a year in stories::forty four

My interview with the great Ocean Vuong went up yesterday at Monkeybicycle. He’s definitely become one of my favorites. Anyrate, this was rejected the other day, along with the previous story.

Dusted Deathly


When I was young we dreamt so large, so loud. There were nights I couldn’t sleep, what with the racket of us all dreaming at once. There’d be wolves howling, cats meowing, and mothers and fathers loving us. That’s what we dreamt mostly, and it’s what we dreamt loudest. Sometimes we dreamt so loud and so large that it spilt into the hallway and down the stairs to Madame’s room or wrapped round the orphanage to her window and she’d be accosted by the dreams of all us lonely kids drunk on hope.

She’d barrel in and wash us out, get us to stop dreaming of Dust and start cleaning it up. That’s what she called dreams: Dust. I never really got it but it gave me a complex. I guess that’s the best way to say it. I got a complex for Dust and while the other kids were all off cleaning it up and washing it away, I was sneaking off through the loudest nights to play with it in the halflight of the slivered moon fractured. That archipelago of moonDust catching light in the sky was one thing and it made me think of others, like maybe how this Dust in this orphanage I was accidentally trapped in was a distant cousin of that lit up far away Dust.

I’d make sure the light was catching just right and the shadows weren’t too thick and I’d set to whipping up the Dust. Like writing galaxies in the sky, I watched the Dust dance through night and halflight while those loud dreams kept everyone else busy.

In the Dust I saw things I can’t so much find the words for. Best way to say it, I guess, is that they were dreams comes real. But Dust is still just Dust, even when you arrange it so to sing like a symphony amongst the clamoring dreams of too many orphans.

That’s war for you, yeah? Some of us were probably left and unwanted but many more of us were just the unfortunate sons and daughters of people accidentally caught by bullets and bombs. Such is the world, I guess.

What I found after years of studying and collecting and playing with Dust is that the world’s malleable, just like a load of fragments cast about. If you rearrange them just so, you can make something new. Doesn’t matter if they’re Dust particles or stars or too loud dreams, or even people on the street. If you arrange it all right, you can make something real come of it. A composer turns wood and wind to sound and beauty, traffic lights turn mechanical contraptions into traffic and progress, and me with my Dust and dreams caught real built miniature realities unattached to what others perceive existence to be.

I stopped dreaming like the others. No one really knew because it was always so loud at night it was hard to tell whose dreams were shrieking loudest. But the decibels of my dreams got muffled ever since I caught Dust in my lungs and heard voices.

I made a new world with all those bits of Dust. I’d take them in my lungs, deep down, and try my best not to sneeze or cough or puke it all up. Sometimes I failed and I’d get this malformed monstrous blob that sent the rest of my tiny world into havoc, but, if I got it right, I had little Dust men and little dust women, and they made little Dust babies, even without me swallowing and bringing back Dust.

By the time I was fourteen and the orphanage was crumbling to pieces, I had built an entire world and watched as its civilisation grew and evolved. I had so many dreams for it, but the lives they made and developed for themselves were better than anything I ever could’ve made for them.

I was proud. You wouldn’t believe the kind of pride that comes with inventing a cosmos that you’re the accidental center of. After a while, I barely even had to do anything. Better than the best movie I ever saw, my little world of Dust grew big with life.

And then one day they turned to me and saw. They saw me and spoke to me. I could understand them because I saw this all come to being, but I couldn’t really speak it. Dust doesn’t talk the way we would. But I showed them my answers, drew it in their stars and skies.

It was the first time anything ever worshiped me and I wept watching my creation find their god.

And then the war returned home and the orphanage came crashing down. We all got outside, even Madame. Our dreaming may be loud, but bombs are louder and we set to fleeing the second we felt the ground shake and the earth break. But I couldn’t get to my little big world, and though I searched for them for weeks amongst the rubble, breaking my fingers and weeping smoke, I never found the reality I built from orphaned Dust and dreams that yelled.

Mostly us orphans stick together here in the military. We know we’ll die before this is all gone and our dreams are still loud, but the hope’s been lost. It’s more shrieking dreams these days, but we all keep something dear deep inside of us, for when we die.

When I die they’ll find my Dust, and then I’ll join them to say I’m sorry.