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“Do you think they miss us?”

She nodded, “Oh I’m sure they do. But I always pray that they hear me when I say I’ll be there soon enough. You should do the same.”

She was speaking of her husband and sons, good men all as he’d seen upon meeting them. They weren’t the only ones that had been somehow forced to keep coming back to this place, but with each recounting, with each passing, there had been fewer and fewer. To date there were less than three hundred souls left on this strip of land so far to the west, as though the world had been emptying slowly, gradually, and without cease.

But the power stayed on, the utilities all still worked, even the garbage seemed to disappear when it was supposed to, though no one ever saw it being taken. Something, or someone, was keeping this place in the same order it had been kept for so long, but they either weren’t aware of it or weren’t allowed to see it for some reason.

“I keep hoping my girls will know I’m coming one of these days.”

“I’m sure they do,” she replied with a smile, “C’mon, now that you’re back the rest of us have decided to try something.”

He turned as she began to walk away, reaching for him with one hand, “What?”

“Just come on,” she said, waving her hand to urge him on, “Give a lady an arm to hold onto. Without my hubby here you’ll have to be next best thing to a man I can rely on.”

She said this with a grin to show she wasn’t serious, but he grumbled in a good-natured way all the same, putting his hands in the front pocket of his own sweatshirt, leaving an opening between his right arm and body to let her slip her arm through as they began to walk together. There was intimacy here, but it had never gone beyond friendship, and they both knew it never would. That was in its own way more comforting than anything that had been happening for the last 43 times this had happened.

(to be continued)

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