She keeps coughing but doesn’t turn so you walk around the table.
Her face is a snow-covered tarmac. Her face is deconstructed Christmas lights flashing in a field of darkness. Her face is a plane taking off and you are on it. You see the glittering gold and silver chainmaille jewelry of the city.
You see every person you’ve loved, every person you’ve lost, every person you’ve left, every ghost you haunt. Their faces flash, one after another, sliding into the next, face after face, descending and taxiing down the lit-up runway in the opposite direction of the plane you’re on. You press your face against the small oval window, twist your head to follow them.
But they are gone and all that’s left is a blinking white strobe, followed by orange lightning revealing the plane’s wing. Blinking white. Flashing orange. Blinking white. Flashing orange.
Your head is throbbing in unison. White. ORANGE. Tap. TAP. White ORANGE. Tap. TAP. You reach back and touch the lump. It’s bigger, more tender. Something sharp pushes against the skin with every TAP. Is something alive in there? You drop your hand, repulsed.
Your ears are clogged. The coughing sound is amplified, deafening. The white strobe starts blinking furiously. The pulsing in your head keeps pace. TAP TAP TAP TAP TAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAP.
Darkness. The coughing stops. The tapping stops. You’re afraid to touch your head. Something wet drips onto the back of your neck.
You’re in the kitchen again. The woman’s face comes into focus. It’s a blank screen. A faint electrical humming sound is coming from it. Where the mouth should be is a coin slot.
Blinking green letters appear:
GAME OVER. INSERT TOKEN TO PLAY AGAIN.
You look around. There are two tokens you’ve never seen before on your kitchen table.