The gentle clank of a pan against the kitchen counter roused Arthur from his sleep; his eyes creaked open and the thin cotton sheets were kicked off. The wooden floor was cool on the soles of his feet and the bed frame groaned as he eased his weight off of it; the sounds in the kitchen paused for a moment but returned to their rhythm.
Renée had her back to him as he shuffled out of their room, clad only in his boxers. "Why're you up so early?" he mumbled, only the faintest traces of predawn glow could be seen through the early morning gloom.
"Couldn't sleep," she cracked an egg on the edge of the pan. "Figured I might as well make you breakfast."
Arthur used the silence to admire his girlfriend from behind: beautiful chestnut coloured hair ; long, sexy legs and a nice firm ass; all on a lean and lithe frame. She wore one of his long-sleeved shirts with the sleeves pushed up past the elbows and a pair of socks, no underwear.
Arthur stepped closer to Renée and wrapped his arms around her; he could feel how tense her muscles were under the shirt, she was worried. "You're not still thinking about that crap in Ohio we heard about in the news last night, are you?"
"I can't help it Arthur," the eggs sizzled in the pan as Renée turned in his arms. "Mum and Dad live in Columbus; that's only an hour away from where those eight people were murdered!"
The story had grabbed national headlines last night; eight people had been murdered in some no-name town in Ohio, what made these murders different was that they had been savagely mauled...as if they'd been attacked by a grizzly bear in the middle of town.
Arthur moved his hands to her shoulders and looked into her eyes. "Ok babe you're right," he conceded with a smile. "Try to get in touch with your dad and see what he thinks; if you're still worried by the end of the day, call me. Our last run takes us close to the Ohio state border, I'll swing by and check in on him."
Renée wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. "Thanks Arthur."
"Don't mention it," Arthur smiled as he walked back towards their room. "I'm gonna get dressed."
"Breakfast'll be ready by the time you come out," Renée's voice seemed to echo and distort, as if she were at the end of a long tunnel.
Arthur sprang up in the dark, his breath came in gasps and the bed creaked and groaned under the frenzy of activity. The tears came as soon as he realized where he was and why he was there; great, ugly sobs tore themselves out of his mouth as tears streamed down his face.
Arthur would have given anything to stay in that moment with Renée forever, before the dead rose up, before he had made life and death decisions...before he learned what loss really was. Instead he was curled up under a pitiful blanket, in a room that wasn't his, in a house that was frozen and without power, in a neighbourhood that was infested with undead cannibals, in the dead of winter.
Those reasons were not why Arthur Crowe wept, he shed tears for the death of his future with the woman he loved.
The death of his hope.