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Ashes to Ashes

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

This is a short story I wrote with (what I think) is a pretty powerful message. As Arthur waited in line he looked around and saw people his own age—old, at least by 1950s standards. Yet, when he went to bed that night he was living in the year 2023, but suddenly everything—his clothes, the room he was in, and the music playing over the tinny little speakers were all from another era. For the past few days Arthur complained about everything. His life lacked meaning, or so he thought. Everyone—his wife and kids in particular—ignored him. His career he was stalled. His house was falling apart, and he had a stack of bills he could just barely pay.

Life was hard... and he moaned about it to anyone who would listen. Arthur appreciated nothing and complained about everything.

Only when he put his head on his pillow to sleep he felt, at least for a split second, at peace. Now here he was, ina long line with no end in sight. The room was full of people shuffling along with no way of escape. As they went along (at a snail's pace), images were projected on the wall. They weren't quite black and white, more sepia tone, but they were memories—his memories. The clips flashed by so fast he could barely keep up as he watched himself grow up before his eyes. He wanted to slow the line down so he could watch as he went through his teens, then twenties. He saw all the good he had in his life. Back then he was full of hope and joy with his whole life ahead of him. The push from people inching along behind him was relentless. Noticing Arthur was making a scene, a pretty girl on roller skates glided toward him. She was a car hop and had a chocolate shake on a tray. This is for you, she said, it will help calm your nerves. He took a sip through the straw, it was delicious.

"Enjoy the show," she said, and skated away.

The movie playing now was highlights from his thirties. His wife and kids were smiling and waving at him. Arthur realized how lucky he was to have such a beautiful and loving wife and such wonderful boys.

The line swung around a corner, the railing guided everyone along. People shuffled like zombies as they pushed the person in front of them forward. As he went it seemed the movie on the wall was just for him, and others saw their own lives. This served to distract everyone from what we really going on. Arthur was starting to feel drowsey. There was something in the shake that was meant to calm him down—or incapacitate him.

He watched his forties and fifties blow by and realized as soon as a time period passed, the film melted and and morphed into the next decade of his life, until it reached the last thing he could remember—his current life. The life he bemoaned, but now wished he could get back to.

At the next turn Arthur realized what was happening. Everyone in line was marching to their death. Not far ahead the people at front of the line suddenly disappeared. Now in a panic, but unable to scream or or run away, Arthur was quickly filled with remorse. He wasted so much of his years complaining about what he didn't have and what went wrong he missed all he had and everything that was right in his life.

What's worse, the movie now playing showed his family and freinds moving on from him—happy and living their lives after he was gone. His prized possessions were sold off or given away. His accomplishments meaningless and forgotten like dust in the wind. It was a horrible, empty feeling to see how insignificant everything he worried and complained about were—and how liitle "things" and accomplishments meant.

Then he saw his son kneeling at his grave site. Now a grown man. He was distraut. He left a note and photo of a young boy, and walked away. The movie reel ended and Arthur was one person away from the front. He now saw what was at the end of the line. It looked like a carnival ride. It was a round area the size of a small above-ground pool and at the bottom was a pillow-like material. The woman in front of him stepped off and fell without a sound. When she landed she was swallowed up and diappeared.

Arthur was terrified and hung on to the railing as tight as he could and mouthed the words, "I'm not ready to go." From behind he felt a push and suddenly he was falling.

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