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She started toward me*

And then I was to learn just how lonesome and awful the role of a G.o.d can be. I was about to meet with my first near-disaster since I had claimed the power*

IV.

We were strangers.

We had made love and been in love, had shared secrets and dreams. I had risked my life for her, and she had done the same for me, though in a different manner.

And yet, I did not know her. She seemed like a crippled doll, speaking with the voice of some hidden puppet-master who was a terrible craftsman and who was even worse at writing dialogue for his wooden creatures to perform on stage.

Everything she said seemed witless and stupid andperhaps most unforgivably of all-utterly boring. I could not understand how such, a woman could ever have interested me, even for the brief moments of lovemaking.

Surely I had never been so anxious for the feel and taste of flesh that I had wooed and taken this creature in my arms! That seemed, now, like nothing more than animalloving-b.e.s.t.i.a.lity.

In my arms, she was a pet And nothing more.

Yet I knew what she had once been, and I understood that she could again be important to me. I was certain, all at once, that all that was required was a change of her personality, a growing up. I put her into the same suspended animation I had used with others, delved into her mind with my omnipotence and straightened out the quirks there, brought her swiftly to her full human potential.

I woke her.

And I sorrowed.

Her full human potential was not enough.

She was strikingly beautiful, filled with a sensuality that made my loins stir, that would make any man sit up and take full notice of her. She was the essence of femininity, full-breasted, round-hipped, and long-legged, with honey hair and wide eyes, Ml lips and quick pink tongue. But she was no more than that to me. Even a beautiful woman who outs.h.i.+nes all other females is of no interest if her mind seems as sawdust and her words strike you as the rambling proclamations of an idiot.

And so she seemed to me: an idiot, a thing, a moving construct of flesh. But not a woman I loved.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"Nothing," I said. It pained me even to be forced to speak. Couldn't she understand me, without verbalizations? Couldn't she eke out even a hint of my thoughts without my having to spell them out for her in clean, crisp words and phrases?

"Something is," she said.

"Nothing."

"You're so distant. I can't tell if you're really there or not."

Oh, G.o.d, oh, G.o.d, I moaned to myself. But there was no use in that. It didn't help to pray to myself.

"It's as if," she said, "it's not you inside there. Maybe Child has taken over. Maybe just a little part of nun has."

"No," I said.

"But if Child had taken you over, he would make you say that to satisfy me, wouldn't he?"

I said nothing.

"So maybe that's it."

"No."

I was very weary, very old.

"Something, an

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