ONE MONTH LATER
For the hundredth time I reach inside my jacket and check that the box is still there. It is, nestling in the breast pocket of my shirt, heavy against my heart. Reassured, I take Sharon's hand and lead her across the car park to the restaurant door.
Tonight is the night. After weeks, after months of working myself up to it. Tonight's the night I ask her to marry me.
Inside the place is dimly lit. There's a scent of candles and wine. A waiter shows us to our table, takes our order, brings us drinks. Sharon is talking, telling me something about her day. I can barely hear her. Everything around us is strange, muffled. Time is flying by so fast. We're eating and then our plates are empty. And then it is the moment, there's no delaying any further. I feel myself stand up and move around the table to her.
I kneel down. I feel my mouth move, but I don't hear the sound that comes out. I fumble inside my jacket for the ring.
Everyone is watching. I'm aware of the noise from the kitchen, the stares, the smiles. I'm aware of Sharon. She's so beautiful. I remember the first time I saw her...
And, "yes," she says. She's nodding and crying. She's so happy.
There's a loud bang, from over by the doors. Something's wrong. This isn't how it's supposed to go. Creatures are pouring into the restaurant, huge and bone-white and unreal. Everyone is applauding and Sharon and me are kissing and even as we do the Creatures are picking up the diners and ripping them apart. The doors to the kitchen fly open and a Worm comes slithering out, nosing blind through the crowded restaurant, knocking people and tables and chairs aside. It rears up, opens its mouth. The Creatures are everywhere. They're throwing morsels of food to the Worm. Arms and legs. Heads. Whole limp bodies flung up and into that gaping, all-consuming mouth.
I pull away from Sharon. Suddenly, she's covered in blood. Her mouth makes the shape of my name. And then she's snatched away from me, lifted up into the air. And I'm not in a restaurant anymore, but in a street, surrounded by smoke and ash, watching, as Sharon dangles above the mouth of the Worm.
I breathe dust. I hear her screaming. And I know it's coming. I know what's going to happen next.
The Creature lets her fall...
And then, right at that moment, right at that terrible second I come awake, screaming, cold with sweat. It's daytime. I'm in a bedroom. It is thirty days since the meteors fell.
Just like every day, the first thing I do is seize the pistol from beside me on the bed and jam it against my chin.