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I was standing there naked when a dead man sauntered into my bathroom.
That was the first frightening thing. I knew he was dead. I'd seen him buried beneath the cold clay of the old cemetery. His gravestone was due to be delivered within the week.
He sauntered. He didn't shamble.
That was the second frightening thing, because I always thought such creatures did. Stumble and stagger, that is.
I emitted an "Eeep"like a paralyzed parakeetand skittered backward until the shelves holding soaps and pretty bottles bit into my bare behind.
"Nathan!" I gasped. I shouldn't have. His name stopped the slow, blind swing of the sleek blond head and gave the viscous brown eyes focus. On me.
He curled back his sulky lips and leered.
That was the third frightening thing. I knew what he was and I knew that look.
So I heaved my entire container of lily-scented sea salt at him. The spew of crystals caught him full in the face and halted him in midstep.
He smoked and dissolved, all lacy and pockmarked, with a sizzling, eating sound of dissolution, like ice dumped in a sink and hot water poured over it. Even his clothes, the funereal black suit, writhed and curled like burning paper until the figure collapsed in a drift of dark dust on the bathroom tiles. A pall of charcoal smoke hung in his shape for another long moment and then abruptly vanished, leaving behind a stinksharp as teeththat overpowered the floral essence rising from the running water.
I threw up in the tub.
It seemed I'd managed to kill my husband a second time.
I dropped the empty container on the edge of the vanity and watched it clatter into the sink. After three tries, I managed to turn off the bath taps and pull the plug.
A little over two weeks ago, I had kissed him goodbye where he lay, tubed and swathed and oxygen-masked on a gurney in the emergency wardand very dead. An awkward kiss of regret for all that hadn't been and now could never be. He never made it as far as intensive care. This was just dust. Ashes and fine, sifting dust, plus crumbly bits of bubbled floor tile.
No, not quite. Something gleamed in the fragments. Nathan's wedding ring that had gone to the grave with him. Inside the embossed gold band was inscribed a date from less than a year ago. And my name. Lillie, it said.
Ah, well, tears are salt too.
In the normal course of events I had expected to be haunted by Nathan, to encounter his ghost, in daylight or in darkness, by his desk, at the turn of the stair, by my bed. I had prepared myself for that, for I had felt both guilty and glad that he was doornail dead.
This had not been his ghost.
But Nathan as a revenant? A Repossessed? A filthy zombie?
Bullshit. Not without outside help. I couldn't see it. It did not compute.
Unlike most people, Nathan had been singularly devoid of the slightest psychic spark. He had been proud of it, even boasted of his lack of sensitivity. He believed it made him invulnerable to spirit influence. Alive, Nathan was capable of holding a grudge beyond reason; dead, he could do no more than haunt. No way could he self-animate as a revenant. Someone had raised and aimed him.
I fumbled myself back into my bathrobe and lurched across to the other bathroom door, the one to the master bedroom. I had to check the downstairs doors. I knew I had locked them, I was sure I had locked them, but this thing, ghoul, zombie, whatever it was, had gotten in somehow.