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The Shadowboxes

by Edd Vick

In Maia Everett's home were one dozen shadowboxes. Each box held items Maya associated with twelve dear friends from college. And in each box resided a homunculus six inches tall representing each of those friends.

The homunculi were connected to her friends, so that they copied in gross form what each was doing. They would lie down to simulate sleep, and mime their original's actions when awake. Maia spent hours each day monitoring the boxes, putting toy furniture in one or drawing a handkerchief over a homunculus in another acting out a friend's sickness.

So it went while Maia grew older and her friends married, traveled, and settled in far-off places. They met every ten years at reunions to compare rings and husbands and baby pictures. These get-togethers were precious to Maia, who had none of these.

Then, one day in April, Maia took refuge in an unfamiliar coffee shop and found herself before she knew it caught up in deep conversation with a group of neighbors. They talked of local politics and local weather and local events.

She visited the shop again and again, ignoring her shadowboxes. As Summer turned to Autumn and one year into another, they grew dusty, cobwebbed. She missed her next reunion. The homunculi continued repeating the activities of her schoolmates, but more slowly and tentatively.

Maia fell in love with Martin, another regular at the coffee shop. The day came when he was to visit her house. She cleaned each room, leaving the hallway of shadowboxes for last. What would he say when he saw them? He was not the sort to accept the unfamiliar. Should she cover them? But surely he would want to know what they were. Should she remove them? He would ask why these blank spots were here.

She dusted each box, even picked up every bit of furniture to clean beneath it. The homunculi grew sprightly as she gave them her attention, once more perfectly mimicking their originals' actions. One typed, another read a book, one of them was even dusting.

For a long hour Maia gazed at her shadowboxes, once more engrossed in her friends' lives. Then she caught up each homunculus in turn and tore it to pieces. The bits grew still in her hands.

She decided she would invite Martin to her next reunion.

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