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A young man gets his fantasies and more.
Experts are at a loss to explain the appearance of these so-called 'monsters.'"
Harry blinked as a photo appeared on the screen, a picture of something with too many limbs, all ending in blades.
"This picture is but one of many, and public certainty of an organized hoax is beginning to fade. If this continues, it is expected that martial law will be called . . ."
"Scoot over," Harry said, and together with Leila he learned far more than he'd ever wanted to about little winged things that hopped more than they flew, and giants that swallowed anything in their paths, and (for a few brief, heart-stopping seconds) things with long tongues and extra eyes.
- - - -
"You saw something, didn't you, Harry?"
Neil was the last person Harry expected to see at the supermarket--and the last one he wanted to see. "I'm not talking to you, Neil."
"Stocking up on canned food, are you? Not even bothering to go to work--just like me. Most people still think these monsters aren't real. But you . . . you're preparing for the riots when they understand what's happening. You saw something, and I think I saw it too."
"Neil, I don't know what you're talking about."
"You were always a bad liar. Something pounded on my back door the night before last, and when I opened it . . . I had a nightmare last night about that face."
Outside his back door, he realized. She came back where she died, naked and probably scared out of her wits. Then she walked six blocks in the dark to get to our house, after Neil did whatever he did. Good thing I never remember to lock the door.
Aloud, he said "You're wasting your time."
"I'm washing my hands of this. It's none of my business whether that monster eats you. But first, let me give you a reminder. Leila's dead. Whatever that thing was, it can't be her."
Harry searched for a can of creamed corn, and pretended not to listen.
- - - -
He rose the next morning to find Leila in the kitchen, brewing a pot of coffee. She only poured it into one cup, his cup, and he wondered again how she survived without eating or drinking.
At his approach, she gestured at the calendar. He'd moved it in the years since her death--she must have just found it. "Yes, tomorrow's Valentine's Day," he told her. "I guess you wouldn't have known. But I didn't have anything planned."
Few people could have read the exasperation on Leila's face, but he'd had more experience of that expression than he cared to recall. She rushed from the room, and returned with a blank sheet of paper.
She pulled a pen from a jar on the table, and for the first time since her return, she put pen to paper.
All she produced was a grocery list.
"Leila, I just bought plenty of food--" He certainly knew that look. "And besides, it's getting harder and harder to drive around here--" He didn't even recognize that one. "And I wouldn't feel right having something fancy if you couldn't eat it too--" At this, she jabbed a claw at the ingredient list.
Chicken, rice, cream of mushroom soup . . . He recognized the recipe as one in which she hated four of the ingredients, and he liked them all. They hadn't had it since their first year of marriage.
"All right, I'll do my best. I'm not sure they'll even have this stuff on the shelves anymore."
Her expression spoke volumes, but could be summed up in two words. You'd better.
- - - -
"It wasn't that bad a meal," he told her, though of course it had been. She'd burned the chicken, dried out the rice, and in general created an inedible mess. "You haven't cooked in three years. Well, actually, I don't know what you've been doing, but cooking wasn't one of the things, was it?"
For once, he couldn't read her expression.
"I shouldn't have said that, should I? I'm sorry. It's just that this is all so strange. You haven't told me anything about how you wound up like this."
She stared at him a moment, her gaze all