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The Hour Glass

Marge Simon is an award-winning poet/writer, living in Ocala, Florida. Her works have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Abyss & Apex, New Myths, Silver Blade, Polu Texni, Crannog, JoCCA and numerous pro anthologies. She is a multiple Stoker winner and Grand Master Poet of the SF & F Poetry Association. She recently received the HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. Website: margesimon.com.

Their apartment building was very old. He had tended it a long time, knew every inch of brick and mortar. In the basement, the pulse of its heart. He kept it alive, though no other tenants will need it now. He kept it alive for this. Her body waited at his feet, wrapped in clean linen. His bride would never wish to be piled outside with so many other corpses, so close together.
For him, she exists a lifetime ago, a place on a green riverbank where she'd unwind her amber braid to lie with him. He recalled the day they decided to elope to America. It was the same day they first saw the hourglass. It was a magical afternoon, the sun filtering through the foliage had turned the rocks silver. Rising in the river mist, an hourglass appeared. It was balanced precariously on a stone, the sand at the top was going down unusually fast. When he reached to pick it up, it vanished.
"It could be a sign," she'd said. "Do you suppose it's warning us?" After a brief discussion, they agreed that indeed, it had meaning. War was coming nearer their village every day. It was time to leave. They were lucky, for the land they called home was devastated in the months following their departure. They found refuge in America, became citizens, found jobs and grew old together. But the warring across the sea continued.
In recent months, the enemy began using biological warfare. This time, the whole world went mad, spitting blood & rotting flesh. It was a pathogen without discrimination or cure. Yesterday, the vision of the hourglass appeared to them again. The sand in the top half was very, very low. Together, they watched as it ran out. Curiously, the sand in the bottom disappeared just before the vision itself. "Before, there was enough sand-time left for us. Now maybe it's about the world, and there is none left at all," he said. His love had nodded weakly. She didn't last through the night and he too was coughing bits of lung tissue.
Sometimes there are things in a person's life that defy explanation. Whose mystic timepiece was it? Did it belong to a benign goddess, or some prankster demon? It didn't really matter, they'd had a lifetime together, thanks to the glass. With a deep sigh, he lowered her corpse into the fire. Her ashes settled on his skin. He did not brush them away.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, October 3rd, 2022
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