“I know just how it will be, for me,” Edward said, his voice a weak rasp above the machinery keeping him alive.

“How’s that, Ed?” Sheena said.

“The orchestra will take up a sweeping Golden Age melody, just like they used to in the pictures when we had live sound. I’ll get up out of this infernal sickbed, put on something more stylish than this bedsheet, and step out into the spotlight. Madelyn will be there, and we will dance together like we used to, when everyone was watching. And that’ll be that. Oblivion.”

“You think that’s what heaven’s like?” said Sheena. “That’s beautiful.”

“No,” Ed coughed. “I don’t believe in any of that nonsense. It’s what I hope the last hallucination my oxygen-starved brain will see as I strangle to death. I’ve been working on the image, getting it just right, so I can summon it at a moment’s notice. If I get it to be second nature, it will be my last living thought.”

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