‘The Future Husband’ by A.J. Ashworth

In a very strong collection, this story resonated long after reading it, and still does, mainly due to its ambiguity and precision of language. And its setting: the Egyptian room of a museum, where the narrator watches a man, a stranger, peering into the glass case of a mummified woman, and fantasizes about a future life with him. That life includes illness on her part, tending on his.

It’s not clear whether she is actually ill, or even morbid, or whether she is identifying with the mummy, a transference of emotion to the object of his attention, and this is what gives it its uncanny power as she continues to observe him unseen until he leaves, when she tries to find his traces on the glass. She remains until closing time, when the man returns for a bag he left behind, apologizes and smiles as the guard announces time. But has he returned or is she still fantasizing?

First published in Crannog 25, October 2010, and collected in Somewhere Else, or Even Here, Salt, 2011