Another way

Another way

When she closed the door to the gray room the outside light was cut off and only the reading lamp threw its cone on the table. She arranged the pillows, patted them up, and sat down. She leaned her head experimentally against the down pillow. She felt rather gay, as though she were going to a party. Gingerly, she fished the chain out from her bodice, unscrewed the little tube, and shook the capsule into her hand. She smiled at it.
“Eat me,” she said and put the capsule in her mouth.
She picked up the tea cup. “Drink me,” she said and swallowed the bitter cold tea. She forced her mind to stay on Alice—so tiny and waiting. Other faces peered in from the sides of her eyes—her father and moth er, and Charles, and Adam, and Samuel Hamilton, and then Aron, and she could see Cal smiling at her.
He didn’t have to speak. The glint of his eyes said, “You missed something. They had something and you missed it.” She thrust her mind back to Alice. In the gray wall opposite there was a nail hole. Alice would be in there. And she would put her arm around Cathy’s waist, and Cathy would put her arm around Alice’s waist, and they would walk away—best friends—and tiny as the head of a pin.
A warm numbness began to creep into her arms and legs. The pain was going from her hands. Her eyelids felt heavy—very heavy. She yawned.
She thought or said or thought, “Alice doesn’t know. I’m going right on past.”
Her eyes closed and a dizzy nausea shook her. She opened her eyes and stared about in terror. The gray room darkened and the cone of light flowed and rippled like water. And then her eyes closed again and her fingers curled as though they held small breasts. And her heart beat solemnly and her breathing slowed as she grew smaller and smaller and then disappeared—and she had never been.
John Steinbeck, East of Eden

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