SIDE BY SIDE • by Arlen Feldman

How could anyone sleep through that? He sounded like an asthmatic chainsaw. The sound wasn’t the worst of it, though. It was those gaps, when the sound ceased, where she hoped that maybe, just maybe he’d stopped — snoring, breathing. Existing. And then it would begin again.

She wrapped her pillow around her head, knowing that it would do no good. At one point, back when she’d loved him, she’d somehow managed to put up with it, managed to sleep. It also hadn’t been as bad back then — it couldn’t possibly have been, could it? He’d probably figured out some way to make it worse. Guzzling milk before bed or something.


He woke up shivering. She’d taken the comforter again. It was now wrapped tightly around her. She was fast asleep, her mouth open. He could try to get the blanket back, but that would wake her up — and that would be worse. She snorted and turned again, pulling the comforter even further away.

He’d asked if they could have an extra comforter or even just a blanket on the bed. Too untidy, she’d said. Like she cared about that. She had to know she always did this — she wakes up with the whole thing, after all. Denying him another blanket was just a subtle little cruelty to add to all of the others.

He got up and grabbed his dressing gown, then lay back down, using the thing as a blanket as best he could.


She looked over at him. He was lying under his dressing gown, trying to make her feel guilty about the comforter again. As if that would work after everything he’d put her through. And now he was snoring again, the sound driving straight into her skull. She would have divorced the bastard, but then she’d lose everything — her house, her friends.

Unbidden, the idea popped back into her head. She hadn’t googled it, but she’d read about it in her mystery novels. Potassium chloride. You inject it, and it looks like a heart attack. You could buy the stuff at the grocery store. She still had those needles from when Wuddles had that kidney infection. The dog hadn’t made it, but she’d stored the supplies, just in case.

She fell back asleep dreaming of the joy of widowhood. Her last conscious thought was that he was lucky her dreams wouldn’t come true. Her unconscious mind, however, was not so restrained. It grew stronger and more solid as it recalled each of his loathsome acts. Leaving its original host to her slumber, it went out to explore the house with ill intent.


There was no way that this was an accident. Now she’d taken the dressing gown and wrapped it around herself along with the comforter. Taken it like she’d taken everything else. He could divorce her, but he refused to give her the satisfaction. No way was she walking away with half of everything he’d earned.

It took an actual act of will to not take one of the pillows and press it down over her smug, hated face. In his dreams, he’d done it a hundred times. Oh, if only he could be finally free.

He grabbed a towel from the bathroom, and covered himself with it as best he could. Shivering, he tried to get back to sleep.

His dream self separated itself from him, annoyed at hers wandering so far afield. It watched her spirit-self fade through the wall, and made a rude gesture at its back.

It was too cold to go far, but it looked around the bedroom with interest.


She lay there unnaturally still, staring at nothing. Petechial hemorrhaging was the term that the medical examiner would eventually use to describe her bloodshot eyes. Suffocation, probably with a pillow, was what he would list as cause of death.

But not with any of the pillows on the bed, or in the house. They would test them all.


He lay curled up under his towel, unmoving. Heart attack caused by an injection of potassium chloride. An oldy but a goody, the ME would say. Someone had been reading old detective stories. It had been decades since anyone had got away with that one. The injection mark on the neck was as clear as day.

Of course, they hadn’t found the needle that was used.


She would almost have been able to rest, lying there in the cozy darkness, except she knew that he was only a few feet away, lying in his own coffin.

She would never forgive her parents. They knew how she felt about him, but still, they’d been buried next to each other with a shared monument. She didn’t even get a gravestone to herself.

Perhaps it was her imagination, but she almost thought she could hear snoring.


His coffin was quite pleasant, with silk lining and a comfortable pillow. More comfortable than that damned bed. He felt the tension pour out of him. He was more relaxed now than he could ever remember being while alive. Let her try and get this blanket.

Arlen Feldman, in addition to writing fiction, is a software engineer, entrepreneur, maker, and computer book author. Some recent stories of his appear in Metaphorosis, Ink Stains, The Literary Hatchet, and the anthology Transcendent. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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