Cisca knew her life was over, but there was no time to fret: she had one last thing to do before the end. There was a lot she should have done by then: swimming naked in the thermal pools of Reykjavik with that elusive boyfriend she never went travelling with; finishing her Visual Arts degree, not because of the promise she had made to her mother, now broken, but because she had really enjoyed it; kissing many more men - and women, why not; soft and chastely on the lips, or with tongue, wet in the excitement of passion. Now it was too late for all of that. But for this last thing, for this she was going to make the time. She was going to choose, at last, for once, all by herself.
It was a rainy, cold evening in March. Cisca took the bus from the town centre. She gazed through the glass windows at people in the streets passing, going places; they seem detached, remote, unreal. Some were drunk and merry, some carried their head down and stared at the pavement like zombies. What grudges would they hold, she wondered, if suddenly they were told they had ran out of time? Like she had been told. Would they be scared or brave, would they tell or spare their relatives, would they blame God, or themselves, or others. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of the only other person in the bus. It was a very old man, asleep under a woolly hat. He was snoring away, lulled by the under-seat heating, the motion, and the gentle roaring of the bus engine. Disgusting, she thought. The bus had stopped at the traffic lights. When her eyes returned to the outside, they met a man’s who was waiting to cross. He smiled at her, waved his right arm. On his left one, he carried shopping bags; one from Toys ‘R’ Us. Cisca rushed a half smile and looked away, pulling the rim of her skirt down with her pale, withered hands. Damned happy people! They are everywhere!
A good half hour later, she got off. It was the last stop. She walked through a narrow lane, lined up with sycamores. At the end of the lane, there was an even narrower path leading to a number of terraced houses. Cisca stopped there, breathed in and out, unsure. Suddenly she wanted to turn around and run. Run home to her bed and lie there until the moment came. She was only thirty. She was only a woman. She was only human. The pain had helped make up her mind, though; it sprang out of her in waves, gnawing at her insides like a famished dog at a tender T-bone. It was exhausting. And those who love her, of course, her mum and dad, her younger sister Christine, her friends; she didn’t want them waiting endlessly for her to go, whenever that was to happen. This time, at least, she had the opportunity to take control.
She passed one, two, three, four, five, and six houses. Outside the seventh and last house, Cisca stood shaking. The front gate was sanguine with rust; the façade was a mucky white. She pushed the gate open and went through, rubbing the red off her hands onto her coat. It’s so quiet in here. It was bitterly cold but the wind felt gentle on her cheeks. Cisca flicked a lock of hair from her eyes and straightened herself up. This is it, she said to herself, I am early for once. She walked to the front door, sighed, and knocked on the tainted glass pane. A misty, white light was turned on inside. The door opened so slowly that she grew impatient. But when she finally stepped into the pool of light, out to greet her came the fresh smell of steaming geysers, and oil on canvas, and her boyfriend’s minty breath.