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The Promise

David Afsharirad is the editor of the anthology series The Year's Best Military and Adventure Science Fiction, from Baen Books. A graduate of North Carolina State's MFA in creative writing program, his fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Space and Time Magazine, SpeckLit, and Anthology from Another Dimension. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and son.
Catherine shifted in the silk nightgown, worried that it was too much, too over-the-top-Romantic with a capital R. Floor-length and sheer, it made her look like something out of an old-timey movie. But it was periwinkle blue and cornflower yellow, the same as their wedding colors, and if she was honest with herself, she loved it. And because she loved it, Jim would love it too.
She wanted this night to be perfect. The past seven months had been difficult, with the time they'd been forced to spend apart after her accident. Now, they'd finally be together once again--and so of course he had to work late. Well, the anticipation would make tonight that much more special. She cast her mind back to that day, one year ago exactly, when they'd stood at the altar and exchanged the vows they'd each written. Hers had been corny--more jokey than anything. But Jim's...
She thought of his closing words, so terribly romantic. Our love is our power, my Catherine. The power to do whatever it takes for each other. Never failing. Through all eternity, till death and after. This I promise. Then, in a whisper meant just for her, I promise.
They'd kissed, even though the minister hadn't said to yet, and the congregation had erupted into applause and happy laughter.
A sound of keys in the lock.
Catherine shut off the light and climbed hurriedly into bed. She listened, breathless, as Jim's footsteps echoed in the hallway. He pushed open the bedroom door. Light spilled into the room and Catherine watched as Jim's face contorted into a grimace, his eyes wide.
Catherine sat up in bed, the sheet falling to her waist. "Sweetie, what's wrong?"
Jim dropped his keys. "Oh, God," he said. "Oh--"
Catherine reached out to him, her arms black with rot, bones poking through putrefied skin turned to jelly by seven months in the grave.
Jim shrank back, his face saying it all, and Catherine felt what was left of her heart break. A single, black tear trickled down her ruined face.
"But Darling," she said. "You promised."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, March 29th, 2016


I grew up watching old television programs. Two of my favorites were Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. When I got a little older, I discovered Tales from the Crypt, Rod Serling's Night Gallery, and Thriller, hosted by Boris Karloff. This story is an attempt to capture some of the macabre magic of those television programs from a bygone era.

- David Afsharirad

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