“Five minutes.” He slipped a wide ring on her middle finger and walked away.
After six months, she thought she knew him. Apparently not. Why did he wait so long, and what did he expect her to accomplish in only five minutes? She looked down at the ring, glinting in the sunshine. If everything he told her was true, then a lump of gold wouldn’t mean much in four more minutes.
She could chase him down. She should chase him down. Worse than giving her such a short time to cope with his news, he left her to do it alone. The thought made her want to slap him. He’d already disappeared around a bend in the path or she would have jumped up to do it.
“Kamira,” she said with a sigh. In three more minutes, it might be her new name. Wanting to talk with someone, she pulled her phone out and stared at it. What would she say, though? ‘Hi, my boyfriend just told me you’re about to die. He might be playing a sick joke, or he might have gone bonkers.’
With two minutes left, she tucked her phone away and stared out at the grass and flowers. Children swarmed over the playground with their parents hovering nearby. A young couple fussed over each other in the shade of a cedar tree. On another bench, an old man read the newspaper. Near the parking lot, another clot of children crowded around a cart selling ice cream bars.
In a minute, she’d find out if he lied when he said he loved her. She covered her eyes, to hide away from the horror to come. If it came. His story had been so far-fetched, and of all the billions of people on Earth, why pick her to survive? A scientist or historian would make more sense.
She heard a high-pitched scream and yanked her hands away, desperate to know. By the playground, she saw a parent rushing in to rescue her child. The ordinary disaster made her realize she’d been holding her breath. He lied, of course.
The heat finally got to her, and she pulled off her hat to fan herself with it. Another scream startled her, this one coming from the ice cream cart. Too far away to see, she had a thought to meander over and gawk, just to be sure. Languid from the heat, she barely moved.
Hands covered her eyes from behind. Cool breath on her neck made her shiver. “Don’t look,” he whispered. “I’d rather you not have to bear this memory.”
Lee French has published several fantasy and science fiction novels, and is a member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff