Greta didn’t have a key anymore to the old house, and though her parents lived far away from civilization and had nothing worth stealing, they kept their estate secure. She’d grown up in this unfamiliar place. As she waited for her mother to walk herself to the door, she looked across the wasted farmland to the nearest semblance of a landmark, the tombstones of her grandparents.
The door opened. “Oh it’s you,” her mother said, neither joyful or dismissive. Greta followed the pace of the walker to the back of the house and her father’s bed. His deathbed, soon enough. Her mother collapsed in her favorite chair, and though she didn’t sleep and hardly ever did, Greta felt like she was alone in the room with her dad. He wasn’t awake, but he was breathing. His breathing was loud and augmented by machines.
“You’ve never felt pain,” her mother said behind her, “so you don’t understand.”
Her dad had always snored, and it was strange to see him sleep without snarling. Now that he was quiet, she wanted to talk to him.
“We kept you comfortable all your life,” her mother said. “You never so much as scraped your knee. All you know about suffering is we made you brush your teeth, we made you eat broccoli. You were spoiled, child, spoiled rotten, and you never recovered.”
Greta grabbed her father’s hand, though she couldn’t remember touching him before. He had a warmth to him she didn’t expect, because he wasn’t yet dead. Machines were keeping him alive in a way he’d never been able to do himself.
“We never beat you like we should have. We loved you too much.”
Greta never beat her parents either. And soon it would be too late.