Short Story

Relinquish the Ashes

Up concrete steps, chipping paint crackling under his feet. The latch on the gate creaks with rusty protest, he doesn’t manage to muster a sigh in response. His phone groaned in his pocket and he slumped into one of the lattice patio chairs shaded by the blooming bougainvillea he had trained up and around the bistro lights hung overhead.

In the dark he pulled out the phone and read the message, from Emily, asking him to talk tomorrow. He wanted to put the phone away, but something like remorse bubbled in his gut so he agreed and before he can put the phone away another message arrives from her saying she hopes he’s ok. He goes inside, climbs lacquered wooden stairs through the dark, changes and climbs into bed.

He checks Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat each. On Facebook, friends sharing news but aggravates, on Twitter the news agonizes, on Instagram and Snapchat it all creates a stabbing tumor of longing, envy and guilt.

For reasons he can’t articulate, he checks them all again in turn. Eventually he tosses the phone to his side on the unoccupied side of the bed. He stares at the ceiling in the dim peering light from the lamps on the avenue.

He tries to sleep by closing his eyes and imagining stories of far away and imaginary, fantastic places he used to dream into being to send him to sleep. He turns to his side as the visions gray and crumble like ash in his mind’s hands.

Eventually, to and for himself, alone in the dark he admits that he can’t sleep, can’t find dreams again. In that dark he realizes that without them he’s just waiting to die.

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