Poor Grace, Peter thought as she wept beside his body. She'd been talking, as they still did after fifty years of marriage. And he'd been listening. She'd been discussing Doris' new haircut and how a sliver of carrot had stuck to her upper lip over lunch when he tripped.
He should have thought that closing his eyes, just so he could imagine her words a little better, would eventually end up with him lying on his back with strangers hovering over him, speaking about him as if he wasn't there anymore. Perhaps he wasn't. Perhaps this was death. But he could feel the coldness of the winter day seeping through to his bones and the recent rain soaking into his clothes.
So this wasn't death. This was still the prologue.
In this part of the prologue, the protagonist prolapsed his spine. And the audience laughed, only it hurt to laugh. Bone splintering deep inside something.
A woman was consoling Grace whilst another talked about how he'd been sleepwalking. "It was as if he was on autopilot," she'd said.
Someone was touching him, and it wasn't Grace. She was too immersed in her own grief to realise that he was still alive, still capable of seeing her tears and wanting to, needing to scream to her and the others that he wasn't dead, that a pain inside his head prevented him from blinking. Every time he tried to close his eyes, a terror shot through him it would be the last time he would, so he clung to the dimming afternoon light. He needed the prologue to last a little longer. For her sake.