Dust To Dust: short story about filling the space

October 12, 2023

Image by dre2uomaha0 from Pixabay

Hannah Brown tale of a woman unexpectedly finding things to be grateful for

There comes a point where the clutter, dust and disarray, when each individual act of carelessness becomes more than common untidiness. It starts to get in the way of progress, through hallways, doorways, pathways, until there is no space for movement.

Each opportunity becomes abruptly cut off. Each potential idea, not-fully-developed begins to collapse in on itself. There are no thoughts here worth building on, only a collapsed space, filled with undone to-do lists and empty beer bottles; and dusters covered in dust because they haven’t dusted for so long.

“I’m going to have to buy a duster for our current duster,” I utter pettily out into the clear, crisp, unaffected hills. We have gone for a walk outside; this is our quality time – it drastically lacks quantity due to our busy and separate lives.

Maybe living out here – among the trees – would be easier. There would be fewer words unsaid because there would be no words to say at all. And less countless objects in the way. Hearing my words echo back at me makes me realise how utterly unutterable a thing it was to utter, and the sky scorns me. So much for less criticism.

He’s such a child, with his toys; collectables that he finds in the deepest, darkest junk stores, then collates into a jungle of forgotten things

“What?” my husband, Adam answers. It is not really an answer. I never really asked a question. Still, it is unsatisfactory.

“There are things everywhere. Things that need clearing out, sorting through. Everything is covered in dust.”

“Well. Do you have the time? As soon as I get home I practically pass out.” His attempt at lightness falls flat against the slate path we walk on.

“Seriously Adam. We can’t go on like this. Don’t you mind living in a swamp of things we don’t need? Don’t you care about any of this?”

His eyes widen into great lustrous owl eyes, the way they do when something serious surfaces between us. He’s such a child, with his toys; collectables that he finds in the deepest, darkest junk stores, then collates into a jungle of forgotten things. It’s like I’m not enough for him, and he needs to fill our life with more things to take away the emptiness.

“Come on, love. It’s not that bad. At some point we can have a bit of a clear out.”

A brisk gust of wind cuts him off, whistling past us like the wash of a speed boat. Its sheer force causes me to swerve in my tracks and curve round with it. I grunt, exasperated, and refuse to take Adam’s open hand. We stumble on, up into the translucent beauty, clouded only by the mist of ourselves and the invisible barrier I have constructed between us. Fights like these are the worst kind. It is less of a two-way fight, and more of a plea to him to fight for me, for us.

Instantly I grasp Adam’s hand and tug him away with as much force as I can muster

“They’re just things. Not people, you know,” comes his feeble attempt at justification.

“But they are getting in the way of us. Don’t you understand?”

Just then, a pulsating gust of wind swipes at us again, but it seems to just miss, and instead strangles the throat of a nearby towering tree. With one blunt thrust, its roots begin to quake and, before anything becomes vaguely coherent, the great lumbering tree is plummeting towards us. Instantly I grasp Adam’s hand and tug him away with as much force as I can muster. I feel the impact of the mighty tree against the ground as the earth recoils sheepishly under its weight.

“That was a close one,” I try to say, but it’s hidden under my harsh breathing.

When I look beside me, my whole body shudders. Though I still clutch Adam’s open palm, the rest of his body is trampled underneath the hulky core of the tree. Hauling him with all the strength I have left is in vain. His hand turns cold and limp in mine.

***

Turning the key in the door to the flat is always a struggle. I should probably call a locksmith about it, but then again they would have to come into the apartment and what would they make of it? Everything is placed perfectly for me, so that I know how to get through. But I worry that anyone else would be appalled by its layout.

Our beige sofa is not currently in use as a sofa as it houses the many layers of the black clothes I have pulled out from the wardrobe

The mahogany grandfather clock greets you on the doormat (useful for reminding you of the time), you duck to get under the umbrella baby mobile (Adam was saving that for our first child). Then there is the portable garden archway which serves well as a coat stand (but it is broken so you have to know where to step so it does not collapse on you).

The infinite piles of packages and paintings and pots and pans are all carefully arranged to create a maze that I know like the back of my hand.

Our beige sofa is not currently in use as a sofa as it houses the many layers of the black clothes I have pulled out from the wardrobe and have been wearing for the past few months. All of the vases are out of their bubble wrap. They cup the many shrivelled flowers which emit multiple pungent scents through the apartment. But I will not get rid of them.

Sometimes the things around me speak. Usually it’s quite arbitrary topics, like the lamp might remind me to put the kettle on after a day at work, and then the kettle will snap back at the lamp that it should turn itself on. I rarely interfere. I just listen to their inconsequential chatter, sip my tea, and admire the layer of dust that encrusts everything. At one point it was an irritation maybe. But now the thick layer of dust is as comforting as a warm duvet. It preserves everything. Sometimes I think it stops time completely in its tracks.

Isn’t it funny how the disorder I despised has become my own private sanctuary?

Hannah is a student studying English Literature, Music and Sociology at Camden School for Girls. She enjoys crafting stories, poems and articles and is inspired by authors such as Kazuo Ishiguro, Thomas Hardy and Ian Mcewan.

Other work

Donate via PayPal

Exposure is an award-winning youth communications charity giving young people in north London a voice.

Please support us to continue our work. Thank you.