11 December 2004
Roger Bilson had lived alone ever since his wife died. He sold the house a few years later and moved into a little apartment downtown, where he wasn't responsible for all the maintenance and had relatively easy access to all his necessities. The money from the house gave him a bit of a head start and the retirement checks kept him afloat, but the apartment was beginning to show the effects of his limited income and mobility. His armchair was ragged and vaguely brown, the pictures on the wall hadn't been dusted in at least five years, and the table next to the chair was covered in medications, remotes, and the containers from three tv dinners.
The pictures were old, but a close examination would reveal a significant gap. There was a remnant from his wedding, in 1938, but then nothing until the 1970s. Then assorted pictures of church events, retirement, and vacations all the way up until shortly before his wife's death. Then, nothing again.
The television was showing the nightly news with the volume cranked up. Roger still kept the station on for the national news, but had started to lose interest in the affairs of the rest of the nation some time ago. Besides, by the time Dan Rather came on, Roger was growing tired, and he would usually fall asleep in front of whatever came on after. As the latest news from Washington was being explained, Roger was in the restroom, brushing his teeth.
He looked up from rinsing his toothbrush and suddenly saw Alethea in the mirror, standing behind him. He screamed, dropped his toothbrush, and blinked, and she was gone. When he turned, he saw nothing. He held the edges of the sink tightly, staring at the mirror until he was certain there was nothing there. Once he had caught his breath and calmed down, he slowly turned and made his way back to the chair and his nightly medications.