Dust, Dirt, and Ashes

By Taryn Aldrich


I sidestepped a small cluster of people chatting away as I made my way
into the den.
"Amber!" I looked up to see my best friend, Jennifer Ballkeen, waving to
me wildly.
And, as always, Noah Geeh, her boyfriend, was beside her.
A crowd of college kids was blocking the way. I pushed past them and
walked over
to Jen. Noah gave me his goofy grin.
I crossed my eyes and stuck my tongue out at him. "Hi, Jen," I said. I
jumped six feet
as someone blared the CD player, positioned right next to my ear. Jen
burst out laughing.
She loves it when I freaked like that.
"Hey!" I exclaimed. Klutz. Scott Hendernez, my boyfriend of
three years, tripped over a
Couple on the stairs, spilling a bowl of pretzels in my lap.
"Sorry!" He cried. He brushed the specks of salt off my cutoffs. A grin
spread over his
face. "You're so grateful," he scuffed.
'Thanks a mil," I shot back just as sharply. Then I smiled. That was
Scott's best trait-he
knew how to make me laugh even in the dullest of situations.
"Amber!" Twob of my closest friends, Lynne Corrban and Nora Holbore,
scrambled up to
"I swear, I didn't think you were gonna show!" Lynne exclaimed.
"That shows that you don't have a good thought process!" I retorted.
"I'm not stupid. I wouldn't
miss the party event of the semester!"
"Wow, could've fooled me!" Nora said jokingly.
"Watch it, girly!" I warned. "Luckily, I'm in a good mood today. But I
can always snap out of it!"
A girl from across town greeted us, turning the music up. Now people had
to shout to be heard.
And I needed some silence. Apologizing to the others, I backed into the
sunroom. I slid the glass
door closed. Five minutes later Lynne, Jen, Scott, Noah and Nora came
into the shelter. Music drifted
in with them.
"Man, they're jammin' out there!" Noah cried, playing air guitar.
Jammin.' Noah's so easy to figure out. The Slang Man is what we
call him.
I decided to join the bash again. I came out at a bad time. My ex, Keith
Garbal, had stepped into the center
of the room.
"This is dedicated to my baby, Amber Jan Calliotto!"
Too bad I cry so easily. He said it extra loudly, so everyone could
hear. He popped a CD into the boombox.
I spun on my heel and stormed into the room, slamming the door behind
me. I sat on the sofa and almost
immediately collapsed into tears. That was the most embarrassing thing
he'd ever done to me. My
humiliation showed in the salty drops of water that were streaming down
my cheeks.
No wonder I broke up with him, I thought bitterly. He's the most
abashing person I know.
"Amber, I-"
"Shut up!" I shouted at Keith. "Just shut up! I told you that I never
wanted to see your dead-
ugly face again, but no, you've just got to bug me, don't you?!"
"Amber, listen...!"
"No, Keith!" I exclaimed furiously. "I'm not going to listen! Get out! I
mean it, Keith! I've
had enough of you!"
The music had stopped. People were staring. I didn't care. I shoved
Keith out of the small room.
"Scott, get in here!" I hollered. I softened my tone a bit. "Can we
Scott trotted in. "It's okay," he murmured. He put a gentle hand on my
shoulder and pushed
me down onto the couch. He asked me to explain. I did. To the final
"Whew," he muttered after I had finished. "What a jerk."
Then, Keith bounced in again.
"Ohh!" I spat out a cry of disgust.
"Am-scray," Scott warned with menace.
"Oooh!" Keith said snottily. "Hulk Hilfiger's gonna kill me!"
Scott burst out laughing. I snickered. "You just made a combination of
Hulk Hogan
and Tommy Hilfiger!" I said between laughing fits. I pointed a finger at
him accusingly. "Dweeb!"


I ran up the driveway of my neighbor, Mrs. O' Keef. Eighty-year-old
woman was crazy. But
I had to get rid of my cookies.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Cookies. O-o-kay. But the truth is,
my old Girl Scout
cookies were stinking up the house. I didn't have time to handle the
problem. Why not
give it to someone else?
I rang the doorbell. "Hello. I'm selling these fresh, hearty Girl Scout
cookies in these two
delectably delicious flavors: Shortbread and a very tasty Chocolate
Mint!" Yeah, I know.
forced enthusiasm isn't good from a rising door-to-door business woman,
but I didn't
have a choice.
"Cookies, eh?" Mrs. O' Keef asked raspily. "Let me taste them."
I shoved the boxes under her nose. After a few wheezy whiffs and a
nibble from each one, the old woman cried haltingly, "Yum!
"Twenty dollars?" Totally overboard. Before the lady could reply, I cut
"You see, ma'am, these cookies are of very high quality. You can stock
them for up to three years and when you take them out they are crisp and
ready for a dunkin' in a glass of milk!" Sure. And I can fly.
"Hmm. Oh,alright."
A fresh $20 dollar bill was plopped into my hand. Dropping the boxes on
her stoop, I
raced off down the street, pumping my fist in the air.
I tucked the telephone under my chin and returned to my homework.
"Hold on, Jen. Eighty-six. Okay, go on."
"You had seventy-six, right?" She asked. "I did, too. But it didn't look
right. Anyway,
guess what?"
"Keith and Nora are together."
I gasped so hard that I practically dropped the phone. "Excuse me?" I
exclaimed. "Keith and Nora?
Yech. That's like squeezing apple juice into a sour lime."
"Isn't it? Luckily, it won't last too long. Nora says that she's getting
fed up with him already!"
"Good." I muttered, relieved.
"Amb, can you come over to my house? I need help. Bring Scott, too,
"Yeah, sure." I said. "Be right there."
I drove out of Ribb Street and onto Harabo Lane. I pulled into Jen's
driveway. Her house is
huge compared to mine. I took my keys out of the ignition and walked up
the steps. Scott
gripped my hand.
"What's wrong with you today?" I queried.
"Yeah, right."
"Shut up."
Jen led us up to her room. I plopped down on the bed.
We helped Jen with her homework and checked it over together.
"Want to go swimming?" Jen asked after putting her work away. "It's over
seventy degrees in the pool."
"Hey!" Scott cried. "You expect me to go swimming-!"
Jennifer lifted a hand to silence him. "You can use one of my dad's.
Amber, you can use one of mine."
"I already have one on," I lifted my shirt to show off my new black
suit. The T-shirt fell back over my stomach.
"Good. Scott, go ahead. Search my dad's drawers. Ignore anything gross.
Sometimes he keeps his private stuff where the swimming trunks are."
"Aye-aye, Cap'n. Be right back."
"Thanks. I don't want to know what he would have said next." I mumbled.
"What size suit does he take?"
"You really think I'm a snooper, don't you? How should I know? You know
him. He'd
feel very uncomfortable about that."
"Sorry," Jen apologized. "I just thought that he might have-"
She was interrupted by a loud shriek from her father's bedroom. We both
got up and
raced in.


I was in the bedroom first. Now Scott was laughing so hard, he cried.
"Jen-that's you?"
Scott tossed a photo her way. Meanwhile, I was lecturing him on the
risks of my having a heart attack.
I was at the "I could have died" part when the doorbell rang. It was
"Hey, Amber!"
"Hi, No-None!"
"Don't call me that!"
I laughed. "Sorry. You're looking for Jen, right? In there." I pointed
vaguely that I could have meant the entire house.
"Uh, . . .okay."
I followed him into Jen's room. She sat on the bed with a mound of
mail in her hands.
"Can I see?"
Jen jumped. She mustn't have heard Noah come in.
"Oh, yeah, sure." Jen said. She scooted over
to make room. An envelope was in her hand.
I knew what it held. The membership or
rejection from our top choice colleges.
Jen gave me my paper. I unfolded it
and read. I then leaned against the wall
and closed my eyes.
"Oh, Amber, I'm-?"
"I did it!" I breathed. "I did it! I got into URI!"
Scott hugged me for a moment longer than I had anticipated, then
back and smiled.
"Oh, my, god."
I turned and saw Jennifer fall to the back of the bed.
"Congratulations!" I said. "I didn't think you would-"
"You were right," Jen sat up. I saw tears in her eyes.
"You were right, Amber. I didn't do it."
"Well, which one did you get
rejected from?" I inquired.
"From all of them. Every single one."
"What!?" I exclaimed. "B-b-b...but you did better than me!"
"Obviously not," Jennifer muttered. "Or at least not good enough
to get accepted. Yeah, I might have done good. Remember I said
'might.' Not probably, Might." She let herself cry. "And what's
worse-we're in tenth grade, Amber. Tenth grade going on
eleventh. I have to get into a college. I don't care if it's
stupid. I need to get into a college. My mom will die-
literally. She needs that operation!" Jen swore under her
breath. "I just can't believe how disgusting these schools are now.
It's as they purposely don't accept you. Like it pleases them
to say no." She sighed. She pushed a lock of her red hair streaked
with blond off her forehead and twisted it into a knot. She pulled the
knot out,
letting the now separated strands fall over her face. She swore again.
Light bulb! I had an idea.
"Jenny, I got accepted to all of my choices, right?"
"Don't call me Jenny, and yes."
"Sorry. Anyway, if I got accepted to my colleges, then choose
one of mine and use that!"
"Uh-uh. Nope. Won't work. You're delirious, Amber.
I can't use one of your colleges! They're on your
"Oh, yeah." I remembered. Well, so much for that great
"I'd might as well call Dad and Mom and tell them
the news." Jen reached over and picked up her telephone.
She dialed Long Distance Information and punched
the speakerphone button. Providence was long distance calling
from Exeter.
An electronic voice crackled through the speaker.
A man's voice came on.
"LDI, may I help you?"
"Yes. I'm looking for the number to contact Mr. And Mrs. Kevin
The sound of the operater flipping through files was heard.
"Bavkeen, Baxkeen, Bazzklen, I'm sorry, miss, no listing found here
under Ballkeen. Oh, by the way, are you Jennifer Kay Ballkeen?"
Jen's face drained of color. She looked too shocked.
"Um, ahem, err, yes." Jen sputtered.
"Ha. Good one. Haven't you heard? Miss Ballkeen is a ghost at 78 Harabo
Lane. She was murdered by her boyfriend, um, I think that his
name was Noah Geeh."
Jen hung up the phone without a word and collapsed onto the floor.
After a moment of silence, Jen stood up.
"I'm alive." She said this to no one imparticular.
There was another stretch of silence.
She noticed the look of evil pleasure on Noah's face.
"Noah-your last name is Geeh, isn't it?"
"Oh, sure." Noah cackled. "You know me."


Jen had been avoiding Noah for some aggregate of days. After his cruel
remark Friday
night, she'd been getting jittery whenever he came near her. When he
passed her in the hall, she clutched onto my or Scott's arm. When they
were partners in chemistry lab (which they usually were, being in a
relationship and all),
Jen freaked. Since Friday I'd been sleeping over her house every day, to
help her.
But I kept getting on her to get over Noah, that what he said was only a
joke, even though
about that I wasn't so sure, and that nobody was about to let Noah
hurt, never mind kill
"Did you see the new kid?"
That was the number one question going around Exeter High School that
heat-filled, last -day -of -school party lunch at 12:00 p.m. Jason
(otherwise known as Dorkphille the Dork): Short, stocky, dorky, yuck. I
don't see the point of attending the last day of school. It's not like
learn anything-well, you do learn how to par-TEEE, but that's beside the
point. Anyhow, Jason was coming onto Jen and me-hard. He was sitting
us at lunch (can I have some disinfectant)? and told us about the events
that were witnessed and done in his ultimate home, DimwitVille.
We hated him-and still do!
He told us about his six-hour-long relationship with a girl.
About how his mother told him some pretty gross stuff.
We hadn't asked him to tell about his love life, believe me.
But one word from either of us and-whammo!-- he blurts out everything.
Technically, I faked that I couldn't speak English well. He
bought the whole act! Of course, I pinched in an occasional
string of American words to make him catch on. He believed
all of the hubbub that I said. I don't even know Norweigen, or
Swedish, or French, or any forgein language-I switched around the
little tidbits that Mom had taught me. We hated him. No, more than
hate... try detestation.
They both hate me. I know it. I'm off my nut. Here I am,
on the edge of Highrail Cliff, with a field of spikes and a
waterfall beneath me. I have the note, too.
Dear Mom and Daddy,
I'm leefing nowh. I dont hav a choice. My life is
a lifing misary, my grads are faling tremendously, and Iv
lost my wil.
Your [loving] son,
Jason tossed his hands up in the air.
"I believe I will die-AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!"
With his body still poised, Jason plunged to his death, the sharpest
rock piercing
through him.


Jen and I stood over the railing, looking down at the blood-splattered
"I always knew he couldn't spell good," Jen muttered, holding the red
letter in
her hand.
"Quit it with the sarcasm," I snapped. "I really don't think it's
funny." I sighed.
"Besides, we can't start fighting now."
Jen gave me a black look. "I'm sorry, Mom, but I don't like meanies like
"Shut up."
"Don't you start telling me to shut up. You should do the same."
"Oh, yeah? Well, techni-uh-oh."
I suddenly heard sirens behind me.
A grim-faced cop was holding two pairs of handcuffs. His cigar
bobbed about as he asked us, "You knew this young man?"
"Y-Y-Yes, sir." Jason. He was talking about Jason.
Oh, thanks a lot, Jen, I thought. All you need to do now is admit to it.
I looked around. Huh? A police car? Handcuffs?
"Jenny, where are we?"
"Thanks a lot for your help, Amber." Jen whispered coldly. "And you
just had to take a trip into La-La Land that very minute, right?"
"And you just had to sputter, right?" I shot back.
The policeman, who we now knew as Officer Blace, had halted in front of
Exeter Police Center.
He dragged us in and fingerprinted us. The next day we were in court.
Then we
were convicted guilty.
Jen sat beside me. We had barely said anything to each other.
"Oh, man. I don't believe it."
I was frustrated. "Jeez, Jennifer, couldn't you at least pretend to face
the facts?
We're not getting out and that's all there is to it!"
"Wanna bet?" Jen hopped up. "Amber, you're crafty. You can get out of a
shed, so
you can probably get us out of jail, too. Try to break through this
I eyed her suspiciously. "Yeah, Jen. I can get out of a shed because it
made of planks of wood that I can pull out. How do you expect me to
break through a wall of solid concrete?"
"With your teeth?" She clacked her jaw in a biting motion.
"No, I'm serious. Really. Chomp through it."
"Well, then, you're so smart, figure a way to eat when we do get out.
don't expect me to have teeth left after I eat rock, do you?"
Jen began to say something more, but I had zoned out. All
that was in my focus now was the puddle of tar that was seeping out
through the
walls. But there was something wrong with it. Oh, I saw it now.
It was Jason's letter with a knife through it.


Jen stared at it, gaping. "He's evil."
"Would you be quiet?" I hissed. "I'm as scared as you are,
but I'm not saying nonsense."
"Shut your mouth."
"Jenny, for once your idea might work. I'm going through that wall."
I raised my fist in the air. I struck the wall as hard as I could.
Then I realized-the concrete was wet!! I remembered hearing
on the news that a new cell was being built in this station.
This was the one!
"Jen, help me!" Cement dripped off of our hands, but we kept thrusting
ourselves forward. A ray of light flooded the room.
I grinned. A mucky sewer system was towering in front of us.
Jen and I crawled on our hands and knees through the tube.
A puddle of sunlight splashed out before us.
I looked up. I saw Lynne, and Nora, and Scott, and Noah
and Scott's two new friends, Eric and Chris. Everyone
was glad to see us. Except Lynne. She had a frigid look on
her face. I knew why. She had always been jealous of my
relationship with Scott and of my sister-like friendship
with Jenny. She had been their friends, too, of course.
But Scott once confided in me that he hadn't liked
her from the start, and admitted to using her.
Jen, on the other hand, was once surprisingly
close to Lynne, but she told me that she had become
so fed up with her cheerful and perky attitude that
she had just hung up on her in the middle of a
conversation about boys one night and disconnected
her telephone. I was the only one really left as her
But now she had seemed to darken prodigiously quickly. She
strode over to me stiffly and grabbed me by the arm. She then
pulled me towards a shack in the woods which was her toolshed.
Secret toolshed.
She flung open the door and sent me tumbling down the rocky stairs.
Jen had caught up and shot her hand out to catch me, but-too late-
she sprawled to the ground.
"I thought you were my friend!" I shouted.
"I didn't deny that fact," Lynne said calmly as she pushed me down
onto the hard workbench. "I just don't want the policeman to
catch you again."
"But what about Jen?" I screamed, close to begging. "W-Why
didn't you save Jen?"
Lynne thought for a moment. "She doesn't deserve to be saved."
She said finally. "Besides, she's a female dog anyway."
"Not to me!" I protested. "I know you hate her! But I'd save her
if I were you!"
"Well you're not me." Lynne replied coldly.
"Well, anyway," I began, "what do you want me to do?"
"All that I want you to do, Amber, is to keep your mouth shut."
Lynne answered. "Let me handle the rest." She sat down beside me.
"You see, Amber, I suffered like this. From you. You and your
nasty friends. I was taken away from my loved ones, too.
But you're lucky. Meet your new friend!"
I turned to see a beautiful girl, about my age, looking at me
She was beautiful.
She had long, thick black hair a few inches past her shoulders.
She wore deep red lipstick with black fingernail polish with
a black shirt and black jeans. Her hair was pulled
back on one side with a black barrette. She had a
black-and-gold ring on with matching bracelet and necklace.
She looked at me and said in a throaty voice, "You're
very pretty."
"I'm plain." I retorted.
"No, you're not. I wish that I could look like you. With that
straight, long golden hair and creamy skin. Your eyes are your
best feature. I love that icy blue color."
"Thank you. But you're pretty, too. That thick hair with that rich
color goes wonderfully with your emerald eyes. And it matches your
creamy skin."
Lynne broke in. "Enough aquatinting. Amber, Colette, Colette, Amber."
Lynne turned to leave.
"She's evil." Colette whispered to me when Lynne had locked the door.
"Yeah. Well, we'd might as well get to know each other. We'll be here
for a long time, unless I can calculate a way to escape."
"Good idea." Colette answered. "I'm Colette Calliotto."
"And I'm Amber Cal-Colette do you have a sister?"
Colette gasped. "I-I used to." She lowered her eyes to the ground.
"But I never got to meet her. She died when she was born."
"That's a lie!" I cried.
"Colette, you're Colette Lisa Calliotto, right?"
"Yeah. It's not like you're Amber Jan Calliotto."
I cringed. "Yes, I am."


"Oh, my, god!" Colette jumped up.
After a hour-long talk and a million hugs, I decided to get out of
I knew that it was hopeless, but I had to try.
Lying near my feet was an old but useful chainsaw. I picked it up
gingerly, being careful of the sharp teeth.
I pulled its whip so roughly that the saw roared to life in a second.
I scrambled to the door, budgeting my time. Colette followed.
As soon as it caught onto a crack in the wood, it produced a
grinding sound so grotesque that it made my blood curdle.
Pushing it through the opening crack, it tore through. Sunlight
shot through the room, as if one of the many heavens was shining
on me.
I shoved the door open, but only to find that a pack of chains were
binding it back.
I raised the saw, which was still running, up to the locks
and many rounds of latches. It ripped through them with
much more fuss then with the doors themselves. About
ten minutes later, I was making better progress. Colette told me
that if I twisted the chainsaw in the direction of the latches,
it was much easier. I smiled gleefully as the door burst open, flooding
the tiny room with light, as if the ray was coming from a jumbo,
freshly-lit light bulb.
I began to make my way up the rest of the staircase. Uh-oh. Another
problem. Now a glass shield was blocking the way out!
"Let me do this," Colette volunteered.
"Are you sure?" I asked.
"Yes. Now brace yourself along the wall and cover your eyes."
Colette let the saw smash through the window. It did this
with incredible ease.
The whole world in front of me exploded into a glittering crystal
mass. It collided with the floor, leaving visible dents and
"What's that?" Colette asked when we came out of the shack. She nodded
Jason's letter.
"Just a letter from a now-dead classmate of mine."
"Poor thing. How'd she die?"
"He. And speak for yourself! That geek was anything but a poor thing!
like a dimwit thing!"
"It's the truth!" I exclaimed, laughing. "He was gross! He blurted out
his love life
and everything which-duh-contained us. He was such a. . .yuck, a slimy
Colette didn't answer.
I then heard a shriek behind me. I wrenched around to see Jen being
carried back
to a police car.
"No!" She kept yelling, kicking and swearing.
"Come on, jerk, let me go!" She twisted out of the policeman's grasp.
He tried to grab her again, but she raised her leg high and smashed him
in the
stomach. He fell to his knees and gasped for breath. He wheezed
and fell to the ground.
Jen rushed over to me.
"Hey!" She said, breathing hard. "How'd you get out?"
"Wits," I answered.
"And a chainsaw," Colette added. We both laughed.
"Hi," Jen said to Colette. "Who are you?"
"I'm Colette, Amber's long-lost sister. Who are you?"
"I'm Jennifer, Amber's not-so-long-lost best friend. Call me Jen."
They shook hands.
"I've got a new nickname for you," I told Jen.
"Uh-oh." Jen muttered. "What is it?"
"The JenMiester!"
"Aaaaaahhh!" Jen screamed, tugging her hair. "Oh, I hate you,
I hate you, I hate you!"
"You won't need that feeling for much longer." Lynne stood in front of
" 'Cause in a minute Amber's gonna be dead!" Lynne raised the
blood-stained knife that had been stabbed through Jason's letter.
"This killing is for you, my sweet!" Lynne called out, looking
up at the sky.
Suddenly she dropped the knife.
Her hand was shaking violently. Blood seeped out from her veins.


"Jason, he's-he's-he's calling me!" Lynne screamed triumphantly.
"Yes, dear?!"
The shaking of Lynne's hand stopped. The blood disappeared. Lynne hung
her head.
"His afterlife telephone line time is over," she sobbed.
Then I decided:
Lynne was crazy!
Hey. Woah. Wait. She ditched me in a shack, right? She could have
me in the shed! What was she allergic to in there? I knew! Anti-Freeze
and chlorine!
I had found out about a month ago that Lynne couldn't swim and that she
couldn't go near a car's radiator because she was allergic to
So I figured that if I mixed Anti-Freeze and chlorine together and
chocolate in it and told her to drink it then she would die!
I then ran past everybody and ran to a pool. She couldn't swim because
chlorine. I sprinkled chocolate powder in the water to make it look like
I ran to the shed and got a bottle of Anti-Freeze and dumped it into
the pool. Then I pulled out a bottle of Hershey's and Nestle Quik
chocolate sauce.
I drew the words 'Bye-Bye Lynne!' in the water with the sauce.
I mixed everything up and called Lynne over.
"See?" I pointed to the pool. "It's chocolate! No chlorine or
"Liar," Lynne murmured.
"Is that a challenge?" I said this as if I was Mufasa from The Lion
"Temper, temper. You're such a liar."
I frowned. "You're such a imbecile." I then punched Lynne, so hard that
she went sailing
into the pool.
I saw Lynne crawl up from the pool.
"Do you know yet?" She asked.
"Um. . .no," I answered.
"I'm. . .oops, sorry. That was a long time ago. Noah!"
Noah trotted over to Jen and me.
He laughed.
"Here," Noah said to Jenny. "Here's your birth certificate. Your real
that is."
Jen read the name aloud. "Jennifer Kay Ballkeen. . .the Second?"
"And here's mine."
Noah handed her his birth certificate.
"Noah Raymond Hege, born October eighth, 1963?"
Jen looked up. "But . . .my mom was born then."
"Right," Noah agreed. "And I killed her. Ever wonder why your dad
never talks about her?"
"Because she's dead! I killed her a month after you came into this
stupid place!
We'd been going out for a few years. But then your father came along.
jerk! So they got married, and I killed your real mom for it! Mostly
to see how crestfallen your dad would get, to see if he had used her.
He hadn't. But then Maria arrived. Your dad married her, and ever since
been saying that she's your mother! And, by the way, Maria was born in
I feel sorry for you. Anyway, your mom wants to see you, so I kind of
to kill you to accomplish that. Then we can all be dead together! I
killed myself
after I killed your mother. My little Lynnie got married to Jason, and
were both already dead at the time. I'm their uncle."
"But wait!" Jen protested. "I thought that you said you last name
was Geeh!"
"Haven't you ever heard of anagrams?" Noah snapped.
"It is Geeh! G-e-e-h can be words like Heeg, Egeh, Geeh, and Hege.
Noah raised an anvil over Jen's head.
"You'll die the same way Lynne, Jason, and Jennifer did-like this!"
Noah dropped the anvil. I heard a sickening crack as it landed on Jen's


"Oooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww," I heard Jenny moan.
I looked down.
Thank God! It had only landed on Jen's leg!
Colette and I hauled it off of her.
It was light-it was foam!
"What a rip!" Noah cried. "I'll sue em'!"
With that he stalked away and floated back up to. . .
"Oh, Jen, are you alright?"
Nora, and Scott, and Eric, and Chris, and Jon helped Jen up.
"It was only foam, Jen," I told her.
"Yeah, but it still hurt," Jen protested, laughing.
"Can you walk?" Chris asked, concerned.
"Yeah." Jen hugged him.
Chris grinned and rolled his eyes in embarrassment.
Lynne glared at me.
"Hey, look, I'm-?"
Lynne lunged at me, hands outstretched like claws.
I screamed.
"Lynne, no!" Six people (I don't know whom), some strangers, clutched
Lynne's blouse, holding her back.
She still clawed at me, hissing.
I thought for a minute.
Okay, I'm religious. There must be some sort of thing that wards off
Ah! My study on Indian tribal patterns showed that if you trace
your finger along somebody's cheek then it will catch fire. I had
studied it again and again until it was memorized. The studying
paid off.
I drew the commonly deadly skull and crossbone configuration along
with a blank totem pole. A spark flew from where I had touched. Then
another. And another until Lynne's hand caught fire. The fire spread
out along Lynne's entire body, until she was (literally) a ball of fire.
The fire climbed up my finger, leaving a scorch mark.
I looked up and then down.
Before I could blink, by fatal accident, I stared into
the mound of dust, dirt, and ashes.


"Dust, Dirt, and Ashes" belongs purely to Taryn Aldrich © 1997.

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