"Take that shit off!" he growled. His massive hand, at least compared to her face, to all of her, covered the fabric that covered her nose and mouth. Her huge eyes regarded him with equal parts fear and contempt.
He gripped and pulled, the straps of the mask raked over her ears, his palm pulled at her lips and she feared he’d pull them off her face. They slipped back but remained sore.
Their relationship had been in a death spiral since the election. Politics was always a fence between them that made for lively conversation. But that fence became a big ugly wall. She should have left a long time ago, she finally mustered up the courage.
Nowhere to go.
He threw the mask out the window and coughed hard. She knew the air in his lungs hit her because she could smell the cheeseburger he ate an hour before. He hadn’t felt well, feared the worst and now she was afraid the microscopic demons were working their way down her throat.
He got out of the truck and walked towards the beer distributor, his red cap bobbing as he limped across the lot.
He had his hip replaced five years ago. He lost his job four years ago but that’s OK, he got disability. His liver shouldn't have much longer. How could it? For a few days he hasn’t been able to taste the eight cases of beer he drank per week, or smell the bottle of cheap Thunderbird whiskey he swilled every weekend.
She lost her job last week, cuts due to the economy, due to Covid. “Guess I’ll have to support your lazy ass now!” he snickered. Never mind the unemployment she got, more than she made at the job. “Socialist money don’t count!”
Weeks oozed by, his breathing was ragged, she could hear his lungs expanding like a paper bag. That made her happy, but the fact she developed a headache and could no longer taste or smell took that joy away. At least she could now partake of the Thunderbird without dry heaving from the smell. When she started that medicine a fifth lasted only the day, so she started buying liters, then handles. Thank goodness the liquor store was the only thing open. She even went in without a mask, nobody else in there wore one, she didn't feel out of place.
Days went by, his symptoms got worse. He got worse, how that was possible she didn’t know. Life was an unending nightmare, a repeating storm of quiet horror.
She had a friend who liked to read, she was smart, but she still worked at a bar. She talked about a play her sister took her too, basically a bunch of people stuck in a room for all eternity. The afterlife. Hell. Hell is other people, was the punch line to the story.
Hell is other people.
Hell is the world, my apartment is my pit, and my husband is Satan.
Symptoms of Covid-19; hatred, boredom, alcoholism, despair, depression, mind-numbing hopelessness, and in some cases a severe rotting in Hell.
She took multiple showers a day just for something to do.
He stopped showering altogether.
“Need summa that!” he declared now and then. Sex. Since the pandemic, since the extra hard drinking he’d pass out after a minute or two. Usually. She was watching some movie she never heard of starring no one. The crunching of an empty beer can and a sick belch echoed behind her. “Come on!” he said.
He somehow lifted his growing self out of the chair and walked over to the couch where she sat, unbuckling his belt. She didn’t protest, it’d be over in a minute.
“Take it off and turn over,” he said wheezing.
She pulled off her shirt and sweatpants. At first she was ashamed, she put on a few pounds in this isolation. But he disrobed and his once husky build evolved to a mass of rolls and hair.
She reached over and drained her glass of Thunderbird.
“Come on!” The one consolation he liked her from behind, she wouldn’t have to look at him. She laid face down on the couch and he laid on top of her, almost his entire weight, as he didn’t have the strength to support himself. As he crushed her he found his way inside and grunted. His hips moved fast and hard, more force than he has used in a long time, more force than he should be able to use with what was sure to be a virus ridden body.
He shook and came inside her. He half grunted half yelped, then began a violent coughing fit, spit and diseased breath covered her face.
He got off of her and fell to the floor, to his hands and knees. He crawled to the bathroom coughing the entire way.
The coughing became louder and harder, more like a piece of wood smacking against drywall, then a desperate moan followed by a sharp intake of breath and coughing.
She sat up and poured more Thunderbird. She drank and listened to the symphony of misery in the bathroom; coughing, moaning, breathing, then some crying.
“Jess!” he called out in desperation. He hasn’t said her name in months. “Jess!” he managed between coughs.
She wasn’t sure how long it went on, three glasses of the cheap whiskey anyway. At some point she realized it was quiet.
She got up and stumbled to the bathroom. A trail of blood started in the living room. It got thicker the closer she got to the bathroom. The linoleum floor was smeared with it.
His body was tucked in the corner of the bathroom, on the floor between the toilet and the wall. Blood trailed from his mouth all down his bloated naked front; his eyes were open, he wasn’t moving or breathing.
She didn’t care.
She had to pee, that was the only bathroom. She walked to the toilet and saw blood in the water. She sat and added to it, his thick white foot with too long nails, black tipped from grit and dirt, too close to hers. She wiped and flushed and stumbled back to the couch.
More Thunderbird. She fell back asleep on the couch, the droning of the movie receding.
In her mind she was still naked looking down at him. He was still, covered in blood, but his eyes moved in his immobile head. They found hers. His mouth began moving, barely; “I’m behind you,” it whispered.
She turned and a man stood there, not him. The man was handsome, he wore a beautiful dark suit and a black crown upon his head.
“I am the flood!” he proclaim in a voice deep and strong. “I am the Plague! I am the Perfector!”
She saw herself, naked, a black crown upon her head. She lifted her arms in rapture.
White light flashed and then cool darkness, nothing but beautiful darkness.
The police were called when the smell invaded the walls of the neighbors. They found her lying on the couch, dead of a heart attack, blood vessel damage due to the virus. He was in the bathroom, drowned in his own blood and fluids.