It Lasts Longer

I used to stare at my wife. When we were first dating, she found it charming, cute, proof of my burgeoning love for her. After we had been engaged a while, she began to find it irritating, annoying, evidence of my lack of social skills. Once we were married, she made her peace with it. Occasionally she would catch me at it and allow the tiniest, most ephemeral of smiles, just the barest upturn of the corner of her mouth and a twinkle in her eye. It was enough for me.

She gave me a camera for my birthday one year, one of those hipster film cameras; I took to it immediately. I painted over the window of the little spare bedroom downstairs, converted it into a darkroom; I developed my own pictures. There was something zen about it. It took skill and patience and chemicals. It was tactile.

Most of my pictures were of her. She would roll her eyes and mutter that she’d brought it on herself, but she didn’t block her face with her hands or turn away; she’d smile and forebear. There were vacation pictures. There were pictures over nice dinners out and breakfasts in. There were intimate pictures she only let me take because I developed them myself and kept them locked away.

When she got cancer, she didn’t want me taking pictures anymore. She was feeling self-conscious, betrayed by her body. She thought you could tell just by looking at the image that she was sick. Eventually she was right.

I took pictures of other things, to show her. She would send me out to investigate beautiful days when she was too tired to follow, and I would bring back the evidence. She’d end the day with prints surrounding her on the bed, her own personal gallery. When she went into the hospital, we kept it up. Sometimes the nurses would ask to keep a print or two. They let us paper the few bare areas of wall with the best of the others.

When she took a turn for the worse, I stopped going out. She didn’t have the energy to look through the pictures and I didn’t want to be away long enough to take them, much less develop them. The camera stayed in the bag, next to my cot, next to her bed.

I remember being told that she was getting ready to go, that it was only a matter of time, that I should prepare myself. I remember wondering how on Earth to do that.

I took out the camera, loaded some film into it. I opened the blinds so that the morning light spilled in across her bed. She had a paper-thin, ethereal quality to her, like she was already halfway out of the world. I took the picture.

It was weeks before I got out of bed, remembered the camera, developed the film. It’s not my favorite picture of her, not even close; it’s just the last one.

Fantasy Drabble #341 “Consumption”

She was dead only days when he sought out the Painter. He would have gone before, had he been able to stand or speak. “Can you give her back to me?”

“Only that part of her still in your mind,” said the Painter, “and it will cost.”

“No matter.”

He slept in the front hall, on the floor. The Painter finished it in a day and a night. “Have a look.”

He squared himself in front of the canvas; she looked back at him, recognized him, smiled, silently reached out to him. Their fingers touched. “Can she leave the—”


SF Drabble #424 “A Saucerful Of Secrets”

“Would you like some?” He indicated the silver tea set.

She scowled. “No, thank you.”

“It’s real, imported. I have it brought from Earth.”

“How much does that cost?”

He grinned. “Worth every penny. There are some things I can accept the local substitutes or do without… I don’t need green leaves on the trees outside my window, or birds that chirp, or a twenty-four hour day. I do need tea. It’s a quality-of-life thing.”

“I’d love some.”

He poured, didn’t insult her by adding the local versions of milk or sugar. She took a sip; it tasted of home.

SF Drabble #423 “Her Place In The City”

The building looked the same, for the most part. The railings, the fire escape, they were rusty, but otherwise…

In the lobby, the only original appointment was the marble floor. He rode up an elevator without an operator to a hall with a new carpet and knocked on a door with a depressingly un-gilded number hanging on it.

She answered the door, looking twenty-two at most, exactly the same. She stared at him, said, “I like your hair short.”

“Had to cut it for the army.”

“Which time?”


A smile spread across her face. “Let’s go get some coffee.”

Zeno And His Arrow

“It’s just after midnight.”

“Mmph.” Jean turned over, pulled a pillow over her head. After a minute, she sat up, reached for the bottle of pills and the near-empty glass of water waiting on the nightstand.

“You’ve already taken three. They’re not working. Anyway, it’s too late.”

She looked at him for a long, weighty moment; she put the pill bottle down, but finished the water anyway. “What time is it exactly?

“Twelve ten. Twenty more minutes.”

“They said yesterday that the time might change as it got closer, that—”

“I’ve been looking at my phone. They’ve redone the math every half hour for the last two days. It’s still twenty more minutes. Want something to drink?”

“On top of the pills?”

“Never mind.” Frank got up, went to the window, stuck his fingers between venetian blind slats, pushed them apart. Down the street, in one of the few houses still occupied, there was a party going on. “They’re still at it.”

She shrugged. “They’re young.”

“I just don’t get it. Why spend your last hours drunk and listening to bad music? It just—”

“We spent most of yesterday fucking.” She grinned. “To each his own.”

The clock said twelve thirteen. He pulled the chord to raise the blinds, unlatched and opened the window, stuck his head out to look skyward. There was no moon. He felt a pang of fear, then remembered that he had no idea where the moon should be tonight.

“What does it look like?”

“Like stars circling a drain.”

“The stars? But they’re not close enough to—”

“It’s called ‘gravitational lensing’. Some guy was talking about it on CNN last night. The anchor was uncomfortable because the guy seemed… I don’t know, excited about seeing it. They shut him down and went to a pre-taped story about the Pope.”

Jean was at his elbow, and he moved out of the way so she could look. “Pretty.”

She was still naked. He kissed her shoulder, the side of her neck. He looked at the clock: twelve eighteen. “Want to go again?”

Seriously? All right.”

They made love. Frank tried to lose himself in her, or in the act itself, but never quite managed. In the end they conspired to finish for it’s own sake. She was sweet about it. They looked at the clock: twelve twenty-one.

“Was that really only three minutes? It seemed like…” He didn’t say ‘forever’.

“No way.” But her phone, his phone, the clock on the DVD player, all agreed: twelve twenty-one.

They turned on the TV. The guy who had been excited about gravitation lensing was talking about time seeming to slow. It wasn’t just them. The guy wasn’t sure whether it was some black hole time dilation effect nobody had predicted, or whether it was eight billion people wishing the universe to stop before twelve thirty.

They ate something, then made love again. An half hour later, the clock turned to twelve twenty-two and stayed there. Eventually Frank unplugged it.