It is the hour she dreads the most, when time stretches and madness creeps into the gaps between the ticking seconds. She switches on the late-night snooker on the TV—its flickering light and soothing voice her only defence against the darkness to come.
This is the time when Death comes for their nightly duel, creeping up the stairs, disguised in the likeness of her past regrets—her mother, her husband, her lover, her daughter. Tonight, it is her daughter who stalks her, purple-haired and purple-skinned and stinking of the grave, calling to her that it is time; that tonight will the the night of consequences at last.
“Not tonight,” she answers with an old woman’s ragged breath, drawing on a stubbornness that has enabled her to outlive those far younger and stronger than she—but her daughter’s bloated corpse points to the suddenly silent TV, in whose treacherously blank screen she can see her reflection, slumped, unbreathing in her chair.
She wakes in horror, alone and heart hammering, to the comforting click of cue hitting ball—and remembers, all over again, why it is she so hates 3am.