The Science Center had opened all sorts of doors for Zahra.
These days she was in a hush-hush program devoted to crossbreeding creatures and robots. You had to be sure not to call too much attention to programs like these or the silly animal rights activists came down on your head. And let’s not talk about Equal Rights for Artificial Intelligence movement.
She spent a lot of her time looking for unique animal specimens for her experiments, and there was no better place to look for truly bizarre evolutionary life paths than in the sea.
So she was fishing on the beach behind the house when the old urn she kept on her dresser began to rattle.
She wasn’t there. She couldn’t have heard or felt it, and yet somehow as the sun went down, she knew to look behind her.
There he was.
Without thinking, Zahra dropped the fishing rod and found herself scrambling and sliding through the beach sand back toward the house.
“Wait for me!” she heard her voice rasp, but it was barely loud enough to carry.
Before she could even make it to the back door, he was gone.
She stood in the hallway, shaking. “No, she whispered. Don’t go away. Please, not again.” She was still standing there when Fabian wandered upstairs and found her.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“Yes,” she snapped. “Of course I’m fine.” Even her voice was shaking.
“Zahra,” Fabian said gently. He pulled her into his arms. “You’ve been crying.”
She felt her defenses come crashing down. “He was here!” she sobbed. “I saw him, but he went back to the Netherworld before I could talk to him.”
Fabian stiffened. “Cyclone.”
Zahra nodded. “I know he’s not the same. I… I kept his urn all these years in hopes that his spirit would manifest and he could come back to me. But I know a lot more now. Traditional ghosts are just projections from the Netherworld, pale incomplete memories of the real person. There’s no way he could really come back to me. Still… I just wanted a chance to say goodbye.”
“I understand,” Fabian said, and he tried to. “Cyclone was your true love, and you lost him so young.”
Zahra buried her head in Fabian’s shoulder, the most vulnerable gesture he had seen from her in more years than he could remember. “Not true love,” she whispered. “Just first love. I know I’m hard on you. It’s just that I’m so afraid you’ll leave me too.”
Fabian held her close, and he felt a part of his heart heal that he hadn’t realized was broken. “You don’t have to worry about that,” he said. “I know all about first loves.”
“Who was yours, then?”
And they just stood there in the hallway for a while because there was nothing more to say.
This is the first and ONLY time Cycl0n3’s ghost has ever manifest. I’ve always wanted to have a complete collection of heirs and mates, though I can see that too many ghosts gets to be a real pain after a while. Still, it was great to see him!
I dropped the silly spelling for this post because it gets to be such a pain to type :).
And Zahra has made her LTW! Fabian is about 1.5 promotions behind her, despite getting about two ahead while she was stuck on endless maternity leave. Barring any promotion glitches like SimDjinn, he’s going to make it in plenty of time, though.