The Guardian recently unearthed an odd little 1937 short story by Daphne du Maurier. Whether it’s horror (which seems to have been the intent) or just the world’s worst romance, I leave for the reader to decide. Either way, it features a woman who can’t be pried away from her beloved life-size male doll whose degree of anatomical precision is never specified. The doll has his own room, and a name: Julio. Our narrator is himself a creepy stalkerish sort:

She was dressed in brown, some sort of velvet I think, with a red scarf round her neck.

Her throat was very long and thin, like a swan’s. I remember thinking how easy it would be to tighten the scarf and strangle her. I imagined her face when dying – her lips parted, and the enquiring look in her eyes – they would show white, but she would not be afraid. All this in the space of a moment, and while she was talking to me.

There’s a lot of this sort of thing, and one good kiss, and a conversation about sadism, and then our narrator drops into stalker mode for what feels like the dozenth time:

I don’t know how I got to her flat. Seconds seemed to flash by, and I was standing outside in the street, gazing up at the windows.

I persuaded the night porter to let me in, he was half asleep and he let me pass upstairs. I listened outside her door – not a sound came from within. It might have been the entrance to a tomb.

I put my hand on the door knob, and turned it slowly. To my surprise it was not locked – Rebecca must have forgotten to turn the key after I left.

I stepped inside, everything was in darkness. “Rebecca”, I called softly, “Rebecca”. No answer.

The door of her bedroom was open, there was no one inside.

Then I went into the kitchen and the bathroom, both were empty.

Then I knew. Something gripped my heart, cold, clammy fear.

I looked towards that other room – his room – Julio’s room.

I knew that Rebecca was in there, with the doll – with Julio.

After he bursts in on her, she dumps him hard, though no harder than he surely deserved:

Her voice was cold – apart – unearthly.

“And you expect me to love you. Don’t you see that I can’t – I can’t? How can I care for you, or any man? Go away, leave me. I loathe you. I loathe you all. I don’t need you. I don’t want you.”

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