She must have a fever, because all the ice has melted long before it should. The water is oily, sweaty, nothing restorative here. She comes to before she should. And hot. Like, sunspot hot.

The man is still in bathroom, scrawling a message on the mirror. He’s using her lipstick, the dusk rose floating between him and the reflected world.

Something about the “basic responsibility to our species.”

It reads real greedy. It smells like death and bullshit.

He’s engrossed, doesn’t hear the sloshing as she begins to pull herself from the tepid bath. The room swims like the reflection of her naked body in the water’s surface. Right around the middle, her middle, she can feel where she’s been broken open and drained. Thick and black, the blood pulses slowly from the ragged sutures.

It’s hackwork.

She groans. He turns.

“Shouldn’t it say,” she winces, but forces herself up. “If you want to live, call 911?”

The man smiles. He places the lipstick down. “I think we both know that’s not going to do any good.” Shrugging, he abandons his handiwork and walks into the hotel bedroom.

She follows, spinning, clutching for support at the towel rack, the counter. Anything to stabilize this path she’s headed down.

It doesn’t work.

Her purse is empty on the bed. The man is putting on a suit, but not the same one he came upstairs in. This one is thick, off-white cloth, double-stitched like a straightjacket or a lead apron. It covers every inch.

“Where are you going?” she says.

“Out there.” He gestures vaguely towards the open balcony door and the night beyond. The black sky, shot through with pale pins of fire, hangs over the rooftops and horizon. “There are others like you,” he shrugs, “but younger, fresher.”

You can’t do this, she says or thinks. It’s getting harder to focus. She’s burning or melting or something even worse. Her knees give out and she’s down. Beyond her are the muffled clicks and zips as the man bundles up to go. Shaking her head she brings back her focus.

He’s putting on a helmet, a clear globe that distorts his face, makes him look hydrocephalic within the fishbowl. He raises his unwieldy glove to the visor. Blows her a kiss.

But you don’t kiss off this mother, she thinks.

She’s up and spinning, albeit off-kilter, moving across the room at sixty-seven thousand miles per hour.

He twists, but he’s too slow to escape her embrace.

And then they’re out past the balcony.

Instead of falling, though, they tumble straight out. Beyond the rooftops, towards the horizon, on a course to carry over the edge of everything.

He screams into the echo chamber of his helmet, but no sound escapes. She can only see his hot moist breath condensing in the helmet, a false protective barrier like a layer of clouds.

Already her eyes are dimming. She finally starts to feel cool again.

Cold comfort.

####

Gordon White lives in New York. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in venues such as Dark Fuse’s Horror d’oeuvres; Cease, Cows!; Halloween Forevermore, and the anthology Wrapped in Black. He also conducts interviews for Hellnotes and its affiliated horror websites.