by Chris Allinotte
Grace jerked awake, gasping for air. In her dream, she'd been trapped in a burning house and acrid smoke had choked off her breath.
She started coughing. Coughing became retching. The air in the living room was a stinking red miasma, swirling along the floor in unwholesome eddies. It smelled of metal, and something else – something familiar.
Cupping a hand to her mouth, Grace took a tiny sip of air. Again her body rejected the vapour as useless. Her chest began to throb. It was like being under water with no view to the surface. The fog was oppressively humid, but she was shivering.
The ceiling track lights had become hectic yellow beacons in the mist. Grace stood up on the sofa, following their glow. The cloud was a little thinner away from the floor.
She inhaled again, coughed again. Still no good. Her lungs were a throbbing blue agony. Grey and purple sparks danced before her eyes. Up ahead, the living room door swam into view. With lurching, desperate steps, Grace charged for the blackness.
She stumbled through the door and the mist was gone. With a single, painful whoop, Grace filled her lungs. The swampy, fetid air tasted awful, and wonderful.
When she looked back into the room, through its curtain of red, the air escaped her in rush.
Memories flooded in to take its place: Alan, accusations, tears,
screaming, and finally, the shotgun.
After one final moment, Grace turned, and stepped gratefully into the welcoming dark.