The Four Minute Warning Sounds
See this couple, bow, standing apart, at wait, in this white room. For we have loved this world for the final time and everything in it is now breaking. They have heard the danger; they have closed the door firmly behind them. A pale light shines, the unmarked day. For the final time and the church bells are calling out their tin lost cattle cry then for a moment, nothing. A pale light and in it they lean, are sloughing off their clothes, with indolence raising their arms, with eyes averted they are pulling out buckles and downing zips. They are so beautiful, this couple. They have gone to the bed, they have taken each other to bed, white sheets of finest linen, sprung dark legs, the last pristine place, no shelter, no hiding at all. They lie beside one another perfectly naked and distinct. Dip in the mattress, dips in their forms. And in a rain of glass the street and in twists of metal red ribs. One hand extends and follows airily the line of their bodies; they have not yet kissed.
One kisses the other, gently then deeper. The ribs on their lips meet and draw against one another. Their fingers tendering their hair. Two bodies all have fallen move closer, roll, pause, gasp, raise and pause and fall; hands pry the pillow, breaths, run dry against skin, breaths, then wet. A line of hair wet against the skin. All lie and between them a hand, red slash here and there, a dropped bag spilling its contents. Quiet lovely sounds. Then.
Then. The warning bell still roundels a rattle like the din of children playing with tins. They have one another fully, they are taking their fill with both hands cupped and like sand it goes, a phone with a crack like a spider’s web there is a buzzing no, like blasted sand, beneath a coup de foudre, above a lowering below a rising a sound of a voice urgent on the other side a name, repeated, and the cries go— and near foundering now one body against another, whitewater of the sheets, moans this, this is the end, the end is coming—
A name, repeated, a voice asking, pleading—cuts.
And we who are not here have had our ends elsewhere. Are dying elsewhere in a lesser way. The beautiful couple have no witnesses to take from them what they are taking. No window to this room, only a place to leave and enter.
Neither they, nor we, ever will enter again.
Helen McClory's first story collection On the Edges of Vision, won the Saltire First Book of the Year 2015. Her second story collection, Mayhem & Death, was written for the lonely and published in March 2018. There is a moor and a cold sea in her heart. @HelenMcClory