stop doing that!' hissed Boda. 'It marks you as weak.'

"I'm scared," whispered Damon. "I don't think I should be here. It's late. Everyone is asleep."

'Of course they are,' responded his imaginary plaything, as it oozed across the porch and through the open door, passing between Damon's tiny sneakers. 'So we come at night, when darkness affords us shadow and slumber fosters freedom. Here,' it hissed, coming to rest at Damon's feet, there to caress the boy gently with a tendril of vaporous shadow, 'We may do as we please.'

The next question was obvious to Damon Blackley, and he wondered why his friend forced him to ask. "And what do we do?"

'Bad things.'

"We'll get a spanking."

'No, child, you are safe in my keep. No harm can befall you.'

Damon swallowed with difficulty and nodded. His towhead turned the sprawling living space of his neighbor's home. It sparkled with shiny new things of all kinds. He smelled perfume and cleaning solvents. To his right, the foyer led to a dining room and the kitchen beyond, while a hallway led from his left to the bedrooms, where he heard content snores. Before him, a broad den separated him from a wide set of French doors and the moonlit sparkle of a huge swimming pool.

Hesitantly, he stepped onto the marbled foyer floor, and gently pushed the door shut behind him. His secret friend followed along after, and hissed sharply when the door latch made contact noisily with the jamb.

'No!' it corrected with a harsh whisper. 'Keep the bolt back, as you close the door with a gentle swing. We are silent as a slow breeze. We are invisible as night shadow. Our success relies on our stealth.'

Damon nodded distractedly, and tiptoed across the floor toward the den. He lingered on the step that descended into the room's recessed floor. "What's all that stuff?" he wondered, pointing to a coffee table strewn with various strange, electrical devices.

His private plaything slithered across the foyer to scurry up one wall, then across the ceiling, where it dangled high over the little boy's head. A double handful of sexual fetishes, digital cameras and a notebook computer cluttered the table. On a lamp stand nearby, a small mirror reflected a powdery residue scattered around a single-sided razor, while a large plastic bag of dried vegetable matter lay open nearby.

Boda sniggered, 'Those are secrets that I have not yet taught you, child. We shall leave those lessons for another day.' It flowed to the highest peak of the cathedral ceiling, where it found a large hanging light fixture. Now it dripped along the light's supporting chain, a viscous ebb of night in the blue moon shadow. 'Still, it seems your neighbors have been quite busy this evening.'

Damon stepped down into the room, and it was quite a hop for such short legs. "They have a really big TV!" whispered the boy excitedly. "It's way bigger than ours!"

'Indeed,' responded Boda tritely. 'It must have been quite a show.'

"And they have a pool!"

'It is large, and quite… deep. We should remember this, I think.'

"Okay," responded Damon simply. Virtually forgetting his nervousness and fear, the boy wandered the gloomy den, examining its shelves, countertops and walls.

Eventually, he came across a particular figurine that caught his fancy. It was a small humanoid shape carved into a black stone. He stretched his arm instinctively to touch it, but his friend hissed him still.

'Be careful, child,' whispered Boda, where it drooped from the overhead light fixture like so much black taffy. 'Touch it only if you will take it. Take it only if you will keep it secretly.'

Damon's fingers had snapped back hesitantly, and he started to suck his fingers, again, but stopped. His friend, he well knew, would not be happy to see it. Finally, he reached out to fold the tiny figure into his little palm. Its texture was smooth and glassy. Its weight was considerable, given its size. Its feel was cool and hard. With a boyishly eager delight, he held it up to a moonbeam streaming through the French doors, and he admired it covetously.

'Place it deep into your pocket, and keep it in a safe, hidden place, when you get home.'

His eyes lingering on the dim features of the little statue, which was of a strange god or demon, Damon nodded absently. He turned it in his fingers happily.

'Remember, child, this game is gravely secret. All that you see, hear and do while playing the game is gravely secret. All that you take must be, too.'

"Should I show mommy and daddy?"

'No!' hissed Boda. 'Show them nothing!'

"Okay," sighed Damon, tearing his eyes away from his treasure to stuff it deep into his pocket. "Can we leave, yet?"

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