The man in the hospital gown stood at the other end of the office, talking excitedly at the woman sitting on the bed. “And now the Causeway is ripping our semblances out and replacing them with causality!” it stressed. “That’s why we need you, the dimensional goddess, to-”
“To restore order and chaos to the multiverse,” the woman said, rubbing her face with her hands. “That’s what it keeps telling me.”
Her psychiatrist, sitting in the swivel chair by the table, stopped writing and glanced up. “You mentioned that it looks exactly like your husband?”
“It’s nothing like my husband,” the woman said, glaring at the apparition.
The man smiled sheepishly, curtsying with the gown. “Sorry about that. There was a vacant existence, which makes it easier to wax in. Besides, it’s the only way to reach you. The Causeway-”
“Mrs. -____?” The doctor’s question did not interrupt the speech but continued under it, the sound overlapping.
She forced herself to listen in. “Yes?”
“These claims that the apparition makes, that you have godlike powers enough to-”
“Overturn the bonds of reality!”
“-and make the world the way you see fit, how do you feel about them?”
“How do I feel?” She kept her hands from digging into the bed. “I know that it isn’t true. I know that it can’t be true. But I can’t ignore what it’s saying. If I do, then, it wins.”
“Being able to deny this illusion would prove your power over it?” the doctor mused.
She leaned back and breathed shallowly. “Maybe.”
“What do you think the apparition wants?”
“For me to leave this world behind,” she said, glaring sidelong at the ghost. “Accepting my power, accepting this world as fake, and leaving it behind me. That’d destroy it, I think, if I’m its ruler.”
“Up-up,” the apparition corrected, “dimensional goddess."
The woman sighed. Ignoring the doctor’s follow-up, she rested her hand on her chin and stared at the dimension traveller in her husband's form. His excitement was alien to her. With her husband, it had always been stoic grace, even as a tumor in his lung had forced him into a hospital bed, sealing him over into dreamless sleep. He would never recognize pain, only suffer from it. To give up was unlikely of him, so unlikely - no. She couldn't think that.
The doctor glanced over his shoulder at a space she knew he saw as empty. “Do you feel as though there’s something else you’re trying to accept?” he said carefully. “Some other responsibility, or maybe a regret?”
The woman wiped her forehead. “If I control you, shouldn’t you be telling me? Because I want you to. I really do.”
The apparition leaned in close, face stern. “No,” it said. “No you don’t. Because you don’t want to face your responsibilities yet.”
Dread overpowered her, and she seized the nearest thing - the doctor’s clipboard - and hurled it at the apparition. It sidestepped the throw, its glare not wavering as the board smashed against the wall and blank papers exploded out behind it.
Shaking from fear and guilt, she broke its gaze and apologized to the psychiatrist.
“Don’t be,” he said. “You seem nice beyond all this.”
But as he prescribed her medication, all she could think was how that was exactly what she wanted to hear.
Back in the waiting room, she sat down and shut her eyes, trying to block out the world. Unfortunately, the specter could talk.
“You know, closing your eyes only proves my point,” it said. “Do you know what’s going on outside them? How are you so sure that it exists anymore? You’d better get back to it. It’s deteriorating quick out here.”
She ignored it, but rubbed the couch just to check. Thinking back, the tumor was normal. It was the logical end to her husband’s cigarette addiction, the constant haze he generated around himself. She couldn’t have been the one influencing it. Even if she controlled this dimension, it wasn’t her fault for obeying that rule. But there was still a clear picture later in her mind, that perfect memory made at the moment when everything resolved.
Her eyes snapped open. The couch and table were just as she’d left them, but there was an slight afterimage over her vision, residue of twilight on a hospital bed.
The apparition turned to look at it, walking into the image like a hallway hanging through the space of the waiting room. “This is it, isn’t it?” it said sadly, drifting back and settling into the shape of her husband in the bed.
There was nobody else in the room now, or maybe it was the room that was nothing. She was crazy, or a goddess, and lost in her memories.
She found herself sitting in a plastic chair in a hospital room. Two feet away, her husband’s tiny body was crushed in white bedcovers. He had clung to life for two months in this comatose state, and was now about to die.
She was overwhelmed by that thought, so much so that she was startled, just like the first time, when he opened his eyes.
His gaze flitted around the room, confused slightly, but trying to collect himself. “Hi,” he said finally. As he moved his head, she could see the apparition’s nondescript light whirling in his eyes.
It was a miracle. It was her miracle, but a reasonable one, so reasonable that she knew nothing would change now. It was a burst of flame that followed the rules when the air ran out. She swallowed, gripping her wrist. “I - I woke you up.”
He chuckled, and it was so unlike him. “You sure did. Thanks for that too, because - I don’t think I’ve got much left.”
It was the same perfect scene: the sunset refracting in her tears, her husband’s gentle smile engraved in her memory, a preservation of what she loved about him. It was a heartwarming tragedy, and it was all hers.
That thought overwhelmed her, until she broke and did something new. She stood over her husband, but far enough that the tears could fall away. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
His hand grabbed hers with a dying strength. “No,” the ghost said. “This isn’t your fault. I want you to live on, you hear me? Please.”
“I wanted this,” she sobbed. “I wanted this.”
Her husband smiled. “I love you so much.”
The scanner flatlined, the sound low and soothing. The hand slipped out of her grasp, lying gracefully on the sheets.
The woman hung her head. “I wanted you to die.”
The memory shattered open, leaving her on the floor of the waiting room. There were people crowding - no, there weren’t. There was nothing here for her anymore.
Slowly, she knew - space was dissolving around her. The frames of matter compacted on themselves, living and nonliving materials folded into nothingness. She wished that it would combust, or do something more dramatic, but there was no need, not with a power like hers. It was completely silent as she unmade her dimension.
The traveller watched the destruction with a relieved smile. “Alright,” it said. “Let’s get going.”