“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust”

March 27, 2019


A short story by Neo Patel ’20

Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.

That’s all I could think about as I stood on the barren field. The scent of smoke infiltrated my nostrils. My skin tingled every time a spark of the flames touched me. I looked up at the smoke-filled sky; the grey clouds moved at a slow pace. I couldn’t say a thing, and all that came out was a single tear. I reached up and touched my cheek. In the warm atmosphere, my tear felt cold.

****************

It was like any other Friday: Get ready, go to work, and hang out with friends. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling of despair that day.

“You good, bro?” Antonio walked into my cubicle. I leaned back in my chair and turned around.

“Hey, Ant.” He hated it when I called him that. He preferred Tony. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“You’ve been looking down all day, and I’ve been hearing sighs too.” Ant had the cubicle right next to me, and he was practically my best friend. “I know what’ll cheer you up. Let’s go to that café we’ve always wanted to go to.”

“Do you mean Firestorm? The one that heats their coffee with a blowtorch?” He nodded. “Sure, but there isn’t a need to cheer me up, I’m fine.”

“Sure.” He started walking away. “Talk to you after work.”

The rest of the day was relatively calm. I met up with Ant at five, when work ended. He said he’d invited over some other people and asked if I was cool with it. I honestly didn’t care. We sat and ordered some coffee, since the people he had invited hadn’t come in yet. We talked about plans for the weekend. I told him I was just planning to stay at home. Ant was an extrovert, while I was an introvert. Not sure why I hung out with him; he was just entertaining, I guess. A few moments later, two girls walked in. Ant stood up and greeted them. He kissed the one on the left and introduced himself to the one on the right and offered his hand.

“Hey, I’m Ant.” She took his hand.

“Jessi. Nice to meet you.” My back shivered. I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to mean. I decided to get up and introduce myself. She took my hand and gave a similar response. The moment our hands touched, my vision blurred, and everything had a red tint for a second. My mouth got dry.

“I think I’m getting sick.” They laughed. As soon as I let go of her hand, my senses went back to normal.

“Never heard that pick up line before.” The group erupted in laughter. “I’m Gayle.” The other woman finally introduced herself. I introduced myself in turn. I decided to ignore what had just happened.

“This is the one I was telling you about,” said Ant. He wasn’t wrong; I remembered the name Gayle popping up in conversations before, and he’d told me about someone he was dating for three months. We sat and they ordered things. I still couldn’t shake the weird feeling I had. We made sweet talk and talked about hobbies. It took me about half an hour to realize that Ant was trying to set me up. I asked him about that when the girls had gone to the bathroom, and I was right. I sighed. I had fallen into his trap again–this wasn’t the first time. Yet this time was a little different. I started to like this girl. As soon as that thought came into my mind, it seemed as if my vision glitched.

We paid the bill and left. On the way back, Ant and Gayle were further up front, while me and Jessi hung back. When she reached out with her hand, I reached out and grabbed her hand. I looked at her and saw her blush. Suddenly, there were butterflies in my stomach, and not the cute, ditzy, I’m-in-love kind. It felt like I had been launched up into space and was being absorbed by a black hole. My vision blurred again.

When my vision cleared, I was sitting at a table. I looked down. I was in a fancy suit. I looked around to see that I was in a restaurant that was way too far above my pay grade. A beautiful girl who looked awfully familiar sat in front of me. She was in a red dress.

“Are you feeling okay? You seem like you’re lost.” She put her hand on mine from across the table. I internally panicked. I didn’t want to go through that again. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I didn’t enjoy it.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I checked my pockets for my wallet and found my ID. Twenty-five! Did I skip three years of my life? I decided to act normal. I hadn’t been in a coma, otherwise the girl wouldn’t have brought me out here. I continued on with the dinner. I had to find out who she was and why I was here. I dug a little further in my wallet, looking for any possible clues. I found a photo of me and the girl that sat in front of me. It had “First Anniversary” written on it. I finally recognized the girl. It was Jessi, the one Ant had introduced to me. I looked on its back to see if there was a date. I got an idea and checked the date: Monday the 25th of January, 2016. It had been exactly three years! None of it made any sense. The waiter came with two glasses of champagne.

“You’ve been out of it quite a bit today. Are you sure you’re okay?” She took a sip. Before I could answer, she laughed. “I see now.” She pulled a ring out of the glass and showed it to me. I almost spit out my champagne. “I knew you’d do something cheesy like this. It’s just like you.” Okay, let’s get this cleared up. I’ve been dating this girl for three years, but I can’t remember anything but the first time we met. Maybe this is just one of those lucid dream things. I’ll go along with it.

“Yeah, what’d you expect?” She laughed and looked closely at the ring. I took it from her hand and wiped it off. “So, what d’you say?”

“Yes!” She practically jumped off her seat and came to me for a hug. Right before she reached me, my stomach lurched. I felt the same feeling I had earlier. My vision flashed again. I was now in an empty field. I looked around. The sky was smoky and red, sort of like an apocalypse. Jessi. Her name was the only thing I could think about, but I wasn’t sure why. It seemed like everything had burnt.

Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust

The line came into my head. I didn’t know where it was from, but it sounded familiar. It also matched the terrain I saw. My skin tingled and smoke filled my nostrils. I looked up at the sky and felt something cold slide down my cheek. My cheeks were wet. I wiped it off, only to realize that it was immediately replaced by more of the substance. I tracked it back to my eyes. I was crying, and I didn’t know why.

My vision suddenly went white and then darkness. I felt nothing and could see nothing. Did I die?

****************

­“Three scenes this time.” Ant said as he hovered over the screen.

“That’s one more than last time.” Gayle went over to look at the screen.

“Okay, that’s it. I’m going back.” Jessi was restlessly pacing around the room. The room was full of different technologies, and in the middle, in a huge jar-looking thing with wires connected to it, there was a brain.

“Don’t! It’s only going to go one way. We should at the very least find out the exact moment it happened.” Ant stood between her and the time machine. Jessi looked down.

“I don’t care about stopping the apocalypse; I just want to see him one more time, and try to save him!” Jessi tried storming past Ant, but Gayle grabbed her hand.

“And how exactly are you going to do that?” Gayle had a strong grip.

“I’ll stop him from meeting me! All his memories involved me. Our meeting must be part of the cause of the apocalypse, and in turn, part of the cause he died.” She started crying. She couldn’t handle the thought of them not knowing each other.

“Do you think you can really handle that? Do you think you can live, knowing you loved him?” Gayle let go, knowing that would stop her. She shook her head.

“And that’s not confirmed. We might only be seeing his memories of you because they’re the best memories he has. It took us a while to find and save his brain. A lot of his memories are gone; only the most precious or the saddest ones are left. The only reason we even know about the apocalypse is because he was thinking about you.”

Jessi couldn’t help but cry. “Then I’m going to go back in time and spend time with him until he tells me about it.” She shut the door to the time machine, and the machine disappeared.

 

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