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Dog panting and pacing back and forth on the floor."
The boy looked up at him, eyes large. "They know I'm here?"
The boy stared at him. "They're looking for you, aren't they? My dad told me. They're on their way up here. And they're going to come after me."
"I think we'll be safe in here for a while."
"Until the hunters come. We don't need to see them until they're close, you understand?"
The boy nodded.
"But I would suggest that we move into the other room," said the woman. "I'm sure the hunters will come up the stairs. You can hide out of sight in there. And we'll keep our voices down."
The boy nodded and took two steps back toward the second door.
"It's all right," she said. "I'll stay here and keep watch."
"They don't know you, do they?" the boy said, still peering into the room.
"No, but I understand what you're going through. I understand being on your own. Not knowing where your dad is. Not knowing who's going to come after you."
"How do you know?"
The boy sat back down on the floor and his shoulders slumped. "What is it?" he said. "What are you people from? Where are you from?"
"I told you. We're from the future," said his mom. "But I will tell you more. I will tell you who I am. I'll tell you my name. I'll tell you my story. But you have to promise me you won't say a word about it."
The boy's eyes widened. "Why not? Why can't I say anything?"
"That's a long story. It might take a while. It won't be easy to tell you the truth about who I am. The thing is, you won't believe me even if I tell you. Maybe it will sound like some crazy story, but you're not ready to believe what I'm going to say. That's why I want to tell you who I am, to show you the truth. Then, when you see it, you'll know."
"Okay," the boy said, looking as if he were about to cry.
The woman touched his shoulder, trying to reassure him. "Don't be afraid. I'll tell you everything. We'll take it slow. No rush. It will be all right. I'm here to help you."
The boy nodded and wiped away a tear.
"My name is Helen," she said. "My mother's name was Helen. That's why I am called Helen."
The boy blinked. "You're lying. Why would you lie to me?"
"There are some things I have to tell you. I have to start at the beginning, from the day your mother died."
The boy seemed to be listening, but he kept glancing at his friend.
"Your mother was dead for years, but you never knew. You grew up, believing you were an orphan. I was there, hiding in the dark shadows, waiting for you to realize who I really am. You thought I was dead. I stayed there, waiting for the day you were ready to hear the truth.
"Then I heard that your father had died and left you his fortune. You were the sole heir. I watched you grow up, and I waited, making plans for the day I would be ready to claim my prize.
"When I saw you as a child, I saw myself. I saw a young man, standing in the garden, just like me. A young man with the face of an angel. The face of my own son."
She was silent for a moment.
"The night your mother was killed, I had a dream. I dreamed of a beautiful little boy. I was filled with love for this boy. I watched over you as you grew. I saw how you liked to play in the garden. You liked to dig holes and plant seeds.
"And then the day came. I waited for you in the garden, the young man with the face of an angel. You were ready to be enlightened. You had come to believe your mother had been murdered. You thought she had been killed by a criminal. It had to be that. It had to be somebody very evil.
"But when you finally saw me standing there, you looked as surprised as I had been when I'd first seen you. You were just like your mother. She was a very beautiful woman. But she was strong. You were a very strong woman, and very angry. You could not forgive your father, who had not told you the truth. You were angry. You were not ready to be enlightened.
"I didn't know what to do. You were a very determined young woman. And then I knew it would not work. I knew that if you were to be enlightened, I would have to kill you.
"I knew that I would have to kill your mother, as well, or she would have nothing to tell you. She would be just another woman whose life had been ruined by one of my enemies."
His head swam. The blood in his veins turned to ice water. He tried to speak, but all that came out was a little squeak. He was terrified. He had no strength left. He had been hoping he would die before this day came. He hadn't believed it would come to this.
"But I could not kill you both. You were like twins. Twins need one another. So, at that time, I brought you to your mother, and brought her into another life. I brought her to a new home with me. There, she was very happy. She never understood why you had been taken from her. She died two years after that. I lost her. And I was never allowed to return to your home."
He was crying. He knew he was crying. He was sobbing uncontrollably. He never shed a tear before. He'd cried with the loss of his first wife. He had cried with the loss of his second. But this, it was too much. He would have given anything to have lost this one, or all three of them.
"I lost my mother. I lost my wife. And now, I have lost you, too. I have killed three women. But only one time have I killed a woman with regret. All I want is to go back to where I came from. I don't want any more lives. No more suffering."
He fell backward as he spoke. It was a long fall, but his body was made for this. It was made to die.
When he hit the ground, it shattered the shards of his past back into fragments. He knew he could die at this moment. And it felt good to know he would die with a sense of peace. He realized he could feel joy for the first time in his life. It was like a drug, like he had never felt before.
"What is wrong with me? I never feel peace."
Then, he realized the light. There was light.
Something was happening. He had a thought, and it was coming to him as if it were new, and he was remembering it. It came to him unbidden, like a song