Gold Dust (Short Story)
The clouds were beginning to roll in and a thousand city lights switched on.
The girl took a silver spoon from the checkerboard, twisting the handle in her fingers. It had a mer creature carved into the hilt, and she rolled its breast on her nails. Charles Newbury watched with hooded eyes. The girl watched him too, her eyes a similar pair. Her mouth twisted, distorted in the space just above her chin. Her lips are blood red, her shoulders hunched, her eyes yellowed and thirsty.
There a long silence, then Charles cuts through it with his stupid, useless words again; a butcher cutting through an animal with their disembowelling knife.
“May I-may I hold your hands?”
The girl lowers her gaze and peers at her palms, claws with sharpened talons. She looks back up, slowly, then nods her head. Charles Newbury reached out for her.
The girl nods.
“So, terribly cold.”
The girl nods. Right again.
“Are you ever lonely?”
“Sometimes.” And it's the first word the girl has spoken to him. Her voice is small, hazy. She’s like a mouse.
“Do you have friends?”
“You’re my friend,” The girl insists. But she hesitates.
“What did you do before me? What did you do a week ago?”
“There was never a time before you. There was only me and the city and the lights. A long moment where I had to shield myself from the lights. I lived life under an umbrella.”
“First you’re mute but now I’ve got you talking you’ll never stop!” Charles laughs. The girl looks down, embarrassed.
“I can stop if it bothers you.”
“No no, not at all! Please talk! I demand it!”
“What did you do before me?” The girl cloaked in midnight hours asks, and Charles Newbury’s face falls, “Do you know anyone?”
Silencio. Silencio for a short while. Then-
“No, no there’s no one else.”
“Just me?” And the girl’s eyebrows raise, “Just me and the empty spaces?”
“Lonely,” Charles Newbury agrees, “Ever so lonely.”
“Stuck in places you don’t even understand? That you don’t ever agree on?”
“Is that why I found you dying on your back?”
The girl cackles, “You always speak in uncertainties! Possibilities, instead of certainties!”
“I wish I could speak like this all the time. Speak with others the way I can speak with you. But when I do I end up lying on my back, awaiting my saviour in an alley.”
The girl says nothing, but she smiles smugly. She takes her seat at the table, a shadow in the electric lamps. Her face is a painting. Charles is a painting too, only his image is marred by a dust cloth. Both duck to catch the others’ features.
Finally, the man sighs.
“That's how I got into the gold dust you know. That’s not really a question, I’m just explaining. I feel like an explanation is in order.”
The girl nods and allows him to continue.
“I felt...old? But young somehow. I felt so out of place. The last few years have been hell. Hell on ground.”
“Xul,” The girl agrees. Charles looks down to the floorboards.
“The trees turned red, turned hollow. So I went to the city, ‘cause that’s where everyone goes don’t they? That’s where all the people are! But none of the people want me. None of the people can stand me. So I started the steps to take my pain away. I started on the dust.”
“In my country...” The girl croaks, “...The dying country... gold dust is a thing in the air. It’s something people quest after. Something people try to catch in jars. We experiment with it. Children play with it. It’s as harmless as a kitchen carpet.”
“Still,” Charles growls, “There are times when the kitchen carpet takes it upon itself to fly about the room. Oh that’s how they drag you in. The magic, the air, the mountains! And all the singing that goes with it! But no. No no no! It’s all of a different sort! It’s gold, it’s dust but it stinks to high heaven. The stink repels but it drags you kicking and screaming towards it. It catches you and you spiral down. Down down down...until you meet strange girls in alleys and they turn out to be the nicest people you’ve ever met!”
The girl giggles. Charlie lights a cigarette.
“Silencio,” And this time, the forbidden word is spoken out loud. The girl smiles again and Charles starts to join her.
“Silencio?” Charles Newbury asks
“Silencio. Appropriate as it is, sometimes people can’t stand it.”
“It sounds strange. It sounds like calm waters.”
“It is the cure for dark nights and purple eyes. Silence is the cure for all ills.”
“What’s your name?”
The girl freezes.
“Do you have a name? What’s your name?”
“You’re drunk,” The girl bristles, “You’re drunk and you don’t know what you ask of me.”
“If you’d like, you don’t have to tell me. Not just yet. Just, say anything.”
“I will not lie.” The girl frowns.
“It is not a lie. It is silencio. It is just as good. Just as needed.”
“Surely you don’t think knowing my name will make things better do you? You must have more sense than that. Mr Newbury; are you new? Did someone ever bury you?”
“You’ll never know if you refuse to ask.”
“My name,” The girl curses, “Is none of your concern. It is about as helpful to you as the golden dust that kills you.”
Charles continues to smile, “When we are confined to the lonely places, a cluster of the grotesque and the pain, what should I call you?”
The girl lifts herself from the table and glances out at the concrete roads behind the window.
“I’m a shadow. I’m shallow, flat and stupid. I have no need for a name.”
“But you have one,” Charles insists, “What is it?”
The girl turns. She grins, “You won’t let this go, will you?” Her voice is paper thin. She’s beginning to cry, “Won’t you please let this go?”
Charles Newbury is a ruthless man. He props himself on his elbows and continues to smirk at his crying friend. His only friend in the world is crying and he laughs.
“Just tell me what your name is, please?”
The girl wipes a pale cheek with a black sleeve. She takes a deep breath. Two hours ago, outside was bleak and grey and worthless. Now she’d give anything to be out there again, just a silhouette on the bricks.
“Rain,” The girl confesses, “That’s my name.”
Charles rolls onto his side, satisfied and giddy. The girl's frown deepens as she listens to Mr Newbury laugh. Her fists clench.
“Why am I with you?” She whispers, to herself more than anything else, “Why you of all people? We shall die and no one will care except us. And... maybe this empty flat. And that cigarette. That’s all that will be left of us. You won’t care but I will! Will we be lost to the sands of time, to the...to the gold dust?”
The hairs on Charles’ arms stand up.
“Yes!” The girl yells, and her voice is the voice of a snake’s bitter poison, “Yes we will melt in the rain! In our rain! We shall build our own graves! And we shall die copies, stuffed and filled with gold dust! No blood, flesh tissue. Only straw and dust. Our remains; lost to the city sights and sounds. Petrified. Petrified body bags! Is that what you want? Is that really what you want?”
She’s shaking, but Charles crosses over and holds her in his arms. Her own arms, wire lines, grab onto his shoulders.
“We won’t forget each other. We will be together, intertwined. And that’s all that matters.”
“We barely know each other.”
“And that’s why I trust it. I trust it more than the gold dust. I trust it more than Xul. Tonight you have opened me up more than years upon years of shrine worship ever could! And that is why I trust you, more than outside. I want to spend the rest of my life with you Rain. Rain, I love you.”
He says it again and again. Begging the girl to life. It works somewhat, but they spend the night lying on the kitchen floor, dreaming on a static wind, holding each other's palms. They trace their lifelines with the others fingers.
Outside, the electric lights continue to buzz.