Weekend in the Dust

Friday Faraday

It all comes down to memories. They shape, mould, comfort and enrage, empower and allude. 

Even in this moment, the man long in years opened his eyes to the sun and longed for the memories that swept across his dreams hours before.

Mal’s form was light, muscle and fat eaten away by his own body, but he lifted it with will toward the sunlight that entered through the window unannounced but welcomed just the same. The warmth quieted the daily pain that raced along his body like cars on a highway for the briefest of seconds. 

Mal’s bones, like papier-mâché, were a fading anchor to the virile life that he once knew. But his eyes steel on, toward the army of pill bottles across the vastness of his bedroom. 

Up and forward, each step took more energy than the last.

Each breath, harder and tighter than the last.

The cap twisted counterclockwise with restlessness. The first legion of pills marched down his throat, but the anticipation released an icy wave of peace before the relief of the medication actually came forth.

The room was painted with freshly printed pictures, memories spanning a lifetime. But a frost knocked at every cell and nerve in his body, pushing him to free fall back into the bed that hugged with a plump forgiveness. Enclosed and swaddled, he looked around with sluggish coffee eyes to see the pictures crackle with lightning, whispers of cool sapphire breath pouring from each photo, streaming to form a whirlpool over him.

Mal was caught in the currents of his children laughing at the funny noises he made, kisses from his long-lost loves, and tears of heartbreak from friends and family he lost long ago. His body relaxed and his eyes softened in the overview of his life, but the vortex spun harder, mixing the whole of a life into a furious storm that groaned under its own energy. 

His wide brown eyes clashed against the electric blue energy of the memory storm above. The rumble of the tempest punched golden fissures into the walls, and the shiny veins stomped to the ceiling, presenting their gilded essence over the overloading crash of memories until…

“Peace,” said a voice against the waves.

Mal’s lips parted but the shock of the mysterious voice left his own words imprisoned in his throat.

The gold energy from the rips in the walls dripped into the current of memories of his family, his sons and wife. Their images swirled, creating a heavenly light that he was unable to reach out and touch as it left an orbiting amber shine on his fingertips.

“What are you?” Mal asked.

A tempest brewed in the golden-blue mix, pressure climbing and mounting as the room shuddered with whispers of shimmering converging consciences.

“I am everything and nothing,” said the voice, taking up the space between the emptiness of light and energy that stood on opposite sides of the room. 

The weight of the room rose and fell like an unforgiven tide. The man’s body rode the change like a surfer unafraid of what came next. His eyes skimmed the changes of light, its shadows gently caressing his cheek.

Mal asked, “I don’t understand. What does that—” 

The light dimmed, sound ceased, as his heart ached in the darkness. 

He wondered if this was the end.

Was that all that awaited him?

Mal’s eyes searched for anything that could give him safety, but the shadows grew deep and dense. Out of the corner of his left eye there was a glimmer of light the size of a grain of rice, but he willed it bigger. 

Was it anxiety or curiosity? 

Mal couldn’t tell but the flow of emotions pushed him, pummelled him, and powered him until life filled the room with a cascade of fluorescent flux along the walls that marched over his resting body. 

“In all things you will find me,” said the voice. “In me you will find all things. I have been with you since the beginning and I will be with you until the end.”

Mal licked his overwhelmed lips.

“Are you God?”

“I am everything that is, was, and will be. I am you, the universe, and reality itself. I am here to help and guide you.”

Mal looked into the stream of light all around him to see the memories of his life again painted within the shifting rainbow light on the walls. His face showed through the eyes of his children.

“To know the sum of our lives we only need to see how we have affected those in our heart” – the voice shifted to the back where the far wall flowed with a gush of emerald – “then we can have peace.”

Smiles from the photos of his children travelled across the light of time and space and painted itself along the walls. His eyes surfed the light, and he drank the joy washing over him, but a shadow sailed across, changing it from sour to sweet as the light darkened with buried memories.

Rage and tears spread out against the decades; gunfire from old battlefields and burns from the explosion of war turned the air to dust and rubbed against his lips like sandpaper.

“No, I don’t want to remember,” Mal said, his voice shaking in the approaching darkness.

“You can not glimpse the happiness that you brought without looking at the pain,” continued the voice.

Memories of his time in a foreign land fighting a war with no winner streamed across the walls, and its ink infected the rainbow waters with the murk of trauma. His eyes retreated but the vapours of midnight stalked without consent. The thunderous clap of their boots raked across his ears. The voices of friends crying out, mixed with his own echoes of pain from the unseen wounds of battle, reclaimed their time.

Mal’s eyes flapped open to the memories that were once pushed aside for ease. Tears he couldn’t let free in his youth were released with age. The weight lowered him further into the bed, and its edges rose around him as the memories above him tried to sink him. 

“I-I don’t want this” – he lifted his thin arm for help but saw it eaten by the awaiting shadows – “please, help me.”

There was no reply as tiny darkened teeth gnawed through his flesh, and a wildfire engulfed every nerve of his body that held the pain in an endless repetition. Tears that weren’t his own echoed over the bites that plunged him deeper into the dark.

The voice whispered, “You can not glimpse the happiness that you brought without looking at the pain.”

The black encompassed him, stripped the emotions from Mal’s being, leaving his body nothing but a melting block of ice.

A crack of thunder came, lighting a shape, a creature of massive frame. It walked toward him, like a god in its kingdom. The god-like creature opened its mouth, its crooked jaw held a city of large payara teeth, each one showing the memories of war that haunted him. 

The creature’s roar brought another thunderclap to light the dark. Its teeth glowed with each thunder strike – memories of pain, battle, and loneliness pitched and lowered from the slope of the creature’s jawline.

Mal shuddered as he saw ancient muscle in its form. The creature raised Mal to its misshapen head, a crooked smile on its tear-stained face.

“What do you want?” Mal asked but got no answer. “What are you?”

There was no more time to struggle or try to break free. How long had the creature held him in place? Days? Months? He didn’t know. The creature held Mal perfectly in place, keeping him perfectly still as it played the darkness of the man’s life in a never-ending loop in front of him.

Bombs and bloodshed.

The air forever tainted with the loss of those he knew and didn’t. 

“It can’t be” – he looked around, studied the creature, and then himself – “it can’t be…me!”

There was a contraction along the thick muscles of the creature’s face. Its smile dropped when it realised its own monstrosity reflected back to it.

In the silence, they looked at each other, shocked, neither one knowing what was next. The memories reflected back for the man to watch never stopped, bridging the quiet that hung between them. 

Rage.

Sadness.

Hate.

Loneliness.

A lifetime of running from war shaped and influenced him in the light and in the dark of his life, its power over him undeniable. 

Mal saw many of those events repeating in a new cycle that existed beyond him to those that he loved. 

“No,” he whispered.

The creature mimicked his word with a small movement of its mouth. 

Their eyes drifted back to each other, and within the ominous pupil of the creature, he saw something that his consciousness locked onto. 

With a ravenous curiosity that grew with each second he looked at the haunting teeth. The reflection of fear and terror looked back at him.

But not his own.

It was the fear of those Mal unleashed his anger onto.

The creature’s fingers began to unclench. The man’s chest loosened and welcomed the relief for only a moment. His heart slowed in the memories of the hurt that he created and passed on. 

The voice appeared, hanging over both of them. “You cannot glimpse the happiness that you brought without looking at the pain that you created and passed on.”

“What do I do?” Mal asked, but silence was all that greeted him. “How do I make this right?”

The quiet of the dark passed over him as he blinked.

The creature’s mouth opened, growing wider and wider as its head lifted up and retreated far back enough that its neck should’ve snapped. 

Streams of rainbow light tunnelled out of its mouth, slithering down its body until the man couldn’t look at its blinding visage as it grew brighter than the sun.

Mal shielded his eyes. The heat forced his body to wriggle out of the creature’s hand. He sought a shelter that didn’t exist, but out of survival, he crawled out of the hand and leaped into the dark to find something better.

To find the answer he needed.

“In all things you will find me,” said the voice. “In me you will find all things. I have been with you since the beginning and I will be with you until the end.”

Friday Faraday is a non-binary/transgender, Black queer native of Chicago, IL, and earned an MFA in English from Southern New Hampshire University. Friday has been published in such publications as The Paragon Journal, Literary Orphans, OUT/CAST, The Nabu Review, Lucky Jefferson, and Typehouse Magazine.

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