“Love is Forever” Dark, Supernatural Fiction by Brian Klingborg

Do you love me?

            You know I do.

            Will you love me forever?

            And beyond.

            I’m dying.


            I’m dying.

            Don’t say that.

            It’s true.

            It doesn’t matter.  Death is not the end.  Not for us.




            I swear.

The night Tommy Huang and Xiao Ge (Little Dove) exchanged these words, she was lying in a hospital bed in Taipei Adventist Hospital, her soft voice comingled with the incessant beep and chirp of machinery, so many IV lines and monitoring devices radiating out from her thin, trembling body, that it was if she had already ceased to be fully human. 

Tommy was, at the time, on the cusp of entering college as an engineering major.  Despite the tragic circumstances, the quantitative part of him marveled at the mechanics of death in the modern age.  One day you’re a healthy, vivacious young girl who smells of rose-scented soap and tastes like mango lip gloss; and the next you’re reliant on oxygen tanks and catheters and saline drips to maintain the most basic functions of life.

Tommy was not religious by nature.  But in a city like Taipei, where every lane is redolent with the scent of incense, the distant sound of Buddhist chants wafts on the evening wind, where hungry ghosts are believed to prowl the streets in search of food and spirit money, it is nearly impossible to resist the comforting embrace of superstition in times of extreme crisis.  So, the night Tommy swore to love Xiao Ge forever, he made an oath to the gods to honor this vow if they would grant her a release from pain.

Beware promises made to the gods.  They are capricious and mischievous motherfuckers.

An hour later, Xiao Ge died in her sleep.

Tommy was inconsolable.  He sobbed at her funeral and spent the next three weeks in his room, tossing and turning on his bed, listening to maudlin Chinese love songs, wishing he could rip his heart out of his chest with his bare hands and shred it with his fingernails.

His and Xiao Ge’s parents quietly terminated the marriage arrangements.  Xiao Ge’s father returned the betrothal money, clothes, candies, the dragon and phoenix candles, and the jewelry Tommy’s mother had chosen as a present for Xiao Ge.  There was no sense in returning the wedding cakes – they’d long since gone stale.  Tommy’s parents returned a gold ring given to him by Xiao Ge’s parents to mark the engagement. 

Both sets of parents had felt the wedding was premature – Tommy and Xiao Ge being just eighteen at the time – and although Tommy’s parents were saddened by the situation, they also could not help but feel a touch relieved as well.  Xiao Ge’s parents, of course, had lost their only daughter, so their opposition regarding her insistence at marrying Tommy so young was now just another regret swirling in an ocean of guilt.

As that sweltering summer edged toward fall and Tommy showed no signs for emerging from his depression, his father grew impatient.  “School will start soon,” he complained.  “The boy needs to get himself ready.  His future is at stake.”

“Give him time,” Tommy’s mother said.  “They were a couple since junior high.  A love like that…well, he may never find it again.  Let him grieve.  Let him wallow in it up to his eyeballs.  It’s the only way for him to heal.”

Eventually, however, the first day of class drew near and even Tommy’s mother became concerned.  One morning, she went into his room and threw open the curtains.  Tommy squirmed under his sheets as if allergic to the sun.  Tommy’s mother sat on the bed and tugged the covers down.

“I know you miss her,” she said.  “We are all distraught.  But sometimes, the best way to honor the memory of a loved one is to forge ahead.  To do something meaningful with the time you have left on this earth.”

Tommy groaned and covered his head with a pillow.

“Son,” his mother said. “You’re only eighteen.  I know it’s hard to believe but trust me when I say this terrible pain will fade.  You will go to college, make new friends, get a job, and one day, meet another girl.”

“No, never!”

“Yes.  You will meet someone new, fall in love, get married and have children.”


“You will carry Xiao Ge with you forever, but one day, when you think of her, it will be with a wistful smile.  You will feel sadness, yes, but also happiness at the memory of the wonderful times you shared.  And you will come to understand that this was fate.  Everything happens for a reason.”

This was too much for Tommy.  He sat up and shouted: “Out!  Get out of my room right now!”

His mother sighed and left the room.  And aside from bringing him regular meals, she allowed him to remain isolated in his hermetically sealed misery palace.

Another week passed, and then one morning a haggard-looking Tommy appeared at the table for breakfast.  Tommy’s father opened his mouth to make a remark, but the mother gave him a warning glance and he immediately shut it.  Tommy’s mother set a bowl of congee down in front of Tommy.  After a moment of sullen silence, he ate it. 

Nothing more was said about Xiao Ge in that household. 


Tommy started school in September.  True to his mother’s word, he did make friends.  And he kept busy with classes and homework and cramming for exams. Four years went by quickly. 

Tommy was tall and handsome and there were a handful of female classmates who expressed in interest in being something more than friends, but Tommy never reciprocated.  Some he found attractive, others he found charming, some he found both – but it just felt wrong to open himself to a new relationship. 

After graduation, Tommy landed a job in an architectural firm.  In the go-go economy of Taiwan, work was non-stop, and the money was good.  As was typical for unmarried children of his generation, Tommy still lived at home and his mother was always trying to set him up with the daughter of some mutual acquaintance or another.  Tommy resisted, sometimes vehemently and angrily.  In due course, even his mother quit trying.

And then, one day, it happened.

Drinks with friends, friends who brought along other friends, and there she was. 

She and Xiao Ge were a study in contrasts.  Whereas Xiao Ge had been short, she was tall. From her hours practicing on the girls’ tennis team (before her illness), Xiao Ge’s skin was the color of toasted almond, her knees and elbows always freshly scabbed from some fall or another.  Her skin was as pale and translucent at rice paper.

While Xiao Ge had been – well – girlish – she was a fully grown woman, self-possessed, independent, with interests and hopes and dreams and experiences that had nothing to do with Tommy whatsoever.

Her name was Xin, which, appropriately, means “heart.”

With a suddenness that verged on recklessness, Tommy felt himself falling for Xin.  Soon after he and Xin become friends, then something more than friends, then lovers, he began to feel like his relationship with Xiao Ge had been – how to put it – juvenile.  When the met, he and Xiao Ge were children, and they related to one another as children. 

His love with Xiao Ge was a bonsai tree – a large thing in miniature, with roots that only had space enough to sink a few inches into the soil.

His love with Xin was mature, expansive, and stable.  Within a year, he asked her to marry him.  In a year and a half, they were husband and wife.  A son followed soon after.  And then a daughter. 

This felt like happiness.

They pooled their money and bought an apartment.  They worked industriously and raised their children and while the intensity of their passion diminished over time, as such things do, the foundation and radius of their love deepened and broadened.

While at college and for many years thereafter, Tommy made it a habit to burn incense for Xiao Ge on her death day.  After he met Xin, he continued this practice, but once they became a couple, he did so in secret – it somehow seemed like cheating.  Occasionally, because of some obligation – a family vacation, one of the kids was sick – he missed an anniversary.  But he never forgot the mark the date with at least a silent prayer for Xiao Ge’s happiness in the afterlife.

Not that he believed in such claptrap.  Still, there was no harm in sending good wishes out into the ether.

In due course, he realized what his mother had told before had come true – when he thought of Xiao Ge now, it was with affection and a tinge of sadness.  But he was content with Xin and if there was such a thing as fate, it seemed his life had unfolded according to some grand plan.

One year, Tommy forgot Xiao Ge’s death anniversary.  When he suddenly remembered a few days later he felt guilty — but only slightly.  All things must pass, he thought. Old memories fade.  It’s only natural.

Time marched on.  He grew older and the kids grew taller. 

And Tommy thought less and less about Xiao Ge.

Soon after Tommy turned fifty, a strange thing occurred.

Leaving his office for lunch in the company of colleagues one Monday, he noticed a young man loitering around on the sidewalk.  Given the office’s location in a busy downtown district, the young man’s presence raised no alarms and merited no special attention – apart from the fact that when he caught sight of Tommy, he burst into tears. 

At least, that’s how it appeared to Tommy. Perhaps the young man was just experiencing a spontaneous melt-down at the exact moment Tommy emerged from the lobby.  A delayed reaction to some terrible news.  A cancer diagnosis.  Romantic heartbreak.

The display was disturbing enough for Tommy and his co-workers to take note, and as they strode briskly down the sidewalk, Tommy took a backward glance.

It seems to Tommy the man was staring right at him, tears streaming down his cheeks. 

A few days later, while waiting to board the bus to work, Tommy saw the young man across the street from his apartment building.  Their eyes met, briefly, then Tommy quickly looked away.  His heart began to beat furiously.  What on earth’s name was going on here?  Was the young man stalking him? 

When the bus arrived, Tommy boarded and took a seat in the back.  The door whooshed shut and the bus pulled into traffic.  Only then did Tommy glance out the window.

The young man hadn’t moved.  And he kept his eyes locked on the bus until it turned the corner and cut him off from Tommy’s view.

At the office, Tommy sat at his desk, too distracted to work.  He had no mistresses, and therefore, no jealous rivals. He had never cheated anyone out of money.  He could think of no conceivable justification for anyone to wish him harm.  As he went through the motions of reviewing building schematics and construction documents, Tommy began to wonder if he was going slowly insane.  Could he be imagining the whole thing? 

No.  A week later, when he arrived home from work and was about to enter his building, he heard someone say: “Tommy.”  He stopped and turned.

The young man stepped out of the shadows.  “It’s me.”

Tommy broke out in a cold sweat.  “Me, who?”

“Xiao Ge!”

Tommy hadn’t heard that name spoken for thirty-two years.  He hadn’t given it a single thought for many months.  And the sound of it now was like a glass of ice-cold water tossed in his face. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“I know it…strains belief. But I’ve returned.  I’m here. We can be together…again.”

Tommy was suddenly enraged.  What kind of sick, twisted joke was this? “Get the fuck away from me!”

The young man’s face fell.  “Tommy!  Listen to me!”

As Tommy tried to edge past, the young man clutched at his sleeve.  Tommy was not given to physical displays, but the shock and horror of this encounter pushed him past his limits. He shoved the young man, sending him sprawling.

The young man curled up on the sidewalk, sobbing like a baby.  Tommy swore under his breath and rushed into the lobby.  He told the attendant to call the police.  He took the elevator upstairs, clutching his chest, short of breath.  When he reached the door to his apartment, his hands shook so badly he could barely fit the key into the lock.  Once inside, he made a beeline for the small bar he kept tucked in a lacquered cabinet in the living room.   He poured himself a slug of American scotch and downed it in a single gulp.  Then another.  When Xin emerged from the kitchen to greet him, she took one look at his face and said: “What happened?”


“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Tommy laughed, a tinge hysterically.

“What’s so funny?”

Tommy shook his head.  “Tough day at the office, that’s all.  What’s for dinner?”

That night, Tommy tossed and turned for hours before falling into an uneasy sleep.  He dreamed of Xiao Ge.  She looked just as she had at 18 – young, slim, brown-skinned, slightly bucktoothed, a feature he had found irresistibly charming at the time.   Now that bucktoothed mouth, the first he had ever kissed, was spitting out words that he could not hear, but the sentiment was clear. 

She was pissed.

He awoke feeling feverish. Xin forced him to visit a doctor who found nothing obviously amiss and prescribed a regimen of vitamins and a daily walk.

For the next several weeks, Tommy kept his eyes peeled – peering through the door of his apartment building lobby before exiting, searching among the teeming crowds of the city sidewalks for any sign of the young man.  He developed a nascent case of agoraphobia, his stomach in knots every morning as he contemplated the commute to work and every evening as he faced the prospect of returning home.  To minimize his exposure, he asked Xin to prepare lunches for him which he ate at his desk, to the consternation of his colleagues.  They began to wonder about his uncharacteristic moodiness.  Gossip made the rounds.  Tommy had an illness.  Problems at home.  Money trouble.

Xiao Ge’s death anniversary approached and this time, Tommy did not forget.  He went to offer incense at a temple near his home.  Even now, he did not fully believe that a tendril of sweet-smelling smoke might part the invisible curtain leading to the great beyond, but nevertheless, he prayed.  For forgiveness, although he didn’t feel he needed it — and to be left in peace. 

Afterward, he dropped some cash into a donation box and stepped over the threshold into the street, where he found the young man leaning against a wall.

Tommy stared at the young man for some time, then finally said: “Fine.  Let’s talk.”

They went to a nearby tea house and sat at a table in the back.  The young man ordered a pot of Alishan mountain tea – a beverage Tommy and Xiao Ge had enjoyed drinking together in younger and happier days.

When the tea arrived, the young man poured, his movements deft and, for want of a better word, slightly feminine.                

“I don’t understand,” Tommy said, at last.

“What don’t you understand?  We made a vow.”

“But –”

Death is not the end. Not for us.”

“It’s not possible.”

“Of course, it is.  Life is just a wheel.”

“That’s utter nonsense.”

“And yet, here I am.”

Tommy’s mind raced with questions and logical arguments, but what finally emerged from his mouth was: “You’re a man.”

Xiao Ge – if indeed he was she – smiled wanly.  “We don’t get to choose the body we are reborn in.”

“But…You can’t be Xiao Ge.  You can’t.”

Xiao Ge ticked events off on her fingers.  “We met in math class when we were fourteen.  You had glasses and terrible acne and the first words you said to me were ‘do you have an extra pencil?’  We first kissed at the dragon boat festival when we were fifteen.  You gave me a silver ring for my sixteenth birthday.  I gave you something else…something much more personal…for yours. Remember?”

Tommy felt his face grow hot.

“You have a red birthmark right here.”  Xiao Ge pointed at Tommy’s sternum.  “It’s shaped like an apple.  I used to pretend to take a bite out of it.”


“The first time you told me you loved me was on the rooftop of your building on Double Tenth.”


“You promised to love me forever and ever and beyond.  Then I went to sleep and never woke up.”

Tommy covered his face with his hands.  Xiao Ge reached across the table and touched his arm.

“It’s okay. You had no way of knowing I’d return.”

Tommy knuckled his eyes and wiped his nose on his sleeve.  He couldn’t meet Xiao Ge’s gaze.

“Drink your tea before it gets cold,” Xiao Ge said.

Tommy sipped.  The tea was bitter.  His head was spinning. 

“Anyway, I’m here now,” Xiao Ge said after a moment. “So, we can begin again.”

Tommy finally looked up.  What he saw was a man, early twenties, slim and handsome and with delicate features and a hint of Xiao Ge’s charming buckteeth.  “You’re a man.”

“You’re old.  What does it matter?”

“I’m not a…you know.”

“Neither am I.”

“So then, what do you want?”

“I love you, Tommy.  No matter what body I’m in.  No matter what body you’re in.  No matter your age.  That’s what love means.”

Tommy snorted.  “Of course, those things matter.”

“You only love me if I’m a woman?  Is that it?”

Tommy shook his head.  Wasn’t it obvious? Didn’t it go without saying?  “I’m married.  I have kids.”

“I don’t blame you.  You never expected to see me again.  You went on with your life.  I’m glad you found some happiness.  Some contentment.  But now I’ve returned.”

“Even if it’s true, and…how can it be?  But even if it is…how can you expect us to…be together?”

“How can I not?  Our bodies are transitory, but our love is eternal.”

“You’re a man.”

“How shallow your concept of love is.”

Tommy felt himself about to topple off his stool.  He gripped the edge of the table. 


Tommy took a deep breath, held it, let it out slowly.  “This is crazy.  I’m leaving.”

Xiao Ge reached for Tommy.  “Don’t go.”

Tommy snatched his hand away.  “Don’t bother me again.  You…you imposter.”

He lurched up, tipping over his teacup.  He ran from the tea shop, ignoring the astonished faces of the other customers as he rushed past.

That night, Tommy attempted to make love to Xin.  She was taken by surprise – their passions had once burned brightly, but now one had to sift through the ashes to find a lingering ember.  Nevertheless, she responded willingly.  Tommy fumbled between her legs and squeezed her breasts and grunted in frustration and finally rolled off and turned onto his side, facing away.  Xin pressed up behind him and put an arm around his waist.  She wisely said nothing.

Tommy fell into a funk.  He lost focus at work, snapped at Xin and at their children when they returned home from college during the Lunar New Year holiday, took to drinking a glass or two or three of scotch each night.  He slept restlessly if at all.

The young man – Xiao Ge – haunted his dreams. 

One night in early spring, after dinner and two glasses of scotch, he told Xin he was going out for some air.  By this time, Xin was getting fed up with his moodiness.  She didn’t know what was troubling him – middle-aged ennui? – and was beginning to not care.

“Fine,” she said.  His presence in the house was like a dark raincloud threatening to burst at any moment.

Tommy wandered the streets aimlessly.  He listened to the rumble of traffic, snatches of music, laughter through open windows.  He walked glumly; hands stuffed in his pockets. 

Xiao Ge found him sitting in a nearby playground, alone, like a large child who no one cared to play with.  He – Xiao Ge – sat on the bench beside Tommy.  They were silent for a long while.  Tommy said, “I can’t stop thinking about you.  You torment my days.  Haunt my dreams.”

Xiao Ge took his hand: “Come.”

They went to a hotel.  Tommy waited outside while Xiao Ge booked a room.  They went upstairs.  The room smelled like bleach and was equipped with a mini bar featuring lubricant and condoms. 

Tommy sat on the bed, rigid with fear.

“Relax,” Xiao Ge said.  “Lie down.”

Tommy laid down.  Xiao Ge nestled into the crook of his arm and put a hand on his chest.  She could feel his heart beating.  Like a bird, fluttering in a cage.

“Shh,” she said.  She slipped a hand under his shirt.  Rubbed the skin of his belly, which was more expansive than she remembered.  She stroked him gently until his breath slowed.  She used her fingertips to gently lever his eyelids closed.  “It’s me,” she whispered.  “I’m here.”

She kissed him.

They met at the love hotel once or twice a week.  Mostly, Tommy just lay there while Xiao Ge stroked and caressed him.  Sometimes…sometimes Tommy lost himself in the moment.  Afterward, he felt as he’d just woken from a strange and confusing dream. 

Xin was convinced Tommy was having an affair.  She was right.  She shut him out of the bedroom.  He took to sleeping on the couch in the living room.  She no longer made him dinner.  He bought take-out.  They stopped speaking entirely.  When he was home, he simply sat on the couch, staring at the TV.  It didn’t matter what was on.  He wasn’t really watching it.

His work suffered.  His supervisor spoke to him about it.  Tommy nodded.  He knew.  He found it difficult to care.  The world was no longer a logical construct of support beams and Golden Ratios.  The rules of physics now seemed a cosmic joke.

Tommy strained to process his renewed relationship with Xiao Ge.  It was her, all right, of that he was certain.  She remembered everything, every moment of significance, they had ever shared.  Many of which, to his chagrin, he had long since forgotten. 

But time spent with Xiao Ge did remind Tommy of what it was like to be eighteen and in love for the very first time — and the gaping hole she left in his life when she died.  A hole he had thought Xin and children had long since filled…but was now beginning to suspect had remained raw around the edges, even after all these decades.

One night, Xin confronted Tommy about his affair.  He could not deny it.  She left him and moved in with her sister.  The children did not return home for New Year’s holiday.  After one too many screw-ups at work, Tommy was fired.

For the next few weeks, he spent his days at home, staring at the TV. He didn’t even bother to turn it on.  He spent his nights on the couch, sleeping only fitfully.

Xiao Ge called his cell phone.  Tommy did not answer.  She kept calling.  He kept not answering.

She finally got a message to him by paying the attendant in his apartment building to slip a note under his door.  It was in a red envelope, and she had written his full Chinese name in gold on the front.  He opened it. Inside was a single folded piece of paper upon which she had written:

Death is not the end.  Not for us.

Tommy now had to admit this was true.  Xiao Ge’s very existence was undeniable proof.  He called her: “I have an idea.”


“Will you come to the apartment?  For dinner?”

“Yes.  Yes, of course, Tommy.”

“Six o’clock.”

Tommy hung up, showered, brushed his teeth.  Dressed in proper clothes, something he had not done for weeks.  He went downstairs and to a nearby market and bought groceries.  Then he waited for Xiao Ge.

She came at six, on the dot. When she emerged from the elevator, he was standing in his open doorway.  She ran down the hall and into his arms.

She smelled of rose-scented soap.  Tommy hugged her for a moment, then gently pried her away.  

“Wipe your tears,” he said softly.  “Come inside.”

He took her into the kitchen and showed her the fixings for a simple meal.  “My wife used to do the cooking, so I’m not much of a hand at it…but I thought we could make something together.”

“I’d love that.”

Tommy had Xiao Ge chop vegetables and meat while he opened a bottle of wine.  They stood side-by-side at the stove, adding ingredients to the pan, and then sat down to eat.  But they only picked at their plates.  Xiao Ge was far too unsettled to eat.  Tommy felt calm, but apart from alcohol, he had no desire for sustenance.

Finally, Xiao Ge could contain herself no longer.  “You said you had an idea.”



Tommy smiled.  “I’ll commit suicide.”

What? No!”

“Then I’ll be reborn. And we can be together.”

“Don’t even think of such a thing!”

“I’m sorry, Xiao Ge. I just can’t get past the…”  Tommy waved vaguely in her direction.  “This is the only way.”

“Oh, Tommy.”  Xiao Ge shook her head sadly, and then said: “What if you’re reborn as a man?”

“I considered that possibility.  But committing suicide is, karmically speaking, a negative act.  All life is precious, even one’s own.  For that reason, I am certain to be reborn in a lesser form.”

“You mean as a woman.”

Tommy shrugged. 

Xiao Ge’s eyes flashed.  “Women are inferior to men, is what you’re saying.”

“I don’t make the rules, Xiao Ge.  Isn’t it written somewhere in the sutras that women are considered unclean by virtue of menstruation?”

“Maybe in the dark ages, Tommy.”

“You yourself have yourself lived as both a man and a woman.  So, tell me…which is superior?”

Xiao Ge frowned. “That was so long ago, I can barely remember.  And I was just a teenager.”

Tommy swirled wine in his glass, then gulped it down.  “Nevertheless.”

“Tommy –”

“I’ve made up my mind.  This is what I’m going to do.”

“You can’t face living with me as man and man, so you prefer to come back as a woman?  Isn’t that contradictory?”

A dark look crossed Tommy’s face.  He poured the rest of bottle of wine into his glass. “At least this way, the bits will align.”

“Tommy –”

“Do you want to be together or not?”

“You know I do.”

“Then the decision is made.”

They cleaned up the dinner things and then Tommy asked Xiao Ge to stay while he made preparations.  “I’m going to go into the bedroom and record a message on my phone, explaining that I’ve decided to take my own life.  Just so there’s no suspicion of foul play by the police.   When I’m done, we’ll spend a few last moments together.”

Xiao Ge begged for one more night, but Tommy refused.  “The sooner I do this, the sooner I’m reborn.  And I don’t want to lose my resolve.”

Tommy shut himself in the bedroom.  He could hear Xiao Ge sobbing through the closed door.  He did not make a recording.  After five minutes, he went out to the living room and poured himself a glass of scotch.  Xiao Ge hovered in the kitchen doorway.

“How will you…?” she started.

“I’ll cut my wrists.  It’s said to be a peaceful way to go.  And I’ve already got a head start on dulling the pain.”  He raised his glass and smiled crookedly.  “Can you do me a favor?”

“What is it?”

“Can you go into the kitchen and get a knife?  The six-inch chef’s knife.  It’s the sharpest I own.”

“No, Tommy, don’t ask me to do that.”

“Please, Xiao Ge.  I feel…I feel a bit unsteady.”  Tommy went to the couch and sat heavily on it.  After a moment, Xiao Ge disappeared into the kitchen.  He heard the sound of running water.  Then she reappeared, carrying the knife on a dishtowel, its blade gleaming.  Tommy reached for it and clumsily knocked it to the floor, spilling scotch onto his lap in the process.  He cursed and wiped ineffectually at his pants.

“Sorry, sorry!” Xiao Ge rushed to pick up the knife.  She offered it to Tommy, but he nodded at the coffee table.  “Just set it down, please.”

Xiao Ge gingerly laid the knife down.  She stood there awkwardly for a moment, trembling and sniffling, then climbed onto the couch and buried her face in Tommy’s lap.

“Come, now,” Tommy said.  “Death is not the end, remember?  Not for us.”

He stroked the back of her head and thought of how much he abhorred the short, prickly texture of her hair.  The masculine curve of her jaw.   The size of her hands.  He levered her off his lap.  “I need a refill.”

Tommy went to the bar and picked up the bottle of scotch. He poured the last few fingers into his glass.  He reversed his grip on the bottle, holding it by the neck.  He turned.

Xiao Ge sat forlornly on the couch.  Her face buried in her hands.

His hands.

Tommy crossed the room and swung the bottle.  It made a hollow thunk when it struck the back of Xiao Ge’s head. She cried out.  He swung again.  When the bottle shattered, he thrust the jagged edge into her neck.

Exhausted, short of breath, he backed away.  Xiao Ge lay broken and still.

Tommy returned to the bar.  He swallowed the contents of his glass, smearing its surface with bloody fingerprints, and set it down on the counter. 

He retrieved his phone from the bedroom and sat on the couch beside Xiao Ge’s body.  He took a moment to collect himself before dialing the police.  To gather his thoughts.  Get his story straight.

The young man was a friend, yes.  At first, he seemed perfectly sane.  But then he started talking about past lives, and how the two of them were fated to be together.  Real crazy stuff.  Tommy tried to let him down gently, but the young man flew into a rage.  He snatched a knife from the kitchen.  There was a struggle. 

It was self-defense.

Tommy looked over at Xiao Ge, her features – his features – mangled and misshapen.

If love was indeed forever, Xiao Ge would understand.  

What’s more, she’d soon be back.  And when the fates decreed, their paths would cross. Say, in twenty years or so.

Tommy smiled as he pictured Xiao Ge, barely out of her teens, pushing his aged body around in a wheelchair. A real spring-autumn romance.  Spring-winter, more like it.

At that point, sex would no longer be much of an issue. But even so — Tommy couldn’t help but hope Xiao Ge was reincarnated as a slightly buck-toothed girl who smelled of jasmine…and tasted like mango lip gloss.

BRIAN KLINGBORG has both a B.A. (University of California, Davis) and an M.A. (Harvard) in East Asian Studies and spent years living and working in Asia.  He is the author of two books in the Inspector Lu Fei series, Thief of Souls and Wild Prey (Macmillan/Minotaur Books)

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