A demon walked the house on New Year's Eve. Clara had seen it. Before she had seen it she had thought things misplaced. But now she knew the demon moved things. The year before last the demon had picked up a glasses case in full view, removed her glasses and worn them awhile before casting them to one side. One lens had smashed against the hearth.
The demon looked a lot like Gary. It had the same posture as him, the same way of walking. Clara knew Gary well enough to recognise the little half-smile even on a lipless mouth on a face of cracked red-black skin. When Clara had seen it last year she was certain the demon had tried to talk to her in his voice. For a while she had entertained the notion that the demon was Gary. The thought had not entirely left her.
Like a child leaving milk and mince pies for Santa Claus, Clara had left out a few things for the demon Gary this year. Nothing dramatic; a Sunday newspaper, a drink of tea without milk or sugar and the wedding ring Gary had worn when he had been alive. Clara sat and waited on the staircase, listening for the sounds of movement.
A four minutes to midnight she heard the distinct sound of newspaper being rattled. She leapt to her feet and rushed into the living room. He was there before her, his naked skin cracked like cooling lava, thumbing through the newspaper as Gary had done. Her breath caught as she looked at him.
The demon Gary looked up from his reading. There it was, the half-smile, the conspiratorial look that had always passed between them... and then a nod in the direction of his hands. Clara looked. The ring was there, on the fourth finger of his left hand. The engraving could still be read. 'To have and to hold'.
"Oh, Gary..." Clara reached up to kiss him. "I've missed you. I want you back." Their mouths met. His skin was hot and almost crumbly, like hot coal. She felt the tingles of old come back to her; she had forgotten Gary had made her feel like this.
They broke apart. Gary's smile was still on his face. Throwing the newspaper aside, he pulled her in again.
After they separated for the second time, Clara felt something like coal-dust on her face. Moving to brush it away, she saw the skin of her hands start to blacken and crack. It no longer felt like skin belonging to her, more like a strange glove she controlled on the end of her arm.
"Gary, what is this?"
Demon Gary smiled again, sadly, this time, turned his back and disappeared. Clara soon followed him.