The Way of The Dust
A Peculiar Tale About What Happens When Souls Decide to Play the Human Game
And now for something a little different. Several years ago, I collaborated with my friend Gary Dorsey on a series of short stories we called Peculiar Things. Gary would send me a piece of art he created and I would pen a story inspired by the image.
This one is, shall we say, a non-traditional take on what transpires when a soul decides to incarnate on Earth, and how they get from There to Here. I thought it might be fun to share this side of myself.
What really happens when souls decide to incarnate on Earth? I haven’t the foggiest, but I imagine somewhere in this infinite Multiverse this scene might actually be unfolding. Who knows? Sometimes, truth pops through the seams of story into reality in peculiar ways. Enjoy.
The interesting days are the ones when a suit walks through the door. The poor souls don’t know what they’re getting themselves into even if they’ve tricked themselves into thinking they do.
They come, usually after some idea’s burrowed into their minds about what they got and don’t got, and how they got to get more while they can. Always more. Nobody ever wants less.
Since word got around about it, folks come from all over to experience the dust. Truth be told, I don’t get the appeal. Like some strange addiction if you ask me.
I seen it more times than I can tell you. Been that way since the days of the old country. Nothing changes except which side of the stars you see things from. Folks, well, they been the same since the fabric of everything was spun together.
They come to me to punch their ticket. I play my part just as they do theirs. I mind the door, take their ticket and nod. Explain the rules if they needs explaining. Then I take them to the door. I don’t know why they go, but it’s not for me to stop them, after all. Never was.
Most don’t know any better, and those that do care very little for the cost.
That’s the thing, you know, the cost. Once you start, you ride that thing to the end no matter where she takes you. Ain’t no going back. Got to have the constitution for it, which most don’t. Easier to stay this side of the stars if you ask me. There’s too much to bear down there, but no one asks my opinion.
Especially not the suits. They come and go, but I still remember all the faces. Especially the newbie. Him, I remember well.
The bell above the door chimed. He walked into the parlor just like they all do, wearing a prim and proper and an uneasy smile.
First timer. You could see it in the way he stepped.
He said not a word when he held out the familiar black ticket with the white hare silhouette embossed in the middle. A slight tremor ran through his hand, though he tried his best to hide it.
Finally he spoke. “A friend told me you had a way down.”
“Sure about that?”
His forehead wrinkled. “Sorry?”
“That they’re your friend,” I said and leaned closer. “You said your friend told you about getting a way down. No friend I know would send anyone here for a ride down there. Maybe you walked into the wrong establishment, sir.”
He glanced around then laid his palm on the counter. “I have a wild hair.” He wasn’t about to change his mind, I could see it in his eyes. When he drew his hand back, a single black hair remained in the sweaty print he left behind. “I want to trade for a ride. Hair for hare. Life for life. Stardust for Earthdust. I was told you could help me.”
I sized him up. Said nothing. Usually a few beats of silence is all some of them need to reconsider their choice.
“Can you or can’t you?” said he. This time, his lip twitched. So he was a might testy. Impatient. Everyone’s impatient.
“I can do only as I’m asked. You should know this already.”
The stranger eyed me and sniffed once. “Right, right. He said you would ask—“
“The rules, you see,” said I. “It’s—“
“The way of things. Yes, I heard.” The suit then drew a breath, remembering what words came next. “I want to ride and will face all that awaits, seen and unseen, good and otherwise.”
“To the end?”
He nodded. “Yes,” uncertainty now crackling his words like brittle glass. “The very end.”
“Very well then. It’s your life.” I passed the ticket back to him and the stranger took it into his hand, which now trembled. “Go on, look at it.”
He did and his eyes went wide as the words appeared on the ticket where it had before been blank.
“Read,” said I. “Aloud. How you say what you say matters. Consider your words carefully for they bleed with belief and, in so doing, hang entire worlds on nothing.”
He drew a deep breath and let it out.
“Rule #1,” he began. “The wild hare—“
He cleared his throat. “The wild hare owns you once you climb on.”
“Yes, go on,” said I.
“Rule #2: You must ride it until one of you dies. It is the only surety: death.
Rule #3: If at any time you wish to stop, remember Rule #1.
Rule #4: Hang on. The more you try to control the hare, the more challenging the ride.
Rule #5: Seven dark ones, which never sleep, will chase you without end. It is their sole and primal instinct. You will die before they will because they are not alive, but neither are they dead. They want only one thing: to stop the hare.”
At this the man stopped reading and stared at the ticket for several long moments. He stood there like they all do. Dumbstruck and wondering if he was about to make a mistake. He was likely listening to the sound of his own heart in his ears the way it pounds when a man stands on the brink of the abyss.
“Rule…Rule #6: Living demands dying. This is the lesson and the Way of the Dust.”
The man exhaled slowly and handed the ticket back.
“So,” said I. “What would you have: certain existence among the stars or the unsure path that begins with the dust and there ends again?”
“I choose dust.”
“You accept then?”
“I do. Punch my ticket, sir,” said he.
“There’s no returning till you’ve finished your path, and only then can you return by way of the ground.”
“So be it,” whispered he, still unsure. “Stardust to Earthdust. Now, show me.”
I punched his ticket and stepped aside, as I always do, and pointed at the door to all things made of dust. “You must open it yourself. Can’t nobody do it but you.”
“And then?” His feet seemed rooted to the ground.
“Then you will live and meet death, too, on the way. You will see what you’ve never conceived or dreamt of before. You will know things you cannot know now because you know too much. You will forget, and in that terrible forgetting you will bleed and cry and wish for it all to end even while you beg to see more with your last breath. At the end, you’ll know the unbearable weight of existence and the lightness of being. That, too, is The Way of the Dust until you learn for yourself.”
He seemed confused. “Learn what?”
“What it truly means to be.”
“Stardust to Earthdust,” said he with as much courage as he could summon. Then he turned the doorknob, pushed the door wide, and was sucked into the dimension of men, time, and mortality.
“Have a nice ride,” said I.