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A glimpse into the past...and a question about the future.

Can you do anything like that?"

It wordlessly demonstrated some basic moves--not enough to entrance her, but just enough to give her a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach. "I'm still learning," it admitted. "It's not all instinct, and I don't have much of a knack for it. I've got lots of time to practice in Hell, though."

Margaret had read that there were different kinds of monsters. If this one could dance like that, it was probably a "tempter"--a creature to which sex was as essential as food. But so far, it had made no advances on her . . .

"I've never been to Hell," Margaret said, trying to restore the flow of conversation. Stupid, she thought. She was more nervous than she'd realized. "Uh, I guess you knew that. Anyways, what do you do there? Is it all full of fire?" (In truth, she didn't really believe these doppelg__ngers were from Hell--God would never have damned Dan, no matter what he'd done on the last night of his life--but there was no point in accusing this one of lying.)

It plopped down on the bed beside her, not touching her, but keeping close. "There are a lot of different Hells," it began, "and all of them are worlds. Some of them have trees and plants. A few have animals. Most are very cold . . ."

She asked it many questions, and it answered almost all of them. Pastor Trenton would probably kill to hear this--these monsters were well aware they were in a position of weakness. "We have to show humans we're not a threat anymore, but we have to convince the other demons we're enough of a threat to take seriously, but we can't be so much of a threat they band together to kill us all. Every single choice we make has to be carefully planned and balanced, and even if we do everything right, we might be doomed anyway."

When it told her of a monster that had made the unwise decision to show up at the original's funeral, she suddenly found herself talking of how Dan's funeral had gone. "The biggest problem was keeping my family from talking to yours. You know how racist my parents are . . ."

No, she'd told Dan Park. This monster wouldn't know about racism--it wasn't Korean like Dan. It was monster-ean. Mimic-ean. Thing-under-the-bed-ean.

"At least they didn't get into a fistfight like on your birthday," she continued. "All they did was glare at each other."

Did monsters have birthdays? Did they even have births?

"How's Park Laundry doing?" the monster asked. "Is anyone still running it?"

"For the moment, it's closed. The lease was running out, anyways."

"Pretty soon, it'll be like I never existed. The world will move on without me. Everyone will forget me, except you."

"Are you sure I won't move on?" Margaret asked.

"I was scared of that at first. Last week, I couldn't feel anything from you. But tonight . . . You still love me. To a demon, that's as real as air and water."

As it said it--as he said it--Margaret knew it was true. He might not be Dan, but he played the part far too well for her not to respond in kind. When he put his arm around her, it was only natural for her to press back against him. When he turned his face towards hers, it was only natural for her to lean into the kiss . . .

"Same time next week?" he asked.

"Looking forward to it," she replied, not sure whether she was lying.

-- -- -- --


The Pinehill Church was small and unadorned, with a few rows of pews in front of a humble stone altar. Margaret was among the first to arrive, but she took a seat at the back to watch the parishioners filter in. To her eyes, they seemed a varied crowd--largely young, and more female than male, but racially quite mixed, and dressed in widely differing styles of clothing. Clearly, this church was more liberal than the one she normally attended.

Pastor Trenton began by calling for "a moment of prayer", by which he turned out to mean thirty seconds of silence, each parishioner offering up thanks in their own way.

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