Author: Michael Cavalli
The coffee was already on. They could hear the pot gurgling, could smell the process. His lips were curled slightly inward, hers were pursed as they waited. A dismal stillness emanated from them both.
White sheet pulled up nearly to his chest, he lay back with his neck pressed against the headboard of the queen-size bed. One hand rested on his stomach. The other softly stroked the stubble on his face. She sat at the foot of the bed in a robe the color of dark crimson with her legs crossed, and her arms.
It was dawn. Yellow light broke through the windows and illuminated the white décor of the high-rise suite. Outside in the world, the city was not waking, it had never slept.
The woman looked around at the pristine room. The carpet matched the ivory walls; even the countertops of the kitchenette shone with the color of new snow, bright white with a silver tinge. No object was out of place. Nothing was disturbed. She inhaled deeply and sighed, and her face darkened almost imperceptibly.
“Helen,” he said.
She turned and their eyes met and she reached out a hand, but pulled it back quickly and curled a troop of loose hanging hairs behind her ear. He cleared his throat. When she glanced up at the clock he knew what she was thinking but there was nothing to be said about it. He just lay there looking at her, taking in the chromatic contrast of her robe against the milky bedspread.
A little while later Helen rose and stepped quietly across the carpet to the tile. She pulled from the cabinet two small teacups and filled them with coffee. As she did it she saw that her husband took no notice of her now, immersed in his thoughts.
“Here,” she whispered a moment later, and he took the cup in his hands.
Sitting up, he turned to look out the window, sipping the steaming dark substance and catching a glimpse of a black dot flitting by. In the distance, more of them poured out of the undulating hole near the clouds: countless mechanized troopers conscious only of their mission. He took another sip, then one more, and started to fidget his foot. He looked at Helen. She was staring mutely at the coffee in her cup.
“The door’s locked?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
He looked out the window again. Several blocks away was the skyscraper with the big television on it. A message scrolled across the screen in multiple languages ordering people to stay inside. Empty vehicles littered the streets, even the bridge, and the river was tinted red with blood left over from last night’s massacre. The sidewalks, alleys and byways were filled with invaders going from building to building. There wasn’t much time left. There was nowhere to run.
So they waited.