I lay on the floor and gasped for breath. The pain was incredible, intense, and it was getting worse. I rolled over and there was a woman and she was holding a knife. “You won’t believe where we are,” she said, “this is for the better, you have to trust me.” And I felt my life ebbing away. There was a bright white stabbing light that eclipsed everything in the world, even the pain of dying, and I died.
“Do you know where we were last time?” I asked. She was sitting beside me in a dark room. I had no idea where we were or what was happening.
“I don’t know where we are now” she replied.
“I think we’re in America.” I said. “Listen.” There was the sound of voices. Men were shouting. I wanted to get up and walk but I didn’t know where to walk to or where I was walking from, either. But the voices were not getting closer and they did sound American.
“Does it matter?” She asked. “Does anything matter anymore?”
“How many times can you remember?” I asked in the darkness. I groped for her hand, found it, and she clutched my hand as if it were the only thing she knew.
“This is the third time, I think.” She said.
“I remember you killing me.” And I hoped I didn’t sound bitter.
“It was a terrible place, there were people dying everywhere, like there was a plague.” She began to sob as quietly as anyone could. “You were already sick. I had to know if killing you would end it. You were already dying.”
There was a spot of light high above us and for a moment or two I feared it was The Light but it turned into a somewhat larger light and I realized we were in a giant building, a stadium maybe, and there was a hole in the roof. Time passed, an hour, maybe two, and I knew we would have to move. Thirst, hunger, our bodily functions, or something else would propel us to movement to somewhere else.
“Let’s go” I said.
“Okay, okay” she replied and allowed me to help her stand.
We walked slowly, feeling our way along, and we discovered we were on a playing field, and we found the steps up. We counted them, in case we had to go back down we would know how any there were, and we had to retreat when we found our way blocked by some sort of steel gate. We could see light, as if there was some other gate beyond that one, but it filled the concrete tunnel and we could not climb it or go around it. We went back to the field and found another tunnel at ground level and finally, we heard the sound of someone talking on a phone. We followed the voice and found a door. We hammered on it and yelled and a man came to the door. He was as surprised to see us as we were that he actually spoke English, and didn’t seem out of the ordinary. We made up a story about wanting to have sex on the field and he led us out of the stadium. The sun was just going down.
“When’s the next game” she suddenly asked the man.
“Next Thursday night,” he replied, “the Eagles.”
“Who’s their quarterback?” She asked.
“Foles” the man answered.
“Thanks” she said and we went out into the night.
“It’s America, and it’s 2014.” She told me, “Foles is the Eagles quarterback.
“Okay.” I said because I had no idea what else to say.
We walked along the sidewalk and discovered I had a wallet, and she was carrying a purse. “This purse sucks” she joked and for the first time since it began we both laughed, a little. There were bars and restaurants but neither of us was hungry yet. I was tired and asked if she was but no, we both seemed physically fit. We stopped at a bar, just to get off the street and as the bartender made out drinks we looked at one another in the mirror behind the bar. It wasn’t me and I wondered how she looked to herself. I wondered if someone would walk in and recognize one of us. Neither of us wore a ring. We drank and didn’t talk and waited but nothing happened.
“Let’s kill ourselves,” she suggested and I thought that was as good an idea as any.
There was a river near the bar and a huge bridge spanned it. “Jumper?” she asked.
“Yeah, if the fall doesn’t get us outright then we’ll drown” I said.
“Good thinking…,” she stopped. “We should at least have names. Do you remember your name? My name? Anything?” At that moment we both looked up and realized we were stopped in front of the Hilton. It was a very tall building. Without a word we both walked in. It was odd using a credit card that I didn’t have to worry about paying off. We got a room very close to the top floor, twenty-seven stories and that would do it. We rode the elevator up to the room without speaking and she waited for me to open the door. “I want to shower.” She said and she started taking her clothes off. “Please don’t talk about it, okay.” She turned around and kissed me.
“I think this is what got us in trouble to begin with” I said in the half light of the room. The night had ebbed away without incident. Our lovemaking was frantic, passionate, with each of us knowing it could end instantly, painfully, at any second. There was a freedom in knowing the end was there, just a few seconds, or even hours away. We had nothing to lose, not even our own lives, and there was nothing left to do but live and then to die.
“Yeah, I think so too, but I wanted to feel human again.” She sat up. “Look through your wallet. Let’s find out who we are.”
I was a welder, a certified welder, named Walter Gross, aged 43, and I lived in Dallas. She was a woman named Wanda Warden and she lived here in Austin. She was 30. Her cellphone was filled with photos of children, people who all resembled one another, and tears began forming. “What if we kill her? Oh, god, what if we’ve already killed her?”
“I don’t know how to weld.” And that was all that really needed to be said. “There was no way we could slip into the lives we had invaded, was there?”
“I have to find my kids” she said and lay down again. “I wonder if he’s around, if we could find him, and find out what in the hell started all of this.”
We lay in silence and I wondered what would happen if we just waited it out. Would he kill himself? What if he found himself in a great life, rich and powerful, would he try to stay? What if he returned as an infant, unable to kill himself? I had no idea how old I was or how old she really was. “One more time and then we have to go.” She said.
We stood on the balcony and I helped her over the rail. We were both nude, she wanted to go like that and we held hands, my left in her right, with right hand and her left hanging onto the rail. Letting go was surprisingly easy and our timing was perfect, we fell into the night and I saw a man on the balcony three floors below our room, his eyes and mine met for a second, and then we sped downward. It takes a long time to fall and she turned to say, “I think wherever we were, I was in love with you.” And I started to tell her that I knew I loved her, but then the light, that terrible, terrible light.