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Someone in the House
God only knows how it all began. After all the searching and seeking, the rational debate and wild, intuitive guessing. I'm not sure we really arrived at the truth. If there is such a thing as truth. We poor humans are so imprisoned in narrow boundaries of space and time, so confined by five meager senses. We are like ants, running frantically back and forth on meaningless errands that consume our years, taking a few square inches of earth for a universe.
Father Stephen would say that God had nothing to do with it. In the early centuries of the Church he'd have been excommunicated for the error of Manichaeism. That's one of your classic, recognized heresies—the idea that the powers of good and evil are equal in strength, waging an unending war for the salvation or damnation of the world. His God is an aristocratic, bearded old gentleman in a nightshirt, and the Other One is a cross between Milton's lofty. tormented dark spirit and a Hallowe'en devil with horns, tail, and pitchfork.
Father Stephen believes that he and the old gentleman in the nightshirt won this fight. Bea agrees with his general premise, but takes a little of the credit to herself. Roger thinks he won, by strictly logical, rational methods. Me? I got away. That's not victory. That's strategic retreat. He who fights and runs away ... But I won't be back to fight another day. At least not on that battlefield.
If I didn't exactly lose, I certainly didn't win. My adversary is still there, undefeated, strong as ever. The winter storms have come and gone, and the house still stands. It has endured worse-fires and floods, siege and invasion,enemies internal and external-for a thousand years; and I have no doubt it will still be standing a thousand years from now, when the slender silver ships pierce the sky on their journeys to the stars. Who will be living in it then, I wonder? Descendants of man, if there are any left, or buggy-eyed monsters from far-off worlds, alien aesthetes who admire the quaint architecture of the ancient humans? Be sure of one thing: if there is a sentient creature alive in that distant age, it will protect the house. The house will survive. It has its defenses, and its Guardians.
Joe left for Europe on Friday the thirteenth. He didn't have to he picked that date deliberately. Joe likes to throw rocks at the goddess of fortune.
That's why I remember the date. On Thursday the twelfth I was in my inconveniently tiny kitchen mincing and chopping and braising and doing a lot of other things that do not ordinarily constitute my preparations for a meal. I should not have been cooking. I should have been correcting final exams ...Someone in the House. Copyright © by Barbara Michaels. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.