Blanket of Ash

Stephen Koster

They made love in the rain in a field without fences after their house burned down to its foundations. The remains looked more like black termite mounds than anything else. All it was as ash.

They watched the whole thing burn. There was nothing, realistically, that could’ve been done.

Afterwards, lying on the ground in silence and halfway between comfort and despair, they decided to walk. Starting the long journey to the next house. The gravel of the road was littered with black shreds of things.

Like ancient Trojans crossing deserts away from fiery ruin, fearing former good fortune and especially unexpected gifts, they kept to the roads they knew.

In the pantry all the labels had burnt off the cans so they couldn’t tell between products. All the books had gone too and turned to ash or fallen into a pile of mismatched literacy that was reduced to random words and thoughts. The TV had fractured and what internet there had been was disconnected.

Technically they still owned the land. But that was like still having a stump after an amputation.

“We could stay here for the night,” the husband had said.

“We could,” she had said.

“But it will be cold.” He waited. “I think we’d be better off walking.” He waited. “We should walk.”

He looked at her face. He felt detached when he noticed she was crying — it was strange because she wasn’t making any sounds. She usually shook. He forgot about walking.

They had been on the verge of insanity when they had calmly discussed a simpler solution. There was a way to merge dreams with waking endlessly. The fire had left them enough ways to do it.

After sharpening the spade he found in the garden to a killing edge he asked if she wanted to do it in the field or in the house. The field was a nicer place now, as most of it was untouched by the ash, but they had an unspoken consensus that the place it was done in didn’t really matter.

It was funny because they’d never actually used the spade for gardening. They’d never touched the garden. It was funny that the fire had left it for them to use. Maybe something would grow from the blood.

After passing what was now a blade to her, because he couldn’t do it for her, she would have to do all the work for herself, she felt a glimmer of something deep in her belly that swished and writhed and remembered — suddenly wanting to be released and not to die. Soon they could be afraid to die, but why did they have to start now? All that was left on the calendar that had survived only in their heads was to find something to eat in the morning. The schedule of duties they had kept together was only a black-edged remnant now.

Taking their clothes off hadn’t felt strange, as it usually did. It almost made sense.

So they lay down in the field with the spade set beside them and the sky overhead, and when they came together in the downpour they weren’t at all angry that the rain was too late.

STEPHEN KOSTER was born in the Ottawa valley in the imaginary land known as “Canada.” He resides in a fictional house, with a fictional wife, and four make-believe cats named Who, Where, What, and Why. He is recently graduated from University and only twenty-two, so there’s still plenty of time for him to get a real job, Mom.

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