23 Sep A Moment’s Clarity
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"A Moment's Clarity"Written by
Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
When Anita found him, her immediate reaction was to put him in the foyer next to the stairwell so he could be decorative. Not everyone would have one, and the way his arms stuck out just so would make him a suitable hat rack. She realized, almost too late, that this might have been in bad taste. But what, she thought, was a woman supposed to do when her husband went and turned into a glass statue overnight?
She had heard of this happening, of course. It just seemed to happen to other people; one day they were perfectly normal and then the next, someone found them frozen. Clear. She had heard of it, but had never seriously considered it happening to her. The people this happened to were far too glamorous; celebrities and the like. Certainly not to him. She was a widow now. That made her feel old at thirty-seven years and she was sure she didn’t like it.
After a week she quietly filed a mortician’s report and sat down to a cup of hot tea. She hadn’t broken it to his family yet, though his sister had been calling. She told her he was away on business. There was no reason to tell them yet. The Quentins could wait another day to hear their little boy wasn’t okay. At that very moment it occurred to her that using her husband’s remains as a hat rack might be poorly received by the general public.
And so Anita began the difficult task of finding a place for him. At first she kept him to the study, in front of the fireplace. He kept her company with her tea. But soon she began to find that sitting with the countenance of her dead husband reminded her of her widowhood, so she moved him to the garden and used him to scare the crows away from her tomatoes. He did little to dissuade the crows, however, and soon became their favorite perch. Finally, she hauled him to the attic. She kept the rest of her glass figurines there, and didn’t see why he should be treated any differently.
Somehow, it all seemed normal at the time. Everywhere you looked someone was at it. The glass bodies seemed to multiply. When she called her husband’s mother and told her, tearfully, that he had passed away, she burst into hysterics and told her that so had one of the grandchildren.
Anita was uncomfortable, and then she hung up.
When the man who cut her lawn succumbed as well, she began to worry. Now it was affecting her everyday life, which was something her husband and niece had not generally been part of. Her husband worked constantly and usually slept when he graced her with his presence. Her niece, whose name she couldn’t even remember, lived in Florida.
She put entirely too much sugar in her tea and shivered as she drank it. She did miss her husband. Sometimes. And now she would have to trim her own lawn.
Her first hint that something might have been a bit off was when she found her neighbor, frozen solid while pulling the weeds in his yard. The next day, while shopping for groceries the bag boy, with a crackle, transformed, still clutching her biscotti. She tenderly wrenched it from his grip, glanced around halfheartedly, and didn’t pay.
Then the news reports began to get very tiresome. First it was strange, isolated events. Then it was an epidemic, then a pandemic, and then it was Susan Shepherd reporting to you live from New York City and…crackle.
Suddenly, she wasn’t reporting. Suddenly, she wasn’t even alive.
There was panic after that, and lootings and riots, or so Anita saw on the news. She kept to herself these days. Her sister hadn’t called in weeks. She half expected her to be found, phone in hand, sitting at her kitchen table, never to move again. A week later, the police confirmed her suspicions: her sister was found not at the phone but in bed. Three relatives now dead, Anita found in horror that she had run out of tea bags.
It had been months since Anita found her husband, and her lawn was long. The four houses around hers couldn’t claim a single opaque resident. She’d taken to not leaving the study for days on end, sitting by the fire with her tea while her husband sat in the attic, staring at a wall. He wasn’t needed in the yard anymore, not since the neighbor had frozen there. Anita came to miss him in the study, but he tended to alienate visitors, of which she found she was having less and less these days.
At first, she’d gotten dozens of calls for funerals of her husband’s mother, friends, old boyfriends, but soon even the funerals died off. There were too many to throw.
The television only worked sporadically, and when it did it showed news. It told her to lock her doors and windows. It told her there were people who thought this would pass. People who were trying to take things from those who had turned, so they would be wealthy when they and the rest of humanity came out the other end. It used the word anarchy a lot.
The futility of the this did not escape Anita, but when the looters came, as the news assured her they would, she thought the best way to be rid of them, and quickly, would be to set out a plate of lemonade for them and to point them in the direction of the attic, where she kept an odd assortment of expensive-looking things that had, at one point, been her grandmother’s. That, she thought, would keep them happy while she kept to the study with her husband, for she hadn’t had use for the china in years, anyway. It annoyed her, though, when they woke her up in the middle of the night.
Roland had robbed a lot of houses, before and after it became commonplace, but thought that few had ever looked as empty as this one. He received a terrible shock when Anita spoke.
“Hello,” she said, wiping sleep from her eyes with one hand and holding a candle in the other. “Attic’s that way.”
Roland had been greeted many ways upon entering a house he planned to rob. This was not one he was used to.
“I’m going to have some tea,” she said, and began walking slowly away. Roland’s mind reeled for a moment, and then he set off for the attic.
In the kitchen, Anita sleepily sipped Earl Gray when Roland trudged down the stairs with a sack over his shoulder and came upon her. He stopped mid-step and looked at her carefully.
“All those people up there…”
“The glass ones?”
“Yeah, the glass ones,”
“What about them?”
“Why did you-“
“Think of it as a sort of a tomb.”
Roland decided he’d stay.
Anita mistrusted him at first but soon found it was a great relief just having him around. She was running low on food and it really was lovely to have someone to break into a grocery store with. As much as she knew how low the chances were of her finding anything dangerous, the lonely streets seemed much less so with a companion. He tended the garden, collected rain water for drinking and bathing, and even sometimes sat with her by the fireplace, sharing a seemingly endless stockpile of tea with her,
“We’re going to run out of food, you know.” Roland mentioned. “Even just between the two of us, there’s only so long that that store will hold out.”
Anita shrugged and stared into her tea. Even she had to admit the great mound of canned goods they had made in the grocery was beginning to run low. Her eyes settled on the fire and it was a moment before she answered. “So what do you suppose we should do?”
Roland shrugged. “I don’t know. Leave?”
Anita didn’t answer.
After two weeks, they had eaten nearly all of the food they had brought back from their last trip to the store and agreed, Anita a little grudgingly, that they would keep walking after this next trip to the grocery and see where it led them. There was nothing for them here, Roland reasoned, and besides, maybe they’d find other people.
Their lives became a long journey from food source to convenience store to market to people’s basements, sleeping when they could and traveling as they pleased. They took what they needed, carried what they could, and moved on. Roland led them, taking to this life with complete ease. As they walked, he shouted things back at her like “Lovely, isn’t it?” and she never answered. He found her silence unnerving.
Eventually, after weeks of traveling from convenience store to grocery to mini-mall, they came upon a set of high cliffs, with a sheer drop to the sea. Anita had liberated a bottle of wine from the last supermarket they slept in, and the two of them sat with it and watched the sun rise.
“I’ve been thinking, Anita,” Roland said gently, “that the world ended.”
“No,” was her answer. It was the first time she had spoken in months.
“Yes, it did,” he said, with not a little sadness in his voice. “And it forgot to take us with it.” With this thought, he stood up and began the long hike back down the cliffs. Anita looked back after him for a long time.
She shattered as she hit bottom.
Credited to The Hedonist.
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