(Copyright 1990 by Gerald W. Page for When the Black Lotus Blooms, edited by Elizabeth A. Saunders. Reprinted by permission of the author.)

Greatly changed from what I remembered, but recognizable, he walked into the room. I rose from the chair but did not offer him my hand. A clot of dirt fell from his bony arm and shattered dryly on the linoleum. He sat watching me, I dont know how or how long. After a time, I sat back down again.

There was nothing I could say, nothing I wanted to say at that exact moment. Nothing that would help.

Much that would hurt.

I said Id be back. His voice seemed sad.

Tom, I told him. Im sorry.

His sockets stared at where my head had been when I was standing. He stood still. Had he not really seen me? Has my feeling he was looking at me been only an illusion?

His voice was dry and distant. Death was his ventriloquist, I thought. Im sorry, too.

I deserve this, I said. For what I did. I know I deserve this. Only Tom, Im scared. You really got me scared.

Tom stepped closer. He came to where I sat and stood there, arms swinging at his sides, fleshless fingers flexing. The dark, deep sockets still refused to consider me.

The tears streaming down my face werent scalding; they were icy cold. I deserve what you came here to do to me, Tom. But, oh, God

You didnt mean to kill me. Is that it? You didnt mean it?

I wont lie to you. I did mean it, at the time.   Oh, God. I did mean it. But ever since .   All these months, Tom, all these months.   How Ive regretted it. Ive felt so much guilt. Im so damned sorry for

what I did.

I know.

You know? How? You cant know.

Of course I can. The dead dream. They cant help what they dream. I dream about you. Even your thoughts.

Jerking, his hands moved toward my throat. They paused. I felt his fingertips brush against my skin.

I said, Please dont.

His hands stopped shaking. I wish I could. They moved again. The dead cant help what they do, either.

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