Their silence was finally broken:
"Is this what you want?" she asked.
He didn't respond right away. He didn't know if he would have the courage to let the words fall from his lips. He opened his mouth, lips quaking, a gesture that he was going to respond. When his throat trembled, he closed his mouth once more. He wanted the silence back. He didn't want to feel the pain of his response, nor the humility of letting himself cry. He was supposed to be strong in this moment.
"I don't want you to die," he finally whispered.
Four years ago, Autumn Yester had been diagnosed with spinal cancer. After numorous surgeries, the doctors had made an unsettling discovery; Autumn's ailment was not simply cancer. It had combined with a bacteria to make it viral. It was the first case of its kind; Autumn was patient zero.
In her private room, Autumn moved her hand softly towards the glass that seperated her from the rest of the world and - most importantly - her husband. Ronald watched as time seemed to slow down, taking in her every movement.
The motion began at her wrist, with the beauty of a conductor's skill, leading her arm toward the cold barrier between them. Her fingers lifted up, inching towards the glass. Her index finger rose above all others, penetrating the air ahead. The angle between her forearm and bicept smoothly straighted, each moment lingering as a picture of grace in Ronald's mind.
Her fingers touched the glass.
Ronald did not move. He was afraid. He knew that this was the image that would haunt his memories of this moment. Grace and beauty even in the midst of seperation. She was reaching out to him, even though they both knew they could never touch again.
"Please," she asked.
Ronald stared. He did not know what to do now. He did not know how to support his wife, nor even what it meant to be a man.
Ronald and Autum were living in a hard time, chornologically. Many illnesses had cures or workarounds, but not all. People were living longer, but not always long enough. Life was heading toward immortality for humanity, but it wasn't quite there yet. Autumn's case was new and, as patient zero, she had been given two options:
"You can die," offered their doctor, "and donate your body to science. Or, we can place you in suspended animation. We'll be able to extract samples of your tissues as needed and, after we find a permant cure in other cases, we can revive you. We cannot estimate how many years will pass before we will bring you out, however."
That was when silence entered the room.
"It's a cruel hope," Ronald said. "I don't want you to die, but to simply freeze you... what happens when you wake up? What if it's twenty years from now? You'll still be you... but I'll be older. Life will continue for me. What if it's longer?"
"I'll still love you when I wake up," was her soft reply.
"Autumn. I may not be alive when you wake up."
Ronald hadn't moved. Autumn's hand, pressed against the clear glass slowly crept downward as gravity took hold. The weight of reality pressed upon her shoulders as she stiffened her back. Her arm grew tired and her wrist was weak. Her fingers no longer pressed against the glass as a means for embrace but instead struggled to keep her body held up.
She was about to crumble.
In a flurry of activity doctors and nurses rushed to sanitize themselves - and, perhaps more importantly, protect themselves - trying to break into her seclusion, but Autumn did not break contact from Ronald's eyes.
She fell to her knees, mustering her strength to say one final goodbye to this man she had loved so dearly...
but the words, they did not come.