Last Sleep by Andrea Salvador

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The doctor’s office is empty because Tess asked for the last, the very last appointment that the doctor could offer. Everyone else is with their families, in the theme park, or trying to beat the meteorites to it.

“And this dosage will kick in two hours, right?” Tess asks, rolling up the sleeve of her dress. It’s made of beaded yellow chiffon, catching the light every time she moves. She looks like the morning sun.

The doctor nods, flicking a vial of amber with two manicured fingers. “Right.” She empties the liquid into a syringe. Without preamble, she pushes the needle into Tess’s shoulder.

I wince, but Tess smiles from over the doctor’s hunched figure.

“All done,” the doctor says, tossing the syringe into a wastebasket. “That’s all.”

I know she’s trying to get rid of us. She only has two hours left before the meteorites arrive, before she is wiped out from existence. But we’re all in the same boat, and Tess digs her feet into the red carpet. “You going to see your family?”

The doctor shakes her head, black wisps of hair swaying. They reveal diamonds dangling on each ear. Tess deposited money for this injection four weeks ago, and I wonder if that was where the money went.

“Going to binge watch some Friends episodes,” the doctor says.

“Nice,” Tess says, even though she’s never watched it.

The doctor nods, glancing at the flat-screen TV hanging directly above Tess. This glance evolves into a glare as Tess launches into a story. It’s as if through the power of the doctor’s eye contact, the TV will dismantle itself and crush my girlfriend.

“We should go,” I cut Tess off, rising from the plush seat.

Tess’s shoulders slump in defeat. “You sure you don’t want to—”

“No,” I say, nodding at the doctor. She’s already reaching for the remote. “Thank you.”

The clinic complex is empty, the trees and roads beyond it silent. Our car is parked in the middle of the clinic driveway because there’s no one to chastise us for doing so. We slide in. I pull us out of the complex the second Tess’s door closes.

“Someone’s in a rush, huh,” Tess says. “You could’ve at least thought about getting the injection.” So that was why she wanted to stay and meander: to convince me.

Still, I refuse to back down.

“I can’t afford it,” I tell her. It’s a pitiful excuse, one that she always follows with—

“I can. I would have paid for yours,” Tess repeats for the hundredth time. I steer the car onto the highway, which is dotted with figures that grow into humans as we speed through.

“I know,” I said. She’s paid for everything ever since we moved in together: the movie tickets, the pillowcases, the long-distance phone calls that I make every day to try and coerce my mother to speak to me again. “It’s alright.”

I haven’t given much thought to the pain of being awake when the meteorites come. I guess it’s because no matter what, I’ll find out in less than two hours.

“Just fall asleep with me,” Tess says, pinching my cheek.

I assure her I will, but I’ve always been a picky sleeper.

Some of the bodies we pass by are dead, others still alive. Clumps of people force me to switch lanes, staring up at the sky in defeat or cursing angrily. Tess switches the radio on, flipping it to a music channel. This 2010 pop song is probably the last I’ll ever hear in my life.

“Do you feel anything?” I ask, turning to Tess as we crawl through this stretch of road, empty for now. “Aren’t you supposed to be sleepy?”

Tess snorts, kicking her stockinged legs up onto the dashboard. “It’s not anesthesia.”

She’s right; it isn’t anesthesia. It’s some modified version of the lethal injection that skyrocketed to fame after the meteorite reports came rolling through. It has a hundred percent effectivity and a price tag that reflects it.

We get off the highway, dodging a smoking car crash around the bend. The cornfields, waist-length high, come to view. I roll down the windows and breathe the fertilizer-scented air.

The cornstalks blur into yellows and greens, until Tess commands me to stop, just as we planned. I brake and kill the car’s engine.

“Ready?” Tess asks, leaning over to kiss me.

“Yeah,” I say against her lips.

We get out of the car. I want to look back, to admire the vehicle that reminds me of all the part-time jobs I slaved throughout college, but Tess is already creeping through the cornfields. The girl is in goddamn high heels; I don’t know how she does it.

Finally, we find a small clearing enough for us to lie down in. Tess smooths the packed soil and motions for me to lie down. She drops down after I do, placing her head on my chest.

“So,” I mumble, looking at the sky. “This is it.” It’s stark blue. Empty. It’s hard to believe that in just over an hour, it will be gone.

“This is it,” Tess confirms. “Last doctor’s appointment. Last piss. Last yoga class. Last roller coaster ride…”

We take turns reciting our lasts. Without Tess, I would be locked in my room, pacing, waiting for my timer to wind down to zero. This is another part of our agreement: we must lose track of time.

“Last filling up the gas tank, last folding of bedsheets, last wiping of tears…” Tess’s voice turns syrupy, then hoarse, then quiet.

Her eyelids flutter, and I lean forward. My lips brush the top of her head. She doesn’t stir. This is how I know she’s fallen asleep; Tess is a lousy pretender.

“Last words, last sleep,” I whisper. I watch the sky, waiting for the meteorites. My heartbeat is steady and calm.

 

Andrea Salvador is a Filipino writer. Her work has been recognized by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Columbia College Chicago, Trinity College – University of Melbourne, and Interlochen Arts Academy, and has been published by Homology LitL’Ephemere Review, and Occulum among others. In her spare time, she creates lists, watches sci-fi and horror movies, and rearranges her bookshelf. Find her on Twitter at @andreawhowrites.

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