Folies aux Deux
By Monika Rose
The two sisters, Jane and Dotty, were aligned in the mistaken perception that the world would end at any moment. They planned their lives towards death by placing companion rocking chairs near the fire. In a sense, they realized that they were still intact entities inside their flesh, but that this embodiment was a fleeting condition. They spoke a few words to one other, one in a low tone, and the other higher pitched, and quibbled over little things as weathered sisters did, sometimes. The reality of eventual impending doom remained unspoken and the silence spread.
The moment of death, however, had not come yet, so they remained quiet, their heads bent toward each other in the lamplight, their fingers dawdling over some project, like a crossword puzzle, a crocheted potholder, or even a jigsaw.
The two sisters clung to each other yet often found ways to push against their strong wills, to test their resolve. Both seemed to conceive the same sorts of ideas simultaneously, at times finishing each other’s sentences. They marveled at this junction when they shared their thoughts, which was a frequent occurrence in the evenings. They seemed to be of one mind regarding imminent death, yet they ran an ongoing debate. What they hoped to discover was not if the world would end, but the precise moment at which that fatal event would occur. And the method. Very important. They wanted to go out together, since they were the only ones in their family left to determine anything at all.
“We’re the last of the line, “ Jane started.
“Ditto,” said Dotty. “It stops with us.”
A sudden snap in the woodstove, a crackle, and then sparks, seemed to echo that sentiment.
“It’s a sign,” said Jane.
“Of fire. You know, I think the world will end in fire,” Dotty said, sitting in her ash rocker, moving it so it rocked gently.
“Ice,” Jane said. She rocked in syncopation with her sister’s to and fro, trying to get her feet warm in her fuzzy slippers.
“With fire, it’d be quick — ice would prolong everything so.”
“With ice, there’s a pleasant, gradual awareness of the going,” Jane said.
“While going numb, you mean — slowly.” Dotty shook her head and stopped rocking. “I think it will be fire.”
The debate fretted on under the burning lamp. The fire popped in the woodstove, startling both of them at once. The refrigerator hummed and ice cubes jumbled as they dropped down in the icemaker.
To be continued….
This story will appear in a short story collection in 2012.