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He was a travelling salesman. That's what he said anyway, and her parents believed it. They invited him in and fed him, let him warm his long, bony body by the fire, let him smile at their daughter. She saw what he was though, saw his chalky whiteness, his hollow eyes. So she only scowled and kept her distance.

He asked to stay the night, afraid of death in the sudden snow storm that raged around their house, beating itself against the stone walls, hissing and spitting down the chimney, trying to tear the windows out. Her parents, being kind, let him sleep downstairs, tucked under a blanket, one long-fingered hand holding tight to his suitcase.

The daughter went to bed and waited, counting stars. When everyone slept, she got up, packed her things and put on her warmest coat and shoes. She went downstairs, moving softly. The travelling salesman didn't wake until she touched the handle of his suitcase.

"You can have it for a kiss," he said.

"I know how that tricks works," was her reply. "I have your name."

He said nothing.

When she reached the door he said: "Are you sure you want it?"

The suitcase felt suddenly heavy in her hand, and she almost gave it back to him, but then the door flew open and the snow storm seemed to whisper to her.

"Don't ever open it," the travelling salesman said, but he was talking to air, and she was gone.

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8 November 2015