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The Death of Romance

by Luc Reid

When Vera walked into the kitchen, she caught just a glimpse of a woman's ghost tearing herself from Vera's husband Tim's embrace and vanishing into the wall. Tim's face confirming what Vera would not otherwise have believed.

The Felix the Cat clock on the wall over the kitchen counter ticked placidly. From three rooms away came the familiar drumroll of a block tower being knocked down, paired with a shriek of laughter. Outside the window, over the meadow, a hawk circled.

Vera finally nodded, her expression blank, tired, accepting. She'd known Tim could speak to ghosts since before they'd started going out, back in college. He used compel the ghost of a young boy to drift along the floor at frat parties, and Tim would shout out the color or absence of underwear on any girl who had been dumb enough to wear a skirt. She should have known better than to fall for someone who would do that, but in private he had always been so charming, as though his public persona was just an embarrassing coping mechanism.

"Get out," she said.

"That was just--"

"I don't care. Get out."

"But the girls need their--"

"Get. Out. Now."

Tim grimaced, stood, walked to the refrigerator, extracted a Heinekin, popped it with the magnetized opener on the fridge, and threw the bottlecap on the counter. "No, I don't think so," he said. "I think you'd better get out."

Vera stared at him. She had gradually come to realize how little character he had, the man she'd married, but she'd had no idea he had balls, too.

The air by the ceiling wrinkled, and a moment later a warped adolescent girl's face emerged from it, shimmering with a black-purple glow, the telltale sign of a poltergeist. It drifted down through the air, changing direction purposefully when Tim pointed at Vera, smirking. Smug bastard. He probably thought he was the only one with the ability to command ghosts.

He didn't even notice when taloned, electric-red hands emerged from the floor at his feet, reaching for his ankles.

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