I leaped up, caught him, and pulled him down out of the opening in the ceiling. It was still dark, and everyone around me was still confused; I was the only one who'd seen the movement over our heads.
"I love you, Daddy," said my son's voice, as I laid him on his back on the ground. He twisted under my hand, but I held him there and slid my other hand under his neck, cradling the back of the skull. The bones were small, delicate beneath soft tissues and the smooth skin of a small child.
"I love you, too," I said.
"I love you, Daddy," it said again, as it sank the tiny needles of its claws into my arms. I think if I'd flinched and let go, it would have run away laughing -- laughing in my son's voice. I held it carefully, my fingers positioned to block the lower jaw and keep it from taking a chunk out of me with those small, sharp teeth.
Someone finally turned a light on us, revealing the white skin and sunken features, the large red eyes with their bottomless black pupils. Any resemblance to a human child was gone in that moment; the illusion held only in darkness.
"I love you, too," I mimicked, and gathered it up to hold it close. It struggled, sinking claws into the front of my chest, tracing tiny lines of fire along the skin across my ribs. "I'll never let you go."
It thrashed, suddenly panicked. "I've changed my mind," it said, still in my son's half-lisping child-voice. "You can have him back."
"I don't want him anymore," I told it, as I stood and started for the outside door. "I want you."
It strained against me, but it wasn't strong and it already knew that I didn't care about what little damage its claws could do. "We'll bring him," it said. "You can have him. We won't touch him again. We won't touch any of you again."
I cocked my head, looking down at that horrible, mocking face. "I could never believe you." I reached the door, twisted to put my hip against the bar, and pushed it open. "I could never trust that what you brought would be my son, and not just another one of you biding your time in his place." Sunlight spilled over us as I stepped outside, and the thing's white skin began to smolder over its frame of misshapen bones. "And even if you did bring him... I've seen what you've done to us. What would be left after whatever you've been doing to him?"
The sun bit into it, and it writhed. It clawed, cursing me, calling me a fool... but I wasn't, not any more. The things weren't strong, or even very smart. Their only real power was that they were endlessly, relentlessly cruel. Everything they were, everything they did, was bent towards the misery of others.
"Daddy!" screamed my son's voice. "It burns!"
"I know," I told it. "It should."
I held it there for hours as the sun chewed slowly through its body. Someone brought me water; I didn't see who. In the end there was nothing left of it but a few scattered ashes and the stain on my shirt. Claws, teeth... even the bones were gone.
My world was broken, and nothing in it would ever be right again. There was only ever going to be pain, and sorrow, and loss. And since that was the case, I was determined to share them with the things that deserved them most.
I went back inside to look for the nest.
So... yeah. This is why, despite desperately needing a full night's sleep, I'm awake again a mere two hours after lying down. Thanks, Morpheus, you utter bastard.