You must use the injector, he said, if I’m not here when it happens. She’ll just go to sleep; she won’t feel a thing. Promise me you’ll use it. And I promised. Of course. Of course I will.

At first I carried it with me, room to room—next to the crib while she slept, tucked into the pocket of the child wrap while I snugged her to my hip to do the shopping. But this is the funny thing: that the shopping still needs doing, here at the end of the world. We eat, we work, we clean the toilets. And it’s been so long since they said we were doomed that we took the side off the crib (she’d learned to climb over!), and her baby babble became discrete: mama, dada, baba. At some point, I stopped carrying the injector. Let it perch, dusty, on the high shelf.

Tonight, we have finished dinner, she and I—peas and chicken—and he’s still at work. Alexa sings nursery rhymes to her in the playroom while I tidy the kitchen. I take the trash out and stop to marvel. The sun has just set, and the fading orange of the sunset blends into white and indigo: deep, velvety, clear. I toss the trash in the bin and turn to go in, but something is nagging, and I look to the sunset again. The orange is creeping up now, growing, as if the sun will rise again, and then it does, blinding bright and—


Is it here, now? Is it now? After all this waiting, now?

I walk back in on unsteady legs, scoop up my heart in shaking hands. I hold her close, no space between us, and murmur nonsense words while we pace the house. Where to go? How is it I never chose? Passing her room, I grab the injector from her shelf, grasping it so tightly I can feel its ridges in my palm.

We settle on my bed. I’m still talking, softly. Here, sweet, it’s all right, I’ve got you, all fine, my love, my lovey. There is still no sound of what is coming, but the air feels strange, charged, hard to breathe. Or maybe it’s me, some cocktail of cortisol and adrenaline prickling my skin and sending ozone into my nostrils. I fumble the cap off the injector with a trembling thumb and press the hole to her sweet thigh, her dimpled, fat, marvelous thigh.

Just click it. It will shoot by itself, he’d said when we opened the box. Show me you can click it.

But now, thumb hovering: What if it’s a false alarm? A whooshing sound, a pop, a bright light skipping over, and us safe in our bed, and the next day we rise and eat cornflakes and go to work and talk about it, yes, wasn’t that something, really thought we’d had it! and laugh—

She squirms against the injector and I drop it, rubbing against the red circle I’d made by pressing, murmuring sorries, stroking her downy hair, breathing in her warmth. I smile at her, a reassuring smile, and lose myself in her eyes. Pools as deep and wide as forever, her little face with its dewy perfect skin and snub nose and red lips so plump and smooth and surely no child ever had such lips.

We sit that way, we two, my arms and legs wrapping her in my lap, as the fine hairs on my arms and on her head start to rise, and now there is a quiet hum, and pressure in our ears, and we are—