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Visitation Rites

She pretended to brush the doll's hair. What once had a synthetic blonde luster was now wiry and faded. The girl, by contrast, did not even look all of her seven years. She was small for her age. She always would be.
"I could get you a new one," he suggested, sitting cross-legged on the floor nearby. She smiled.
"That's okay."
It felt good to talk. Even if it wasn't about much, or for long. Early on, when they first started the visits, it was clear she was losing her memory. Last time she had had trouble recalling who he was. Her blank look had terrified him. Thankfully that did not happen this time. Early on he panicked about silence, trying to fill the gaps with rushed, trivial conversation. But as he came to terms with the inevitable, he found that just her company was enough. They were silent as dawn approached.
I don't know how many more visits I can take, he thought. In truth, he didn't know how many more she had left. His heart sank as morning purpled through the little attic window.
"Do I have to go now?" she asked. He nodded, and she looked over her shoulder at something unseen. "They're calling me."
"I love you," he said, and tried to make it sound like there would be a next time.
"Love you too, daddy. I wish we had more time."
When dawn broke he was alone on the attic floor, doll nearby, tracing circles in the chalk dust of the pentagram.
Yeah, he thought. I wish we did, too.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, February 25th, 2021
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