The dream began much as it always had, but this time instead of just ending like it always had– it went much deeper. I’m walking through the remains of what once was a city which has since been charred by a horrid fire. The thick, black smoke is billowing from the still smoldering buildings. The trees are wilting and fading as all other life in this town. The charcoaled remnants of mighty oaks and weeping willows are scattered along the streets. The smoke mixes with the night creating a horizonless visage.
Hidden up ahead, the place I seek, a bell tower, sitting among the burnt trees reaches to the blackened sky. I cock my head to the side and realize what this place is—it is not a church as I had thought. It is some sort of fire station left unscathed by the tragedy— the alarm still blaring monotonously.
“No, it can’t be. Why would the city have burned if there had been a fire station so close by?”
“Maybe all the firefighters were sleeping.”
“But, they would have heard the alarm wouldn’t they?”
“Maybe, they didn’t believe they heard it.”
“Or, maybe, they just didn’t want to.”
The dream finally begins to fade with the last rays of light—the smoky clouds blanket the scene in everlasting darkness. I feel a thickness in my lungs causing me to awake. But, I feel as if I’m still asleep. How could that be I argue back? Then this is when a voice in my head answers:
“All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream.”
“Of course, Poe,” I slowly utter incoherently as the realization comes to light. I had been dreaming that I was dreaming, but this revelation comes too late. All’s last hope flutters away lost in a dream of what was and caught in the turbulent winds of the dream that is.
The dream begins one last time…
I begin to wander down the narrow street. I no longer can tell where I am. I have finally fallen to the point where fantasy and reality truly have no distinction. This is the time where my destiny is finally decided. As I follow the preordained path, the town is just as lifeless as it had been previously, but it seems so much eerier than I remember. As I pick up the momentum, I see the shadowy outline of the Tower just ahead.
I close my eyes. I try to bring myself out of the trance I must be in. I try to bring my progress to a halt, but my feet continue to carry me forward. I don’t know why I’m trying to resist, when the fates have already decided for me.
As I reached the fringe of the courtyard, I saw the personification of all my pain and all my happiness standing before me. At the door to the church, she stood with a solitary rose in her hair. In her arms, she cradled a teddy bear that I had given her. A tear began to run down the smooth whiteness of her face. And she said to me, “I’m sorry it had to end this way. You know I loved you.”
At that instant, I heard an explosion from behind me and I turned to see the town erupt into flames. As I returned my gaze, I saw the church too become engulfed and the smoke and flames swept over my Misty. I tried to scream and reach out, but the power had fallen from my limbs. I fell to the ground and she disappeared from my view.
Waking with sweat upon my brow, I pinched myself just to make sure and sighed with relief. Reaching over to the night stand, I placed a Marlboro in my mouth and lit it. I just needed to relax now. The phone rang, but I hadn’t the energy to answer it. When the answering machine had finally finished its business I replayed the message. And those words echoed back to me… “I’m sorry it had to end this way. You know I loved you.” The line went dead and I didn’t notice the cigarette dangling from my lip as it fell and I cried myself back to sleep.
Later, the fire marshal would say I had fallen asleep smoking a cigarette. The smoke detector had been going off, but apparently no one heard it. All the neighbors were attending the festival in downtown New Orleans. He would go on to say, “If it hadn’t been for the fact the fire station was just down the block, it would have taken much longer to know there was a fire.”
Lucky me, so that’s why I moved here. Unfortunately, by the time the fire trucks arrived—there was no way to save the structure as the fire consumed it and left little more than a blackened foundation.
As I faded from this existence—finally having found my destiny—I watched a cool summer’s rain come and wash away all that remained.
~ ☕ ~
As the audio finished, the door swung open and Charon characteristically escorted in a man who appeared to be in his late twenties. A deeply gouged scar was carved into the side of his face and a cigarette dangled from his lips. He was wearing a dark colored wool pea coat still damp from the rain—it’s collar turned up to his face in an apparent effort for further protection. On his head, a dark grey fedora sat askew. The hat was rather modern and stylish, I noted, it had an open crown and medium brim with a wide, two-tone band. It appeared to be crafted from rabbit felt. I would have to ask him where he purchased it.
He calmly sat down in one of the leather guest chairs in front of my desk. Charon placed another folder on my desk, which apparently was this man’s updated file. I didn’t need to open it. I knew what I would find in the records…premature terminus, like the others. I looked the man in the eyes and asked, “Your lover, Misty Dawn, she had deep red hair reaching to her waist, pale white skin, deep emerald eyes, and freckles on her face and shoulders…not too many, but enough to be noticeable. Right?”
The man calmly nodded in affirmation. Clearly, he had already made his peace with the events that transpired. I flipped open his folder, completed his paperwork and handed him his Assignment Cards. He rose, tipped his cap, and walked out of the office without needing an escort from Charon.
A small part of me felt empathetic for him, I knew how it felt to be betrayed by the one you love. Once again, I pushed the thought from my head and composed myself.
“Damnit,” I muttered. I forgot to ask him where he got the hat. Another time, I suppose, things to do and people to see. Although, there didn’t seem to be a need to meet with the Moirai now—which is good, they have a way of giving even the Lord of the Underworld the creeps.
I took a sip from my coffee ☕, it was cold—I slammed the cup down on the desk. Atë on the other hand—it appears Atë is seeking my attention and attention she will get!
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