He drove into the evening, as the sun grew lower in the sky. He saw the land end and the sea begin. Then he saw the cottage there on the coast.
She stood outside the open door waiting for him. ‘You came?’ she said.
He nodded. ‘How could I not come?’ He turned to see the sun edge lower over the sea as the sky turned a deep orange.
She took his hand as they watched the sunset.
‘Are you sure it is tonight?’ He spoke without turning away from the sunset.
‘Yes,’ she said, also looking straight ahead. ‘They said tonight would be the night.’
Now he did turn to look at her, wondering what to say. He decided, in the end, not to say anything. Tomorrow would be all he needed. Once it arrived, everything would change and maybe Claire would go back to normal, how she used to be.
‘Listen, Steve,’ she said. ‘Whatever happens… tonight… and… afterwards. Well, remember that I still loved you.’
Steve looked at Claire. She was staring out at the sunset; her face glowed orange in the reflected sunlight. He could see tears on her cheeks.
‘So sad to think there will never be another one,’ Claire spoke softly.
‘Are you sure?’
She nodded. ‘That is what they told me.’
Steve nodded too. Until a few months ago, she had been the same Claire he’d married all those years ago. Then, something had changed. She’d told him that they had to be here, at the cottage, on this day at this time. And there could be no excuse, not this time. ‘It’s our last chance,’ she said.
It had taken him weeks to discover why she so insisted they should both be here, now. At first, he’d wanted her to speak to a doctor, a psychologist… then anyone, even her mother, rather than continue with her delusion.
Claire, though, had been adamant, insisting they were speaking to her, insisting they were speaking the truth, insisting that no, she wasn’t insane, even though there could be no other explanation. Most of all, though, Claire had insisted that he be with her this evening, here and now.
In the end, Steve had seen no other alternative but let her believe what she so needed to believe. He knew that in the morning, they would still be here waiting. Then he could do what he could do, what he had to do, to bring Claire back to the world where she actually lived.
She turned to him and smiled. ‘Now,’ she said.
‘Yes, now is the time for the world to end.’ Claire took his hand in hers and gripped it tightly.
Steve looked around and saw nothing had changed. He looked at Claire. She was looking behind him, beyond him, and smiling a smile of certainty.
‘Yes, now,’ she said. ‘Look they are here.’ With the hand that was not still holding his, she pointed behind him.
Steve turned and there, on the headland behind him, the three creatures stood by their ship waiting to take them both away from this dying planet.