The river was a fantasy, of course.
I tried the tap again, the image of water rushing through my head. This time a thin dribble struggled out. I let it collect in a bowl at the bottom of the sink and gazed out the only window in our apartment, but all I saw were the gray walls of towering buildings and the opaque gleam of the dome in the distance.
Sighing, I scratched at the bristles on my chin then picked up the bowl, brought it over to Sam and sat on the edge of our cot. He smiled up at me.
“C’mon,” I said. “Have a swallow.”
“I’ll be ready,” he said. “I won’t let you down.”
I smiled back now. “You never have.”
He drank, and then I dipped a corner of the cloth in the tiny puddle at the bottom of the bowl and rubbed it over his face. The sickness had come on him two days ago, some kind of virus or bacteria in what remained of our water supply. I had gone out yesterday to find help. I had found only bodies. The blaze of our sun had seared through the dome. The air had been still, the stench of death growing with the weight of the heat. Now I wiped my husband’s cheek and chin and gave him the last dribble of water from the bowl.
“Jim . . . .”
I leaned close, felt his hot breath. I could feel the heat inside my own body now, surging against the heat outside. It would win. I was dying too.
“Tell me about the river.”
I didn’t know what the river looked like. I had never seen a river outside of pictures. But I imagined it now. I imagined a sky I’d never see and the grass I’d never lie on and the arms I’d never melt into under a warm, sweet sun.
“It’s loud,” I told him. “Thunderous. It’s blue and gray with white waves. It’s so cold it’ll take your breath away.”
His smile widened. “You take my breath away.”
“I’ll get you there, Sam. I promise.”
He nodded. “Just let me rest a minute. I’ll get up in a minute. We’ll find a way out.”
We were going to go a week ago. I’d heard a rumor of an exit under the dome through the almost empty aqueducts. But I’d made us wait. There had been too many patrols on the streets even then. Now there was nobody.
“I promise,” I whispered.
I kissed his smiling lips. He died that way. Then I lay down beside him and pulled him into my arms and prayed that I’d dream of that fantasy river and the grassy banks where I would lie with him forever.