Victim #1: 'til Death do us Part

As we near the anniversary of last year’s international health crisis, various governments have come forward with drafts of new legislation to protect citizens against crises, and hopefully prevent any such events from transpiring again. Our broadcast of memorials from around the world will commence October 15th at 8am, with coverage throughout the following week.

The placid voice of the newswoman drones on in the background, I catch only a few of her words.

“Is that what they’re calling it now, a health crisis?” I say to the empty room, laughing softly. I pull a knife from a drawer and cut up a tomato, adding it to the other ingredients stacked atop my toast. Bacon sizzles in a skillet beside me, the edges turned wavy and crisp. That, too, joins the heap, followed by a slice of cheddar and another slice of toast.

“Just the way she used to make it,” I sigh.

The thought brings a rush of terrible memories from nearly a year before, what seems now like a time before time, the “health crisis.” Somehow I had made it out alive. Somehow I was physically unscathed in the chaos and madness that ruled our quiet town for weeks. Somehow I lost her in that same chaos.

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought of her since then, of course, and I have a routine for dealing with the grief. I twist my golden wedding band around on my finger and think of the happier moments, the moments we spent together when time was abundant. Our brief courtship before the country wedding, modest in a grain field setting. But perfect.

I sigh. Plate in hand, I take my dinner outside to the porch. On the way out I pick up another bag, brown paper closed with a sticker from the local butcher. I’m not sure what’s in it today, as I’m not the one eating it. Never had much of a stomach for the organs, steak is more my thing.

After a short walk across my back lawn I take a seat in a folding deck chair, just outside a large shed. I drop the plate, a small stack of napkins, and a flashlight on a card table beside the chair, placing the brown package in my lap. I tear the sticker and open the bag, the smell of raw flesh wafting out suddenly. My nose wrinkles, and I toss the package whole into the shed. With that, I tuck into my own meal.

A few bites in I’m overcome by a feeling of profound unease. By now I usually would have heard paper being shredded, jaws gnashing. I hear only crickets. The unease turns to worry, and I step into the dark shed with flashlight in hand.

“It would be so easy to run a line out here and install lights,” I mutter, though it isn’t the first time I’ve had that sentiment. The flashlight flickers in my hands, so I hit it against my palm a few times, cursing under my breath. I’m rewarded with a much stronger beam, which I use to probe the ground.

I find a loop of the metal chain and, with the circle of illumination, follow it back to the cement anchor in the foundation.

My first thought is relief, knowing at least that my charge hasn’t run off. Panic sets in soon after, though, as I realize that this could mean my only friend left has finally passed away.

My hand shakes as I move the beam along the length of the chain, following it’s trail across the ground. I pass over the bag, contents spilled out from impact, but pause only a moment.

Finally, my light reaches the end of the chain.

I am instantly brought to my knees, tears welling in my eyes.

The light flickers and fails, but the darkness is a welcome respite. With the light gone I cannot see what lay at the end of the chain, cannot see the still shape lying there.

Cannot see the glint of gold on her ring finger.

I had seen only her hand and arm, but that was enough to know that she was finally gone. Even if the flashlight hadn't died, I don't think I would be able to look at the body.

I make to leave, knowing that it is finally time to bury my beloved wife after all these years. A clatter outside brings my head swinging around to the door I cam through.

I’m rooted to the spot, hoping that a neighbour hasn’t come by for an impromptu visit. The town is small, the homes quite distant. It was the only reason I was able to get away with keeping my wife here in such a state for so long.

I wince as a figure steps into the door frame, surely my activities will be discovered. People had noticed that I’d changed, but we all had after last year, hadn’t we?

When I open my eyes I see the person fully silhouetted in the rectangle of moonlight. I note with horror that she’s missing an arm. 

The End

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