“And I’m sad.”

“It’s the waiting that makes you sad, yes?”

“I think, no, yes, no.”

“And you don’t quite know what you’re waiting for?”

“Oh, I wish I could be sure. All of me’s waiting. I don’t know, all of me. I don’t understand. I’m impossible!”

“No, you’re everyone that ever grew up too fast and wanted too much. I think girls, women, like you have slipped out at night since time began. If it wasn’t here in Green Town, it was in Cairo or Alexandria or Rome or Paris in summer, anywhere there was a private place and late hours and no one to see, so they just rose up and out, as if someone had called their name-“

“I was called, yes! That’s it! Someone did call my name! It’s true. How did you know? Was it you!”

“No. But someone we both know. You’ll know his name when you go back to bed tonight, wherever that is.”

“Why, in that house, behind you,” she said. “That’s my house. I was born in it.”

“Well”-he laughed-“so was I.”

“You? How can that be? Are you sure?”

“Yes. Anyway, you heard someone calling. You had to come out-“

“I did. Many nights now. But, always, no one’s here. They must be there, or why would I hear them?”

“One day there’ll be someone to fit the voice.”

“Oh, don’t joke with me!”

“I’m not. Believe. There will be. That’s what all those other women heard in other years and places, middle of summer, dead of winter, go out and risk cold, stand warm in snow banks, and listen and look for strange footprints on the midnight snow, and only an old dog trotting by, all smiles. Damn, damn.”

“Oh, yes, damn, damn.” And her smile showed for a moment, even as the moon came out of the clouds and went away. “Isn’t it silly?”

“No. Men do the same. They take long walks when they’re sixteen, seventeen. They don’t stand on lawns, waiting, no. But, my God, how they walk! Miles and miles from midnight until dawn and come home exhausted and explode and die in bed.”

“What a shame that those who stand and wait and those who walk all night can’t-“


“Yes; don’t you think it’s a shame?”

“They do, finally.”

“Oh, no, I shall never meet anyone. I’m old and ugly and terrible and I don’t know how many nights I’ve heard that voice making me come here and there’s nothing and I just want to die.”

“Oh, lovely young girl,” he said gently. “Don’t die. The cavalry is on its way. You will be saved.”

There was such certainty in his voice that it made her glance up again, for she had been looking at her hands and her own soul in her hands.

“You know, don’t you?” she asked.


“You truly know? You tell the truth?”

“Swear to God, swear by all that’s living.”

“Tell me more!”

“There’s little more to tell.”

“Tell me!”

“Everything will be all right with you. Some night soon, or some day, someone will call and they’ll really be there when you come to find. The game will be over.”

“Hide-and-seek, you mean? But it’s gone on too long!”

“It’s almost over, Marie.”

“You know my name!”

He stopped, confused. He had not meant to speak it.

“How did you know, who are you?” she demanded.

“When you get back to sleep tonight, you’ll know. If we say too much, you’ll disappear, or I’ll disappear. I’m not quite sure which of us is real or which is a ghost.”

“Not me! Oh, surely not me. I can feel myself. I’m here. Why, look!” And she showed him the remainder of her tears brushed from her eyelids and held on her palms.

“Oh, that’s real, all right. Well, then, dear young woman, I must be the visitor. I come to tell you it will all go right. Do you believe in special ghosts?”

“Are you special?”

“One of us is. Or maybe both. The ghost of young love or the ghost of the unborn.”

“Is that what I am, you are?”

“Paradoxes aren’t easy to explain.”

“Then, depending on how you look at it, you’re impossible, and so am I.”

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray