Til Death Do Us Part?

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Co-Authored with John Strickland

DAVID RETURNED to the keyboard to update the reports he had so recently been compiling on the afterlife. But he couldn't calm himself long enough to type the words in.

He just couldn't believe what had happened.

He rose from the computer monitor and walked away from it, from the only source of light in the room. In the dark he easily found what he was looking for: the tall thin bottle of amber delight that helped him get through times like these.

Placing his lips on the scotch bottle he contemplated the blinking cursor on the computer screen. A flashing beacon, it called him. He quickly downed the last inch left in the bottle and found himself at the keyboard, a little less shaky, a little less excited.

Was it just my imagination? David wrote, the green letters on the screen blinking back at him. Oh Mom, was it just my imagination, or did I really see you standing there? David stared at the screen a long time, the stark words sobering him up more effectively than any pot of coffee ever could.

And as he sat there, the image of what had just happened playing itself over in his mind.

He'd just booted his computer on, reached over to replace the boot disk with the data file disk, when he felt a distinct presence in the room. There was no mistaking the way that the air seemed to shift as if something had suddenly formed, taking up a spot in the room where before there had been nothing but empty space.

And then there was the feeling of being watched. As if whoever, whatever was watching him affected him physically - as if the act of being looked at could actually touch him somehow. His skin rippled with gooseflesh and he sat there unmoving, afraid to even blink.

After years of combining countless seance rituals with scientific measurements and equipment, had he finally contacted a spirit of the dead? Was that what was watching him? Was that what was standing in the darkness behind him? Twenty years of research and it all came down to turning and seeing for himself. But he couldn't bring himself to do it - not yet.

His mind had lingered on the feeling of eyes penetrating the back of his neck, the weight that seemed to share the floor with him, the mass that shared the air of the room. He concentrated on these feelings, tucking them all away into memory and took a breath.

Then he'd turned - the feeling of being watched growing intensely - and there she stood, his mother. Although dead for over six years, there she was, arms outstretched to him. A gentle, loving smile on her face and her eyes wrinkling as she smiled at him, her lips mouthed silent words. Davy, she seemed to say. Davy. Then she'd faded, becoming transparent, and completely disappeared.

After what seemed to him a very long time of rehearsing the scene over and over in his mind to be sure he missed no detail, his stiff fingers returned to the keyboard. He typed, but his hands seemed to have become dislocated from his brain. After all this time, why have you come back, and why now?

"You know why . . ." The voice, so small that David wasn't certain he had heard it, flowed from some dark corner behind him. Slowly, deliberately, David turned around in his chair. His eyes probed the dark corners of the basement where he had set up his home office and lab and flicked on the desk lamp. The light spilled across most of the one room basement, but he found nothing, nothing at all, absolutely nothing.

He thought. For though he saw nothing in the room, he could again feel the presence. The air shifted again, and although he couldn't see her this time he knew, just from the feeling, that she was back. He pictured her standing there, looking at him, her lips mouthing his name over and over.

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