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BLOCH, Robert

She was the only one left, and she was real.

To be the only one, and to know that you are real - that's sanity, isn't it?

But just to be on the safe side, maybe it was best to keep pretending that one was a stuffed figure. Not to move. Never to move. Just to sit here in the tiny room, forever and ever.

If she sat there without moving, they wouldn't punish her.

If she sat there without moving, they'd know that she was sane, sane, sane.

She sat there for quite a long time, and then a fly came buzzing through the bars.

It lighted on her hand.

If she wanted to, she could reach out and swat the fly.

But she didn't swat it.

She didn't swat it, and she hoped they were watching, because that proved what sort of a person she really was.

Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly...

Then she did see it there - just a face, peering through the curtains, hanging in midair like a mask. A head-scarf concealed the hair and the glassy eyes stared inhumanly, but it wasn’t a mask, it couldn’t be. The skin had been powdered dead-white and two hectic spots of rouge centered on the cheekbones. It wasn’t a mask. It was the face of a crazy old woman. Mary started to scream, and then the curtains parted further and a hand appeared, holding a butcher’s knife. It was the knife that, a moment later, cut off her scream.