Short Story

Birthed on a Bed of Thunderclouds, the Dust to Dust prologue 

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Lozenge mining started long ago, ever since these shiny gems were found by the A Vinos company. The company invented a demand through a marketing campaign that sent the world into a frenzy. Almost overnight, people altered their savings strategies and long term life planning to save absurd sums of money to buy one of these stones for their future life partners — an unexpected financial turn for an otherwise financially prudent social focus on monogamy.

As time progressed, the company continued to inflate pricing, using these rocks nobody cared about just a few decades ago to establish a new status symbol for the modern world. With this manufactured value came strangely organic demand, and as a result mining operations exploded all over the world, with a particular focus on the continent of Phrike, which had always been seen as a little out there and away from civilization.

Our story is centered within the mining communities of Fernet-Nafourat, which was formerly a beautiful hot spring site in the country of North Phrike. Today, Fernet-Nafourat has mostly dried up, and the hot spring sites have been largely replaced by mining operations, and many of the native communities of North Phrike have been conscripted into the A Vinos company as miners and support staff.

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The sky barked at the earth as loud as ever, but the threat of the gift of rain was like an empty promise that the clouds hadn’t kept for almost six months.


Shadows quilted the earth, and figures hooded by the darkness amongst a backdrop of rock walls that had been stripped of their youth, moved under their warm cover. Two of these figures were hunched over the cracked earth in search of treasure within an indiscernible rubble.


“Ey — you idiots, make sure you’re bringing those magnets close to the ground. We’re not using the stuff the mining company has us working with, so put yer back into it!”


“They don’t really make ’em like they used to…


Behind the pair of treasure hunters who looked more like scavengers, a grumpy old man was driving the “poor boy’s sled” — a sled with no seats and no ropes, where his gruff demanding voice took the place of harnesses that captivated the late-night laborers. 


The sled driver, Gary, showed all the signs of a life lived as liveware. His dry skin was cracking from exposure, and his pallid eyes were likely left behind from a case of undiagnosed leprosy or depression in his youth that he probably just worked through. The man was a legend earlier in this life in the mines — people saw him as a beast among the rocks, but in his advanced age, he had been relegated to pushing the pack from behind the scenes. In his current state, he could do little but retain a link to the past by introducing himself with “the second” as a suffix, a dying effort to retain the knowledge that there had been a life before the mines.

“Old man — what’s the point of sifting through this dirt anyway? Even if we find these giant blocks you’re looking for, what happens?”


“Are you trying to save the world from the mines? Seems a little late for that, right?”


Of the two laborers, the one with the most to say made sure she was heard since she had Gary’s ear with nobody else around. She knew questioning him in front of other people was just going to grind the poor old man’s gears, so there wasn’t much hope he would be receptive to feedback.

In Bom’s career in the mines, she’d felt the futility of breaking what looked like the same rocks down every single day. Gary would say that their generation has gone soft — afraid of hard work, possibly missing the guts to have anything called conviction in the face of difficulty, but Bom just saw herself as a realist.

“A chattering bird builds no nest, you idiot. Stop the blabbering and keep at it!” Gary couldn’t do much to ease the feeling that this night had been a wash, so he tried desperately to just get his slapped-together staff to shut up so he wouldn’t have to talk much, though this did little to stop his own diatribes.

Exhausted from spending their days mining for lozenges, they were also spending their nights using broken tools left over at their sites to hunt. The prey didn’t even seem to be anything special, at least at first glance — slabs of rock that hadn’t yet been crushed by the weight of their day job.

The hope, if nothing else, was that their magnets would clear out the small metal particulates from the ground to provide a clearer view of the rock left behind by mining that their little troupe, who were now long asleep as the three of them should have also been, had completed a couple of months before. Gary had developed a ritual of sorts to take a couple of his trusted companions out to old sites after they had cleared out to scavenge for larger rocks. To them, the rock left behind could be as much if not more valuable than the gemstones they extracted.

The quietest member of the trio stopped suddenly in her tracks, uttering a statement of fact that the other two would consider a prophetic warning:

“It smells like rain.”

Gary wasn’t excited to hear the news, but Bom tried to preempt an outburst by going after the assumed prophet: “Doesn’t look like rain, does it? There weren’t any clouds earlier, and I can still see the stars — don’t try to predict the weather, you’re not God.”

The usually gruff Gary unexpectedly defended the little girl,“This kid is as blessed around the water as anybody. She’s not one of ours — I called her up from the coast because the rest of you aren’t getting us anywhere. If you’re annoyed, figure something out – I ain’t in the mood to hear the back and forth.” 

He turned to Basfi, “Have we seen anything on the X-ray?”

The little girl, who was really just making a remark about the smell in the air, looked at the machine in her hand and innocently mused, “I’m not sure if it’s broken or if there’s really nothing there. How would we know?”

“Ugh… you’re just as useless as the rest of ’em, Basfi. Why do I even bother…Looks like we’re going to have to head back — Basfi, talk to the elders at home and come back up once you think we’re going to have a dry night. You can stay with me at the campsite tonight and head out once you’re up in the morning.”

As the first handful of fat water droplets fell to test the path of resistance for the downpour to come, the nightcrawlers turned their caravan around. There was no disappointment from an endeavor that came up empty, but the two adults slumped their shoulders the way one would expect from a life that never went their way.

“We’ll keep going — I know there’s a slab out here somewhere.”

Sometimes someone has to suck it up and tell the lie to save others from the sin, and the numbness of their hope can still persist.

Always an advocate of North Texas, Aabid grew up in the DFW suburbs of Grapevine and Euless. While in college, he developed an interest in spoken word and written poetry and competed in competitions with MSA Lone Star Council as well as through on campus organizations at Southern Methodist University. After graduating with a BBA in Business Management and a BA in Philosophy, he transitioned into a career in Technology Consulting, where he helps government clients implement systems to better process applications for their healthcare-related programs.

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