Author : Suzanne Borchers

Wind ground sand into her eyes, nose, and lips. Her unprotected ears caught crystals of silica within their folds. Her eyes burned. She wanted to pick at the stubborn particles with her fingers but forced herself to wait. It would be pointless. She opened her mouth to call for him. Choking and spitting, no words came out.

She should have kept her mouth shut inside the bunker. She cringed remembering her shouted words. “How many times can you read that book? Why did you bring me to this forsaken hell hole? I hate this howling wind and noise! And do I have to do everything? When was the last time you checked the plants? Are you afraid to go outside? Say something!” Helpless, she had watched herself shouting louder and louder. So he had hesitated to check on the vegetation dome during a sandstorm–a hell storm of sand, dirt and stones. The dome could have waited until a less windy day. But she couldn’t keep her mouth shut. She had to open her mouth and drive him outside. And now she couldn’t open her mouth without breathing in sand.

She should have worn protective gear before she stepped out into the raging storm. Her suit hung beside his in the entryway. He had stormed out the door in anger and left behind his gear. Her words had shoved him outside.

Immediately sorry, she had swept out into the storm—unprotected, vulnerable. She squinted hard against the flying debris but he was gone. She bent over double into the wind forcing her feet down in the general direction of the dome. She was blown back against the bunker, the air knocked out of her. She gasped, sucking in a fistful of sand. Choking and sputtering, she emptied her lungs.

Why couldn’t she keep her mouth shut?

Maybe he was already in the dome. Maybe she would be able to hold him and feel his warmth. He would forgive her. He always forgave her outbursts. They would lie together and wait out the storm. There was enough water, and they would laugh about her quick-trigger tongue.

She turned again into the wind and clawed her way with one hand through the stinging hail of sand as she covered her mouth and nose with the other. She judged the length of each gust and set her feet squarely down between them toward the dome. The few feet to the building seemed to take a lifetime.

She fell on her face, coughing and spitting out sand. Her saliva was mud. What had she tripped over?

It was him—motionless and still. Tears coursed down her cheeks.

No! She needed him. She gripped his body and with all of her strength she moved him an inch. She squeezed her eyes to slits and saw a few more inches would get them to the door of the dome. She gritted her teeth, tasting the hard particles lodged in them, and pulled him to safety.

Once inside the dome, she rolled him over onto his back and felt for a pulse. “Don’t leave me!” she cried. She breathed air into his mouth and pushed his chest at intervals as she had been taught. When her breath was gone and sweat coated her face, arms, and legs, she stopped. He was gone. A sharp pain stabbed her heart.

She held him in silence except for the roaring wind and pelting sand.

How long would it be until her distress signals were answered—weeks, months, years? Never? How could she live? Who would listen to her stories? Who would laugh at her jokes?

Who would hold her and close her mouth with kisses?