She liked to pretend, on cold nights, that she was in the coffin with him.
She would lie on her back, stiff and straight. Pulling the bedding up close on both sides; bunching it until she felt more like she was in a canoe than a typical bed, in the bedroom of a common, ordinary… living person.
It was as silent as a tomb in her bedroom. That was what she said to herself, over and over, lying there. As if it were the opening line of a story.
A whimsical fantasy about Stan’s death, rather than cold, hard fact.
And yet… what good to her now anyway, those notions of cold, hard fact? Despite what some will say, facts are an absolute. If she is unhappy with them, and she cannot change them, how does fantasy serve her better interests? How does the notion of cold, hard fact insulate her when she herself is so cold?
Damn it. She had just caught herself again; lying there thinking about being dead and yet her eyes were open. It was too hard, trying to keep your eyes closed all of the time so that you could better pretend to be dead, walled in by dirt and rock.
She gasped. For just a second she had seen herself, encased in dirt and stone, feeling the movement of the worms.
Gathering her concentration, she pushed herself to refocus. She stretched out long and straight in the bed, stiffening her legs, her arms straight at her side. She imagined her spine fused at each vertebra, her neck unyielding. Eyes closed. Eyes closed, damn it.
She thought of the canoe. Reaching long with her toes, she was like a thing of wood now. She was a vessel, moving forward towards oblivion. Like a raft, on that river, the river of death in the Bible – was it the River Styx? She struggled for a moment with an image of the big-haired rock band of the same name.
This thought caused her to emit a giggle, which made her frustration flame up. “What is wrong with me?”, she thought.
Wait – there now, that ridiculous image was gone. She was back, afloat on the cold river of death. She was made of hard wood, stretching long and smooth on a silent river. The water was cold. There was nothing alive in that cold, clean yet somehow opaque body of water.
And then she felt it. It gave her a start but only for a second. She felt him there with her. His dry, cold fingertips touched her thigh. Just a light touch at first, very tender. Then the touch became a grip; he was almost grabbing her. There was a sense of longing, of desire; she could feel it through his stiff, unliving fingers. It stirred just a hint of long forgotten passion in her, a tiny spark coming from a cold place far down inside of her slipping consciousness.
Susan felt a deep, long sigh move gracefully into, and then out from her lungs. Eyes shut, a thin smile crossed her lips as she exhaled. It was the last breath that she would ever take.
There was a sudden blast of noise and Susan’s eyes snapped open. For a moment she was completely outside of herself, with no idea where she was or what was happening.
Then she realized it was the clock radio; the alarm had gone off, slicing into her dreams.
The raucous chorus of the 1970’s pop hit “Come Sail Away” was splitting open the crack into her consciousness. Susan couldn’t help but grimace. “I hate that song,” she thought.
A sharp pain erupted in her buttock. With a jerk she pulled away; then realized that it was Stan, crudely grabbing her ass with his roaming claw of a hand. She slapped it away.
The reality was that Stan was alive, not dead. Alive and attached to her own life like some painful and private itch.
“Hey, babe,” he half-purred, half-growled. She could feel and smell his oppressive breath on her shoulder. “How about a fast one before breakfast?” Stan rubbed his hardness against her leg. God, but his breath was horrible.
Susan closed her eyes and thought again of the peaceful boat ride on the cold, clean river. She thought of her legs as sleek wooden beams; polished and smooth. For just a few seconds she held onto that thought, and then she threw back the covers and got out of the bed, trying her best to face the reality of another day.
Steve Sibra grew up on a small farm in eastern Montana near the town of Big Sandy. After college and law school he ended up in the comic book business, where he ran a retail business for thirty-five years. Steve’s prose and poetry have appeared in numerous literary publications including Matador Review, Crab Fat Magazine, Shattered Wig, Peckerwood, and Jellyfish Review. He has been a featured reader at Capitol Hill Art Walk, Lit Crawl, Seattle Fiction Federation, and other venues in the Seattle area, where he now lives.