#220 and #221

“Not anymore, Herr Doctor,” she said. “And never again.” Behind her teeth brass cylinders rotated, clicking together to form the right shapes to transform the air from her bellows into words.

“How can you say that?” the Doctor asks. Behind his glasses his eyes are red and swollen.

“I cannot”—the cylinders catch and hiccup—”love, love you.” The Doctor reached out to her with his good hand and brushed her porcelain face. “I cannot—not, not—love you,” she said again.

Mortimer spoke up. “I’m sorry, Doctor.” He pulled a phonographic record, black and grooved, from the front of his apron. “Do you want try number 221?”

The Doctor put his plush-and-fabric hand to his eyes, scrubbed away tears. “I don’t know how many more of these I can handle today,” he said, taking the record and swapping it with the one on the back of her brass skull. He cranked up her insides, like the weights inside a grandfather clock, and fitted the needle against the new record.

“Good morning, my dear,” he said.

“Good morning, my love.”

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