On one of the online boards I participate on, we are doing a collaborative writing project where each participant gets the last sentence of the previous person’s piece and then continues the story in their own words. Here’s the one I received:
I start to run, calling her name but she disappears and only the cold wind blows around my head…
And here’s how I continue the story:
I come to a halt beneath the strange yellow cloud that had been hovering above the spot where she’d vanished. I gaze up to see that at its center is an inverted funnel from which a stream of tiny leaves issues forth, gently floating down to greet my upturned face. For a moment, time stands still and but for the sound of my heart beat echoing in my ears, the silence is so great that I wonder if I’ve gone deaf. Bending down onto one knee, I scoop up a handful of leaves and carefully deposit them into the pocket of my jacket.
Standing up, my gaze shifts to the houses down the street. I see a red brick chimney jutting out in the distance and recognize it to be mine. My neighborhood. My house. As if of their own volition, my feet begin to move toward the houses, the cloud slowly receding behind me as I make my way home.
Much later I look out the window and note that the cloud has drifted further down the road and away from town, stalling over a dip in the hills. The pervasive smell of sulphur is disconcerting. After returning home I’d stripped out of my clothes as soon as I’d closed the door behind me. Removing the leaves from my pocket and carefully storing them in a plastic baggie, I’d placed my clothes in the washing machine, set the wash and rinse water temperature to hot and threw in twice the normal amount of detergent. Padding into the bathroom I stepped into the shower. Beneath the stream of hot water I lathered and scrubbed my body’s surface and watched copious amounts of soapy foam spiral down the drain as I rinsed off.
Still, the acrid odor persisted nevertheless. Searching for relief from the smell, I grab a handful of incense, lighting them all at once using the stove’s gas burner. Silently moving around the inner perimeter of my little house, I strategically insert a stick into the tiny crevices of the walls. With each insertion I mouth a silent prayer to the gods for protection from whatever it is that is happening to me… to us all.
Returning to the vantage point of my front room window, I gaze out once again at the inky blue of the late evening sky. The cloud remains strangely illuminated, pale and yellow, sparkling from within as if tiny particles were igniting like stars and shooting off erratically in all directions within its limited expanse, streaking little comet trails and then blinking out just as suddenly as they’d alit.