Darkness, save a bulb in the rafters. The air gone thick and sticky sweet. Side by side they lie in bed, legs tangled, the sound of wind and rain whirling above like a high-powered fan. He puts down the phone, lights a cigarette, blows a cloud through the cracked window.
“Time?” she says.
“Right on schedule, ain’t they?”
“Always are,” he says.
He watches her sit up, pull her hair in a ponytail, her every movement throwing perfect shadows up the peeling wall. He reaches for her, squeezes her hand.
“You good?” he says.
“Sure about that?”
“Come on now.”
She looks away, shakes her head.
“Just ain’t no going back now,” she says.
Smiling, he rises to her. He kisses her long and slow.
“Only way I’d have it girl.”
They dress in silence, passing the cigarette between them. He drains the bottom of a beer, ashes inside the bottle, then motions for the door. They step to the porch, gaze upon their world – woods, field, gravel road – all of it shrouded in shimmering black.
He seizes her, pulls her close. His mouth finds hers and her body goes limp. He closes his eyes as she moves down his neck. He slips his hand around her waist, runs it between her legs. He squeezes the warmth and she groans, soft as a whisper.
“Almost there,” he says.
“Their time’s up.”
“Way up,” she says. “It’s our time now.”
He kisses her again, then steps off the porch. He jogs through the yard, water splashing up his shins. He climbs in his car, starts the engine, wipes his face with his shirt. He eyes the bag on the floorboard, removes the pistol, lays it beside him. He eases out the driveway, her figure receding in the mirror, smaller and smaller until it’s nothing but a speck of white. He looks to the road ahead before she vanishes.
When he reaches town, he turns for the bluffs and heads over the bridge. Far below, the great river thunders past, its waters bloated and angry and glimmering metallic. He crosses and drops into the land of flat and endless fields. The rain has stopped, the wind gone still.
He turns off the blacktop onto a single lane of dirt. Only his headlights. Emptiness. Ancient seafloor earth.
At the first fork, he veers west towards the creek. He passes the old barn and cluster of grain silos, their shadows rising up like giant watchmen, guarding the moonless night. He parks, cuts the engine. He grabs the gun, slips it in the back of his jeans. He takes a deep breath, swallows. He tastes the bitter tang of adrenaline. He tells himself he’s ready, that he’s in control. A surge, white hot and pure, rushes through him. He knows it’s his life, all things before, all things after, distilled into now. Into the thing that’s in front of him. Waiting. Beckoning. Calling his name.
Our time. It’s our time now.
He steps out, bag in hand. The van rests in its usual spot, beneath a lone oak at the creek’s edge. Two figures stand in front. They’re unmoving, illuminated by headlights. He moves towards them, steady and deliberate. Time slows to a crawl. He hears every breath, each beat of his heart. Their faces come into focus. Nothing but skeletons and sunken eyes. They speak words. His own voice answers. And as he reaches for the cold steel at his back, a coyote calls in the distance, its howl unbroken and righteous and piercing the entire world in two.
Andy Ross is a recovering media junkie who’s still taking it one day at a time. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, he now lives in New York City. In his spare time he likes to read anything by George Pelecanos and take aimless walks that end in bars. His nonfiction and journalism have appeared in Fringe, The Daily Beast, Memphis Magazine, Texas Highways, Mississippi Sports Magazine and a number of newspapers.