He found her slumped against the wall in the living room, clutching her arm and surrounded by the monsters she had slain.
She looked up when she saw him, and a brief smile touched her lips before a wince took it away.
“Are you okay?” He asked, and he could barely hear her response over the chorus of voices in his head.
“I would’ve come out of the house like we planned if I was fine.” She said and adjusted her position. Her teeth clamped together and her eyes shut tight as a spasm of pain hit her, and she sat there like that and waited until it subsided. He watched her helplessly.
“It’s spreading.” She said, opening her eyes.
“Let me see.” He knelt next to her side, and he gently peeled her hand away from her arm.
They both sucked in a breath at the same time. The bite was just above her elbow, and the blood surrounding the broken skin was red but tinted purple.
“It’s not blue yet.” She said, “We can still talk for a bit.”
“There has to be something I can do-”
“There isn’t.” She covered her wound again. “Let’s just talk until you have to leave, okay?”
“But I could’ve come in with you-”
“There’s no point.” She snapped, then took a deep breath. “Sorry. I just meant, what’s done is done. And you’re not infected, so our plan worked out. One of us lives on. It was my turn to go and look for supplies, so I got infected. Please, can we just talk?”
“Yeah.” He sat against the wall with her, careful to avoid the splatters of blue blood that pooled on the floor. Even after months of killing the monsters, his brain refused to register their blood as blood. Blood was red. It wasn’t the icy blue that coated his shoes, that covered the bodies around them.
He remembered a conversation that they had a while ago. He had remarked on the strange coloring of their blood- It makes them easier to kill when they have blood like that.
She was mad. It’s not easy to kill them. They were once human like we are now.
He backtracked, trying to avoid an argument. I know, I’m just saying that our instincts say it’s wrong to kill humans, with red blood. We don’t register that as blood, on a base level.
It is wrong to kill. She said, and that was that.
“How are you feeling?” He asked her.
She chuckled. “What do you think?”
“Don’t apologize.” She sighed. “Tell me about last night. You’re a good storyteller, and I want to remember the stars.”
“You were there.” He protested.
“But the memory has faded. The feelings have faded. You can bring them back.” She looked at him, her chest rising and falling with her labored breathing.
“Okay.” He said and touched her shoulder. “But you have to stay with me for the whole story.”
“If my blood turns fully blue, you’re getting out of here, story or no story.” She warned him. “But we’re wasting time. Get on with it.”
“Is this how you want to spend your last moments?” He asked her.
“Yes.” She said, determinedly. “I want to spend it with you. I want to remember the stars, and the moment I realized I was in love with you. I want to spend my last moments remembering my humanity.”
He nodded solemnly and began his story.
“Last night, we found an old take-out place in the middle of the city. The two of us raided the back for non-perishables, and found a couple bins full of sauces, in little packets.
“We gathered the bins in our arms and climbed to the roof of the restaurant. The sun was setting, and it filtered through the broken glass on the ground. You said it looked like the sky had shattered and fallen to earth. I said that was very poetic. You punched me in the arm and I laughed, and then we played with the packets, stacking them into forts and a pyramid until we got bored. We then used them as snowballs, throwing them at each other and darting around the roof until it was too dark to see much, and then we sat on the edge of the roof.
“A lot of the lights were out, and over the past couple of months, air pollution had gone down. We could see the stars, twinkling specks of life that painted the dark sky above us. I held out my hand, and you put yours in it. We sat in silence, tired and awed by the galaxies we could see from the rooftop. We were so small, so insignificant. The monsters we could see in the distance didn't matter. Our entire struggle to survive was meaningless.”
“And then I looked at you, and the world came back into focus. It didn’t matter how big the sky was because you would always be a bigger part of my life. The cosmos may not care about you, but I did. I do. You are my everything. And as you looked back at me, the galaxies in your eyes, I knew that I wanted to kiss you.”
“And then you asked if you could kiss me.” She said.
“And then I asked if I could kiss you.” He nodded.
She made a little noise, and he looked at her. She smiled sadly at him and showed him the bite on her arm. The blood was fully purple now, and fading to blue.
“I love you.” She said, quietly.
“I love you, too.” He responded, and kissed her.
“I want to stay with you forever, love. But you have to go now.” She pulled away from the kiss and handed him her backpack.
His eyes filled with tears, and he kissed her on the cheek. “I can’t leave you.”
“You have to go.” She said softly. “Look, my blood is blue. You only have a couple minutes to get out of here.”
“Goodbye.” He said.
“Goodbye.” She whispered, and he left.