Marie Wiktran woke to the fragrance of coffee brewing. She couldn’t remember it ever smelling so good. Maybe Bill had made it his special way this time.
“Bill? Where are you?” She reached for the comfort he would give her. But his side of the bed was cold. “Bill?” No answer. She forced her eyes open. Grayness greeted her. She sat up and stretched her feet down to the slippers that waited to protect her from the chill of the floor tiles. Even though many of the small squares bent to nip at her toes, Marie stretched her toes to waiting slippers. She refused to accept reality. It had to be a horrible nightmare. Bill would chase the darkness away. When she braved going into the main room, inanimate objects stood testament to the life she longed to return to. Wooden furniture stood to attention, offering little solace.
In the kitchen, the coffee pot spit and sputtered, spewing hot water and hotter steam. Some of it pressed through the last of the coffee grounds. She poured the strong black liquid into Bill’s favorite cup. Even though she preferred it black, she used what was left of the milk to fill the mug to the brim. She added three spoons of sugar. This had become her waking tradition. With the constant dusk that enveloped the planet, she slept and woke when she felt like it. There was no job to go to, no purpose to take her outside. There were few others left. Their little pocket in the coastal region of the north-western hemisphere had offered a unique, quiet life. Now the only thing it gave her was a place to curl up, a place to die, alone. She’d accepted that long ago. She just wished it would happen so she could join Bill. After all it was her fault. She’d introduced him to the first stupid video game he ever played. Then Greg came along and it was an all out competition to see who could rack up the most points in the latest game. Even that had become passé for them. They started designing their own games.
Marie sat on the old faded couch in the living room. Facing the cold lifeless hearth, it reminded her of better times, when a warm fire heated the apartment. She pulled her knees up to her chin and rested the mug so the steam could waft into her face.
Don’t look up. The words screamed through her mind. It was like telling herself not to eat her favorite candy, when it sat right in front of her. On the mantel above, a cold gray urn held Bill’s ashes. Reality twisted through her.
The doorbell rang, startling Marie out of her reverie. She could ignore it, and hope whoever was there would go away. A loud pounding followed by the incessant ring of the bell became too much. With slow determination, Marie sat the mug on the old wooden table at the end of the couch, before she stood. It was one of the few things she still had control over. Staying as quiet as possible she moved across the floor. At the door she placed her hand up, willing whoever was out there to go away. It was no use. The bell rang and rang. Marie gave the knob an angry twist. The creak and groan of old metal gave way.
Sam Nhatim stood in front of Marie, dripping greenish water onto the floor. Her long blond hair clung in wet strings around her face. “Aren’t you ready?”
“I’m not sure I want to go.” Marie returned to the couch and sat down. Once more she pulled her knees up to her chest.
“Mmmm. That smells good.” Sam pointed at the mug. “Do you have more?”
“No. This is the last.” Marie ducked her head.
“Well can I have some?” Sam sat down. A dark stain grew where the couch soaked up water from her clothes.
“I’ve already drank from the cup.” Marie picked up the mug and took a drink to emphasize her words.
“It’s not like it could harm me now.” Sam grasped the cup, and pulled it out Marie’s hands.