I couldn't take it anymore. The screaming, the fighting, it was more than I could handle. I Left the same way that I always fought back. I was loud, I was furious and so was the message that I did not fail to convey. I was so angry I wanted to hit someone, to hurt someone, it wouldn't matter who it was and whether they deserved it or not. I brutally slammed the front door shut behind me, ran down the front steps and I didn't even turn around, not once. I considered not going, but the rage within me had to be withdrawn. I needed to be withdrawn. The only way to effectively do so was to remove myself from the situation and flee the scene. I left our row house in the Dust and sprinted towards the subway station on the next corner. I could take it all day if need be. I could have space and time alone. Hate seethed within me as I quickened my pace towards freedom. Instant gratification would not be quick enough. I cursed under my breath. I knew it was time that I went for a ride as far away as I could possibly get. I knew there was no other way to escape what I was feeling.
One city block stood in the way of my emancipation. I covered the distance in leaps and bounds. I thundered down the entrance way, through the turnstile and onto the platform meant for waiting. I remained agitated, panicky and quite bemused. This was not the first time we had come to blows. This was not the first time I walked out, ran out any exit seeking relief. I swore I would not return. This was not the first time I had made myself such a promise. This was not the only time I said it was so. I lingered, pacing, praying that the train would soon arrive. As I pondered my fate, as I recognized my disposition, I even considered tossing myself on the tracks below. I questioned if the silence would ever be worth the cost. Would the gain be worth the loss? I was breathless and a moment seemed to take forever. I leaned over the track course and peered down the tunnel, spying for a single bright light that would carry me away from it all. I tried as I may to hold to some hope in my departure but it was impossible for me to find peace when my mind was at war. I couldn't think straight, I could barely form a rational thought. I heard it coming from around the bend.
The platform was almost empty when I arrived. Only a handful of people came forward at the sound of the beast. I looked down, glaring at the subway tracks. I meant to jump. Suddenly, like a red and steel rocket, the train pulled into the station, came to its stop and rested. I had chickened out once again. The doors opened with their normal noise but with little commotion. This time was apparently the best time to take a ride alone. A few rushed commuters came and went, a few remained seated, and I shuffled aboard. The door call sounded, the doors shut and I grabbed a support rail as the metal mole moved deep into the next tunnel. The car was almost empty. Two Asian girls sat up near the door to the next cab, both were lost to their smartphones, oblivious to the world around them. An elderly African American gentleman sat almost dead middle. He glanced at me when I started to move to the back of the car. I took my place in private, huddled against a window in the very last seat to be found. I would have crawled under it if not for the space and the fear of being tossed off the metro. The next stop bid farewell to the old man, and two stops more rid me of those silly girls. I found myself alone, staring at the walls of the tunnel system as they passed at twenty miles per hour. One stop after another and the space remained vacuous. Even my rage dissolved and found its way off of the craft. My pulse stopped racing and my breathing improved. The throbbing headache I had carried ceased existence and I found myself comfortable. This process had always worked in the past. I looked out into the darkness and then closed my eyes to rest. I didn't need to dream.
I woke up choking. My face, my eyelids, my mouth were covered in some dry form of silt. I leaned forward and shook my head like a dog would after a bath. I opened my eyes slowly, in case something dared to remain in its place. The world had become dust, dust and grey and frozen. I was sitting on the same train, in the same spot, but the entire subway car was covered in filth. I could not believe my stinging eyes. From front to back, from side to side, the cab was captured by inches of detritus, layer upon layer of soot. It appeared to be very fine ash. The car was not moving. Apart from the obvious, something was definitely wrong with the scene. The doors near the head of the train sat wide open but those quite near to me had been closed up tight. When I stood, it felt like rain was falling from my fingertips. A cloud of the same rubble floated off my body. I wagged the dog one more time. I shook in tremors, from head to toe and then back again. The debris left me and lingered like a fog of something foreign, a haze I could not identify. A mist had fallen and rested all over the world.
I tried to wipe it all off as best as I could. I used the tails of my shirt to clean off my features and clear off my skin. Any remnants would have to do. It looked like I had been tumbled in a vacuum cleaner. I walked slowly past each seat and headed towards the open doors. Everything was covered in a fine but dense layer of sandy gloom. The floor was buried, the walls had been painted with touches of chalk. Each vacant seat was a testament, each stratum of the strange deposit a message that something had happened to life as I slept. At first, the windows seemed smoky. A quick investigation revealed they were also bathed in this residue. For a moment, I thought I was in a science fiction movie and, like Charlton Heston, had discovered
somewhere Beneath the Planet of the Apes. I moved with caution towards the exit. I peered outside, hoping someone would greet me and explain the reason for all this mess. I heard no one. I saw no one. I was clearly alone with no idea what had happened. As I stepped out onto the platform, the glassy lint below forced me down rather quickly. I landed hard on a bed of concrete and dust. I just sat there, trying to fan away particles of something intent on invading my orifices. I covered my nose and mouth and rose to the occasion. I was stunned. It was like existence had ended in a cloud of smoke and ash. New York City
The subway station was dark and empty but for the distant glow of nearby entrances and exits. Everything appeared to be covered in the very same icing of doom. I was more than a little frightened. I was also very hesitant to leave the artificial safety of rapid transit. I was almost crippled by the fear. I was careful not to take a deep breath and I walked out into the shadows. One foot in front of the other led me into the unknown. I had no idea who or what was out in the muck but I was drawn to the light as it crawled inside from a better place. This world was silent. There were no sounds from travelling trains, no shuffle or bustle of people coming to and fro. The air was still and very stale. Breathing seemed more like drinking soup, a quagmire made up from one billion tiny pieces of somber. I edged forward, scanning from side to side. I reached the outer wall and began to skulk along it, as quiet as a mouse. When I reached the vestibule on the platform, I literally slid over the turnstile and lowered each leg down to the ground. I played dead but just for a moment. There was nothing to startle me or cause me to react. There was nothing at all. There was nothing about. There was only more desert, more dirt and more confusion on my part. I kept to the wall and rounded the way to the light. The tunnel was clear of man or beast, or so it seemed to be. Only dust led the way, dust that had clearly not been disturbed for some time. It was a glaze, unbroken by footprints or tracks of any kind. I ran up the steep and jumped into the bright.
I must be dreaming. This could not be real. From the tallest tower to the lowest street grate, everything had been covered in a blanket of grey snow. Every car had been embraced. Every tree had been smothered. There was no sight and no scene that had not met this dingy fate. The silence was mortifying. This must be the End. I scanned the sea of dull for any hue or color, any sign of man. It was the strangest thing that I noticed. Each building was intact. Each relic undisturbed. The world outside was frozen in the spot that I had left it, but it was put to sleep, put to bed with some form of fallout. I called out for any survivor. The landscape of dust was so dense that it failed to even echo a return. The sky was dark. I could not find the sun. A cloud of nuclear winter filled the air but from the condition of the things on earth, I knew no bomb had met my city, no war had found this land. It was just covered, an endless wasteland shrouded as if by sprinkles of almost night. I was paralyzed by this new reality. I could not believe my eyes. I stood there, whimpering, staring at the ground, then the street and then the sky. Everything was exactly the same but it had been painted over with great stokes of hopelessness. It was then that I recognized a street sign, then another, each was dusted, painted over with the same rain of junk. I ran over to each and shoveled away the dirt with a hand. I spun in panic, rushing over to the subway stop indicator. I closed my eyes and cleared the remnants of whatever storm had come this way. I peeked through my lids, both wanting but not wanting to know. I had to look for some answers. There it was. It was my stop, the place I had come from. This was my home, my neighbourhood, my world.
I flashed down the block and up the soot-layered stairs of my once beautiful home. Somehow, I just knew that the door would not be locked. I checked it regardless, hoping someone had sealed themselves inside. The foyer was as empty as the street. The same dust storm had entered here too, coating my life inside with the same damn rubble that had met me outside. Nothing had gone untouched by the swarm. I ran out back calling hello. I ran upstairs begging if anyone was there. There was more silence and stirred dust settling and an eerie hollowness from all things lost to me. In the main hallway, I stopped to clean off a picture. It made me smile a little, in spite of myself. I was so broken, so defeated. I didn't know how to feel or what to think. I just stood there in my dirty clothes, in my dirty house, in my dirty life. What had happened to the world? Why was I the only one left to deal with all the caked-on mud that had swallowed my existence? How did this happen? Was this really the End?
I took that sweet picture frame with me as I walked out the front door and back into the murky light. The sky kept churning above me and the dust kept stirring as I walked along the street. I started to feel quite cheated by it all. I didn't understand why I had been left as a witness to this calamity. It did not seem fair that I should be the only one. I wondered if I was being punished or if I had been spared. Regardless, I screamed out for someone to hear me. Over and over I called for release. It was the weight of my tears that buckled me onto myself. My legs let go and I fell to my knees in the soot. In the center of the road I gave in. In that moment, in that heartbeat, I think I started to pray. I wasn't sure what I was praying to. I barely understood what I was praying for. I kicked my feet from under me and flopped down on my butt. I started rocking. I started weeping. My tears mixed with my dusty face and tiny puddles of goo melted onto each cheek. I collapsed onto the pavement and laid there waiting to die.
I have no idea how much time passed before I finally got up and collected myself. One would imagine that for all the times I had considered tossing myself, it would be easy to abandon it all. The truth is, I could not. I could not give in to the desolation around me. I could not just finish myself in despair. I rose as I found the strength in me. I dusted myself off, looked all around and I started walking. Surely someone else had been left behind. Out in the world there could be many searching, just the same. The further I traveled, the more confident I became. If I kept going, I would discover hope somewhere along the way. I wandered through neighbourhoods, past landmarks and over bridges great and small. All I knew to do was just keep walking. I had to just keep going. There would be no other choice. All my notions got left in a cloud of dust.
"Do you really think he did it?" she whispered to her friend.
"They say he fell," the friend replied.
"I can't believe she cremated him," the first woman added.
"Where is she going to have him buried?" the second woman questioned.
"Not in the Jewish cemetery, that's for sure," she concluded.
The room quieted as the Rabbi took his place at the podium. The quaint space was filled with weeping ladies and scornful men. As the teacher spoke about the randomness of life, the mourners tossed and turned in their places. All the while, he sat hidden in an urn of bronze, placed for all to see with prominence. It was a tribute to the life he had once lived. It was beautiful in a simple way. Any prohibitions found in the Halachahwere irrelevant anyway. There wasn't much left of him to bury. When all the words had been said, when all the goodbyes were done, the Rabbi handed her the container and hugged her softly. She found her way home like most grievers do. She took off her shoes, laid her purse on the chair and she walked softly into the main hallway. Next to a picture of the two of them together, she placed what once was next to what used to be and she started to cry again. She tried to imagine him with her. She wanted to see his face, to feel his touch one more time. All she could think of were the words she left behind her, of "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust."