FLASH FICTION: SILVER DUST.
THIS SHORT STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON HTTP://LEXCHASE.COM.
Jens slapped at the shower handle to stop the water. He strained to listen. Tap. Tap. Tap. Only water dripping down. Silence. And then a dull thud. From inside of the apartment. A squeak of a chair on linoleum. Jens popped the shower door open quietly, sticking his head out. He’d left the door to the bathroom ajar. The bedroom window was open, too. It had been another hot August day, and the apartment was stuffy.
Reaching for the towel, he clutched it to his chest and stilled. Another quiet squeak. His heart beating wildly, Jens scrubbed the towel down his torso perfunctorily and wrapped it around his waist. In his mind, he searched for a weapon. His gaze swept his surroundings. A hamper, four shampoo and shower gel bottles, a tube of hair product. Henry’s shaving kit. The rail holding the towels was screwed tightly to the wall. The electric toothbrush had a sharp steel shaft sticking up, maybe one inch long? He grimaced at that thought. A toilet brush? God, he was hopeless.
He took three careful steps toward the door and peeked into the bedroom. It was dark, illuminated only by the street lamps outside. The curtains swayed infinitesimally from the weak draft. All was quiet for now. The bedside tables? But Henry never kept any of his guns in the apartment. Jens was now mildly annoyed at his husband’s overprotectiveness.
He snatched his cell phone from the bedside table. It vibrated in his hand with a waiting message. He ignored it, and holding his phone tight, made his way noiselessly over the carpeted floor closer to the kitchen. Just then a loud crash made him jump.
Sweat broke out all over Jens’s freshly showered body. He shivered despite the heat. A panicky, probably stupid plan formed in his head. He’d sneak closer to the kitchen and try to have a look. If he’d see or hear anyone—anything—he’d call the police.
He made three more careful steps, cringing at the small sounds that his wet feet made on the wooden floor of the hallway. One more step. He leaned to the side and listened some more. The apartment was completely silent again. He reached the corner and stopped breathing. A quick peek. He was convinced that whoever was in the kitchen must hear his heart thumping by now. He had to do it. Now. Coward! Move!
He stuck his head out and turned around so fast he got dizzy. He was back and glued to the wall in the hallway. His eyes squeezed shut when his brain first registered what he saw. He peeled away from the wall and slowly stepped into the kitchen. There was no broken glass. The light coming through the windows was faint but enough for him to see clearly. He walked slowly, first entranced, then exasperated. Bracing his arms against the table, Jens heaved a sigh.
Henry, you freaking lunatic, he thought, not for the first time.
In the middle of the table stood a tall clear vase with a single red rose in it. The flower seemed freshly cut, and it shimmered with the telltale silvery dust of time continuum having been broken recently. Jens could still smell it in the air, the familiar, pleasant, smoky scent, like from a distant campfire, with a faint trace of cinnamon in it. But the intense fragrance of the rose took over quickly. Under the vase was a note on a blueish, lined piece of paper and a white envelope. The silver dust was already disappearing from those.
Sorry. I crashed the vase on my first try. Went back and fixed it, though. Look inside and keep those safe for us. Saturday night? Don’t worry about clothes. I’ll find us something.
Jens stroked the tiny but perfectly legible handwriting with his thumb. The dust was now completely gone, but the memory of it lingered. Just like it had done two days ago when Henry had slipped home for just a couple of hours in the middle of the night. Jens had tasted the dust of time on Henry’s skin. Campfire smoke and cinnamon. Wrapped tight in Henry’s long, sinewy limbs, he’d been almost falling asleep when Henry had spoken for the first time that night.
“I talked to Anna yesterday. I’ll quit in October.”
Jens had tensed, and Henry must have felt it. He’d tightened his arms around Jens and nuzzled his neck.
“Shh. Not your fault. It’s good news.” He’d sighed and pressed his lips into the soft hair on Jen’s nape. “I’m tired, baby,” he’d said. “Exhausted, really. And I miss you. I don’t want to live like this anymore. I don’t want you to live like this. I want to move somewhere closer to the shore. Get a dog. Take long walks. I’m going to work in research—mission prep work—from home.” Jens could hear the smile in Henry’s voice. And the longing. “Two more months of traveling and I’m done. We’re going to get a dog. And a cat.”
Jens’s eyes had burned behind his eyelids. He’d taken hours to fall asleep again after Henry had left that night.
Two more months.
Curious now, he carefully pulled the envelope from under the vase.
There were two smallish pieces of paper, yellow with red and black print on them. They looked like vintage movie tickets
Rolling Stones Concert
Tuesday Evening 8:00 p.m.
The Capital Centre
July 1, 1975
No Refunds of Exchanges
Jens barked out a loud laugh and slapped a hand over his mouth.
Apparently, he was going to Washington D.C. to see Rolling Stones live. On Saturday. Except it would be Tuesday. In 1975.
Don’t worry about the clothes…
He could already picture Henry in the tightest of pale blue flared jeans and a furry vest. Henry always overdid the costumes.
Two more months. Jens could probably make it for two more months.