The pseudo met me at the door. “Sorry,” she said, “not today.”

I shouldered past her. In my wake I heard her call, “Hey!” but ignored her.

Cobwebs filled the room, hanging from the ceiling, brushing the floor. The light from a thousand beeswax candles was diffused through them. Making my way to the centre of the room felt like walking through overlapping, glowing veils. It smelled like honey.

Behind me, the pseudo scolded me in a rough approximation of my wife’s voice, chiding me for my determination. I tuned her out, and came at last to the room’s slow-pulsing heart.

Currents of air, the result of my approach, set candle-flames to guttering and stirred tendrils of torn cobwebs into fluttering motion. A bed, clothed in rich red silks, sat at the room’s centre.

My wife lay comatose in it, tended only by the pseudo, the mannequin she’d infused with a degraded copy of her persona.

I knelt at the head of the bed, caressed her face with my hand, and wept at the thought of the monster that cared for her.

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