When the Dust Settles

by Melissa Mendelson

I don't know why I had this reoccurring dream. I was only in high school, living the high school life. The world meant nothing to me. I just wanted to be left alone. I wanted to escape, but escape would not be found here, here in a place that the world should never know. Still, I dreamed, and still I remember.

It was always night.  Fires raged in tin barrels, decorating the alleyways, and people clinging to shreds of their life held on for dear warmth.  Large, yellow police tape swathed around boarded, public buildings.  School was out for good, and museums were forever locked and sealed, denying the birth of free minds for a better tomorrow or today.  Shadows raced across the broken streets, bent on survival, and no humanity glimmered in those dark eyes that met mine.

I don't know why I came here.  I don't know why I had to see this, but I couldn't wake up.  My feet marched forward.  I was a puppet being led on invisible strings, and my eyes rose upward to a barely star-lit sky.  Monstrous, glass skyscrapers filled my view, and maybe this world wasn't as bad as it looked.  But more alleyways filled with lost souls passed me by, and my heart broke into two.

The building waited for me.  It was once a symbol of strength, and it had an emblem of peace, unity.  I remembered staring at the date carved in cement, a date before now, so how did it come to this?

War.  We couldn't stop fighting with ourselves.  We were divided.  When the time came to unite, nobody listened.  They felt empowered within their own factions, and that disbelief gave way to destruction.  Too many people died for that.  When the dust settled, this place, this world rose up, and now this was how it was.

My death waited inside.  I knew better than to enter, but I didn't have a choice.  My strings were pulled, and my feet marched forward.  The glass doors kissed the air behind me, a kiss farewell, and the lock clicked into place. 

A spiral staircase wrapped upward to the top floor.  A glass ceiling held my gaze, but a million eyes pierced my back.  I didn't want to look, but the lost souls were calling to me, people, who would never get out.  I didn't know any of them, but then my family stepped into view.  They failed to escape, but I could have.  I didn't have to come here, but I did.

The men were waiting.  They took me by the arm and led me to the elevator.  We were not going to the top floor.  We were going to the basement.  It was a place of dread, suffocated in the gas of death, and this would be where my life would end.

I wanted to wake up.  Instead, I was a dead man walking.  I could have run, but more men appeared, ready to overpower me.  I didn't have a choice, and my strings were cut.  The chamber rose into view.  This was it.  Time to die.  This was the world that I dreamt, and as my foot took its last step, my last breath, I finally woke up.

BIO: Born in Portchester, NY in 1977, Melissa R. Mendelson began her writing career as a news reporter for Suffolk County’s Smithtown Messenger Newspaper (2002-2004).  She later freelanced for the Hudson Valley's Photo News and continues to write a variety of articles for Associated Content.  Her poetry was included in Names in a Jar: A Collection Of Poetry By 100 Contemporary American Poets, and her short stories and poetry continue to be published by numerous literary websites such as Provoke Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Memoirs of Meanness, Noble Row Magazine, the (Short) Fiction Collection, Pens on Fire, and Poets for Living Waters.