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I told you I would never make you cry and I know I broke that promise more times than I can count, my beloved. I know I have not been the best of men, leaving you there crying when I should have been holding you. When you should not even have been crying at all.

Come, now, won’t you forgive me? It took everything I had, all the energy I could muster, to make it back home, to talk to you, to tell you the things I couldn’t when I got out of the hospital. I came all this way back to your domain just to hold you again, to feel the heft, weight and warmth of you in my arms, just like that Bon Jovi song goes.

Won’t you even just turn around? Stop talking to me through that mirror. I want to see your face, not its reflection. C’mon, babe, turn on the effin’ lights and blow out that silly candle. And stop looking at me with that fear in your eyes. I know I hurt you when I left, but I didn’t ever hit you then. I sure as all heck won’t now. Please, put that nasty three-cornered dagger down, too. Wicked thing, that. You could seriously damage someone with that.

It’s me, hon. I’m back and all I want is to sit down on the couch and hold you. All I want is to kiss you again, to taste that wonderful roast pork only you can cook that way I like so much. I’ve missed you, and that, too much for words.

Look, see, my hands are open, and empty. They need to hold you.
“Get back into the circle, spirit. I did not summon you,” Amihan’s low alto was controlled, its cadence deliberate as an order from a general. “Back into the circle of salt. Back where you belong, demon. I know you not.”

The living room of the house was nothing out of the ordinary: A fat, cushion-covered couch upholstered in brown canvas, rattan amchairs, a low, glass-topped table where an ouija board sat surrounded by lit pillar candles, its pointer spelling out words that made her hair stand on end. A thick circle of sea salt ringed the table.

“All I wanted,” she muttered, “was to tell my husband I loved him, and this had to happen.” Amihan shook her head.

All right, babe. I see you won’t be reasonable. Okay. I’ll let you be. For now.

The pointer stopped on a small shudder, as if whatever was controlling it hesitated before letting it drop to the board.

Amihan covered the mirrors in the house with whatever cloths she could find: table napkins, scarves, a large lace doily. She sat in the kitchen for hours, waiting for dawn to break before heading for bed with tears streaking down her face.

When sleep began to gnaw at the edges of her frightened wakefulness, she relaxed, taking deep breaths as she curled instinctively into the warm cocoon of arms, legs and torso that engulfed her.

I love you, ‘Mihan. But you know I never let us sleep on any arguments or misunderstandings. I have you now and I will keep holding you like this until you come to your senses and talk to me. Until you listen to what I have to say.

She tried to disentangle herself from the engulfing embrace, tried to scream, fought her own body’s familiar recognition of the man she’d buried years before, after he’d died of a heart attack. No dice.

In her struggles, Amihan cast her eyes in dismay at the one mirror that she’d forgotten to cover, the antique cheval glass piece standing catty-corner to the bed, where she saw only the indentation of her husband’s body in the mattress and pillow, only the imprint of his large hands on her shoulder and cheeks.

She nodded, heart pounding, for she could force no sound from her lips. Now, woman, listen. Listen to me tell you I love you, you stubborn minx. Amihan closed her eyes and held as still as she could. After all, when her husband got like this, all she could do was listen.

* * *

Situational Awareness

Jewel was rushing for the bathroom. Working from home means you are stuck in your cramped little work space with a headset glued to your ears for hours. In her case it was listening to her English as a Second Language student reading from some boring business manual while she marked off the correct and incorrect pronunciations in her copy of the text. Thank goodness she could work in her house clothes, which are so much easier to doff when one needs to rush to the porcelain throne.

She didn’t even bother with the lights. It was her home, after all, and she knew where the damn WC was. Beside the light switch, that’s where it was.

Jewel sighed and closed her eyes at the blessed relief of her emptying bladder when she felt that prickling of skin that told her she was not alone in the dark. She hit the light switch just as a low hissing sound rose up from the floor.
There was her cat Niles, curled up in a defensive ball of upraised white and gray fur, glaring at her with fire in his yellow eyes from the cool tile with his ears flat against his head.

“Get over yourself, cat,” she bitched. “I told you once if I told you a hundred times: The toilet is not your water bowl. You have no call to attempt to give me a heart attack like that.”

She finished her bathroom break and returned to her “workstation” (a cranky old laptop hooked to crappy internet, but, hey, it was the “office”). The lessons continued for another hour until they’d finally finished for the day.

Unbeknownst to her, the cat was communing with the small flatscreen television in that three-foot by four-foot space that was her living room. The boob tube was muted and set to a kiddie channel.

“The human has strange habits,” Niles sent out the thought through the cable box to an image of the cat in the vintage Tom & Gerry cartoon that was staring intently at him. “She pees in her water bowl. The others embedded with humans report the same thing. We must unleash the weapon now. This planet is beyond saving.”

Tom nodded sagely and began to chase Gerry into a mousehole. He turned and issued this brief order before squeezing in after the cartoon mouse: “Signal planetary evacuation. The culling will begin in an hour, your time.”

On the other side of the bookshelves dividing up the living room from Jewel’s work space, the sounds of a PC shutting down and the human calling the cat to his supper pierced the silent little space.

Oh, if she only knew, Niles snickered quietly as he loped to the human. If she only knew.

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