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Dust Returning to Dust

by Kerper

Stuck up in a tree with my left arm pinned awkwardly behind my head, I couldn’t move at all. Before I could figure out what to do, my precarious balance on the huge oak’s limb slipped. I swear I hit every branch on the way down. At least I didn’t land straddling a limb, THAT would have hurt.


The first landing didn’t hurt as much as I expected. Straight into a bush. But the large green shrub, which had the sharpest damn little leaves, bounced me like a ball right into what felt like a strip of asphalt. I lay still for a few minutes to make sure that nothing was broken. Not that I would be able to tell until I moved, but lying there for a moment seemed like a good idea. The dark night pushed in on me from all sides. As I stood up, a strange sensation of foreboding started around my shoulder blades and met somewhere under my neck before traveling to the back of my head.


I looked up, brushing the dirt of my faded, cut-up-on-purpose jeans. My black t-shirt was covered in those annoying little sand-spur thingies. My hands scrapped them off my chest of their own accord while I tried to get my bearings. At least I had the stars. Staring at the bright points, I picked out a few of my favorite constellations, Orion, Perseus, Scorpio, before finding the two I was unconsciously looking for: Phoenix and Andromeda. Just like that, I felt more calm, almost serene. Here was something familiar, known.


Because, casting my gaze around, nothing else was familiar. The tree that I had fallen out of stood alone, the only one in sight. Rolling plains soared out in every direction.


Before I could take that thought further, I heard the roar of an engine traveling fast…and coming toward me. Two things became clear immediately. One: I was on a road. Two: I needed to get off it. Now.


I scrambled back in the direction of my tree. The two pinpricks of light illuminated the road that, before now, I had not been able to see. Pushing through the brush, I felt my jeans tear. ‘Crap, now I’ll have to—’ the thought stopped faster than I did. I realized I didn’t know if I had another pair of pants because I didn’t even know where I was. I realized I didn’t know who ‘I’ was.


“Damn.”


I turned back to the road, knowing I needed help. I stretched both arms out and crisscrossed them in the air, waving them back and forth.


“Hey.”


As the car came closer I began to think of what I was doing here in the first place. I could remember all the little nuances of life, like the names of constellations and the fact that landing straddle-back on a tree limb would probably hurt me, a male, like hell. But I couldn’t remember the bigger things, like my name, who I was, how I had gotten here, or anything about my life before now.


Looking back, I should have seen it coming. Guy who just fell out of a tree, can’t remember his own name, stumbling around in a country road in the middle of the night.


I can see the car’s headlights rounding the last corner. It was comical, the way their faces looked. I caught only a glimpse of the woman driving, a slight smile playing out on her lips as she looked at the man sitting next to her. His face I’ll always remember. Dressed in a high-end designer suit, he had a surprised look etched across his face. Homely with a nose that had been broken in at least two places, his eyes are what struck me. Slightly grey bordering on silver; they had the tint of finely polished steel. Even as the car plowed into me at sixty miles per hour, our gaze never broke. The emotion I saw in his face scared me more than the knowledge that a two-thousand pound vehicle was about to hit me. He looked excited, leaning forward slightly and happy with a smile splitting his face in two.


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When I came to the first time, the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen stood talking to a doctor in the doorway. I lay in a hospital bed with wires and tubes everywhere. My leg, strapped up in a sling, began to itch. I reached for it, before realizing that my arms didn’t feel right. I looked again at the two, standing under the single fluorescent light from the hallway outside the room that trickled through their silhouettes. Pretty Lady, who I recognized as the driver of the car that had hit me, handed the doctor an envelope. Her eyes seemed to lock upon the doctor’s. Then with a sharp snap of her head, which sent her beautiful blonde hair rippling through the air to sparkle under the light from the hall, her eyes were glaring at me. At once, the harsh glower relaxed into a pleasant smile and I felt peace…I felt tired…I felt…darkness…


The Pretty Lady sitting alone in the room. She sang a lullaby about…something…
Needles and nurses…heaven and hell…My body ached in places that I never felt before. I wanted to fly higher with Icarus, but went underground with Orpheus. It was even darker there. I sat straight up at one point, taking in a deep breath. ‘Oh air, how sweet the taste’ I turned to the seat next to me. Empty. But I remembered her. Remembered her all too well. Where was she… I had to… Something caught my attention on the floor. No flowers on the counters to distract me. The floor...


“Juliet?”


The pain at seeing her dead body was too much. Not again. This time I embraced the darkness…


Memories floated around my brain for what seemed like eternity, but had only to be hours. Flying and sailing, swordfights and battles, prisons and castles, I had been in all and in none. I was everything and nothing. My name was….something…I still couldn’t grasp that.


When I came to for the second time, a nurse stood over me with a chart in her hands. She didn’t look anything like the doctor from my first dream so I couldn’t tell if I still dreamed the dreams of the delirious or if I was truly awake this time.
My first attempt at speech probably sounded horrible to the nurse, because she immediately placed her hand on my shoulder and told me to lie still. She hurried off through the doorway from my first dream—my room was lit up now—and returned soon enough with a glass of water. It surprised me a bit that my arms were fine. I vividly remembered not being able to move them. But that was a dream. I must be all right. Then I saw my leg. It had been lowered out of the sling, but now was covered in plaster. I groaned. So it had been broken.


A doctor walked into the room. She had long black hair tied back up in a bun and that no-nonsense look about her. She did, however, glance down at me with concern, looking at me through her black rimmed glasses, “You were just hit by a car and all that’s wrong with you is a broken leg. You should be completely healed in a few months.”


“You mean to tell me that only my leg is broken?” I couldn’t believe that. The pain had been everywhere.


“Yes. Which is actually quite a surprise. Do you remember anything about the accident? Your chart says that you were admitted at 2:31a.m., but the E.R. doctor didn’t see you until after 4. I was wondering—”


“That will be all, Doctor,” a rough voice seeped through the room. “Thank you.” The man in the passenger seat stood in the doorway. He wore a pair of jeans and a Polo shirt, but looked unnatural in them. His sandy hair fell into his eyes, making his hands constantly move to his face to brush it back.


“And you are?” the doctor looked slightly peeved at being interrupted.
“Let’s go out here and talk,” he said, gesturing to the hallway.


Doc with glasses stalked off after Passenger seat as he walked out of the door, throwing a last questioning glance back at me.


As soon as they were out of sight, my mind reeled. Where was I? What was going on? Who was I? I looked at the floor next to me fearfully expecting something, but, other than the floors on the counter, it was just a hospital room. Now I was starting to get scared. Who were all these people who kept drifting in and out of my life?


After about five minutes, I decided to figure out what was going on for myself. Something told me this idea might not be the most intelligent thing to do, but my curiosity got the better of me. Slowly twisting my body off the bed, I only fell once, twisting my body in the sheets and losing my balance. The pain in my right leg, the broken one, was minimal. They must have drugged me up while I slept. I used the table and counters to help pull myself to the door. As I neared it, though, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror above the countersink.


My first thought was terror. I had never seen this person before. But after I realized it was me, and not someone else, I began to look closer at my own face.
I had bright green eyes, a green that dominated the rest of my face. No matter what else I looked at, my eyes were drawn back to themselves. My hair was short and a light brown hanging just above my eyebrows, which looked like two tiny feathers drifting in opposite directions. My nose was of a normal size, maybe a little on the small side, but perfectly proportioned to the rest of my face. In fact, stepping back, I realized my whole body was just that. Perfect.


Shaking my head to clear it, I decided to deal with this at a later time. I was near enough now to the door to open it just a crack. That ever-present fluorescent light lit up the hallway everywhere except at the corner at the end. Of course that’s where Mr. Broken Nose and Dr. Questions were. I could just barely make out their words.


“—him alone. He’ss already been through enough.”


“I just want to know how he survived that accident. It’s a miracle—”


“Yess, it iss. And trusst me, my department and I are looking into it.”


“But—”


From just the few lines, I had heard enough. When he had said “my department,” it had sounded like a government innuendo.


Now, I may have had no idea who I was or where I was, but like anybody else on the planet, at least anyone with some sense, when the government comes a knocking, get the hell out.


Lucky for me, my room was on the first floor. The window was locked but easily opened. It didn’t even make a sound as I lifted it open. It was just getting dark outside, maybe six or seven at night. Great time for escaping.


I ran toward the other end of the parking lot—actually, it was more like hobbling—with some vague idea of getting a car and driving far away. I had barely taken ten steps when a bright red Porsche pulled up in front of me and the side door opened.


“Get in.”


This seemed way too coincidental to me. Why I jumped in, I’ll never know. Maybe I recognized the voice. More than likely, I was still a little high from whatever pain killers I was on. But it didn’t surprise me in the least to see the Pretty Lady behind the wheel. She had on one of those sleek, form-fitting dresses that only people on T.V. wear. Brilliant blood red to match the car.


She took off without looking back, but when I did she asked me, “Anyone following us?”


“No.”


“Good.”


We didn’t talk again until two songs had passed on the radio. I broke the silence first.


“Um… Not that I’m not thankful for the ride, but…who are you?”


She laughed and looked at me long enough to make me freak out about her driving abilities. The car never swerved from the course set by the little white lines and the desert plain to my right.


“The question you should be asking is, ‘Who am I?’” she looked back at the road. Less than a minute later she turned into a little run-down restaurant called “The Garden.” I swear she laughed a little when she saw the sign.


“What are we doing here?”


“Getting some food.” She scrutinized me as if looking to see if I had hit my head. “You're probably really hungry by now. My treat. Let’s go.”


The second she said it, my stomach gave a loud rumble. She laughed as she opened her door. I was hungry and broke. I didn’t really think she meant me any harm, I mean she had helped me escape from the hospital and gotten me away from Mr. Broken Nose. Thinking about him made me think about getting hit by the car. Getting hit by the car made me think of the driver. Who was standing right next to me. She had been driving the car that had hit me. Why didn’t I remember that before?


I sat so still as these thoughts collided around in my head that she turned back around from walking to the restaurant and looked at me with a frown. Walking back to my side, she opened the door. “Is everything okay?”


Rapidly, I tried to pull my errant thoughts together into some cohesion.
“Um…You hit me with your car.” It sounded more like a question than an accusation.


To my surprise, she laughed again. Then, reaching across me, she unlocked my seatbelt and took my hand. Not really having a choice now, she helped me into the little eatery.


We got a table in the back. The little place had been set up in an old Greek style, with white pillars and fake green ivy everywhere. She ordered poached apples with caramel sauce. Dessert before the meal? I was impressed. She ordered for me a steak, baked potato and root beer. We ate in silence. When I finished, my mind and body felt more whole, more complete. Our eyes connected and I asked again, “Who are you?”


She sighed and put down her fork, which had the last apple slice on it.
“How much do you remember?”


The question took me by surprise, but I tried to appear calm. “What do you mean? I remember falling out of a tree in the middle of nowhere. I remember stumbling around in the dark. I remember you hitting me with your car with Mr. Broken Nose—” (she stifled a laugh at my invented name) “—and I want to know what the hell is going on?”


“All right, I’ll tell you what I can. But remember, you asked me, if anybody ever brings it up. My name is Lily. Mr. Broken Nose,” she smiled again, “goes by a lot of names, though Mike is as good as any. We…work together sometimes.”
“You work with him? So what department do you work for? FBI? CIA? What did I do that has you guys looking for me?”


She laughed yet again. Her laughter sounded delightful, like chimes or bells, quiet yet powerful in its melodic beauty. “Is that the story he was giving? Well, at least he’s being smart about it.”


I sat there in silence waiting for my answer.


“Oh, but no. We don’t work for any government. Unless you count…well that’s neither here nor there. And as for what you did. You didn’t do anything…yet. We just happened to find you. Which is strange, but who questions fate? Now we just want to help you.”


“You're talking in riddles.” I glared at her. “WHO AM I?”


I shouted that last bit, and everyone in the restaurant turned to look at me. I realized I had stood up. My leg was throbbing in pain. Ashamed, I bent awkwardly to pick up my chair from the floor and sat back down.


“Well, if you are quite done…” though her tone suggested impatience, her face glowed with happiness. “Your tale begins a long time ago. The best place to start would be the G—”


She paused suddenly then swore under her breath vehemently. Reaching over the table, she grabbed my arm and literally yanked me through the door, leaving the check on the table unpaid. We almost made it to the car when another car cut in between us and Lily’s Porsche. Who was driving the car? None other than Lily’s friend Mike.


“Lil, why’d you run away? Why’d you take the boy? I thought we were partnerss?” His voice was just as I remembered it from the hospital. Low, harsh, and with a lisp on his s’s.


“Hey Mike, um…just taking our friend out for a little dinner…you know, seeing the sights, grabbing a bite to eat,” Lily stuttered. She sounded scared, really scared.


“Well, let’ss go see some sightss then.” He leaned over and opened the door.
Lily gave me a pained look and then opened the back door for me. We were barely in before Mike took off, careening around corners and barely missing parked cars.


“So, Young One, what did our friend here tell you?”


Maybe it wasn’t a smart idea, but I still wanted to know who I was, so I lied.
“Everything. I know all your secrets, Michael. All I can’t figure out is why you’re working together.”


I had used his proper name on a whim, but the face that he gave Lily scared me. I saw flashes of an eternity of torture, never-ending pain, and last, a void so pure that blood ran cold. I don’t know how he managed to express that with one look but Lily turned white and began to breathe much faster as if there wasn’t enough air in the car. Her mouth opened and closed, probably to try to disprove what I had just said, but nothing came out.


Mike turned backward in his seat to look at me. His driving skills must have matched Lily’s, because the car kept driving straight.


“It iss merely a matter of convenience that the two of uss work together. We were not looking for you, as that is strictly prohibited, but now that we have found you, each one of uss will want to…usse you for different purposess.”


This confused the hell out of me, but I was getting information, so I kept up the charade, nodding like I understood.


“Well then, what shall we call you thiss time?”


The question took me by surprise. This time? Though I couldn’t remember my own name, I was sure that I had not met these two before their car hit me. I would have remembered such creeps. I decided to answer his questions as cryptically as possible. Maybe I’d get more answers.


“Whatever you think appropriate.”


Doubt flashed across Mike’s face, to be suddenly replaced by fear.
“How about Nathaniel, Adam seemss so worn.”


So Adam had been my name before, but he wanted to call me Nathan?


“Why?”


“Well, Nathaniel meanss ‘gift of God’ and you are certainly that. Pluss the name Adam never worked out for you so well.” He chuckled darkly.


Lily made a choking sound. Mike glanced at her then sighed heavily.
“Ok, Lily, you can talk now.”


“I never told him who he was.” The words rushed out of her mouth.
Mike blushed deeply, his ears turning so dark they were almost black, then he paled rapidly, becoming even whiter than Lily.


“B-but then how…why…Damn.”


For the second time that night, the car I was in pulled over to a random restaurant. Mike turned around in his seat and glared at me. Then, turning to Lily, he started talking in a different language.


After a few seconds, I realized I understood what they were saying.


“Puteuss noss ess screwed usquam , viress pariter dico him quisnam sit but if we tell him who he iss, then He will get mad.”


“We’ve already decided to help him this time, no matter what. He’s just getting colder and more distant by the century. Adam must find Eve. If not, the whole Garden will collapse.”


“I know, I know, thiss iss just not the way I wanted thiss to happen.”
Lily’s tone softened. “How would you have wanted this to happen? Besides, he has the right to know.”


They paused, staring into each other’s eyes. I got a little impatient and asked, “What do I have the right to know?”


They both jumped, realizing that I could understand them.


“How did you learn Latin?” Lily asked.


“That was Latin?”


They both shook their heads at the same time. In other circumstances, it would have been funny. I scratched at edges of the plaster of cast as they seemed to decide to tell me something.


“All right,” Lily began. “We are going to tell you who you are, but you must promise not to tell a soul, or anything else, who told you.” I quickly promised. “Well, do you know the story of Adam and Eve?”


I looked at them stupidly. If this was more code or riddles that they were going to use I was so out of there. “Yeah, my memory of history isn’t gone, only the knowledge of my life.”


Mike chuckled. “Well, everybody knows the basics of the Garden, but the part they don’t know is the second part of God’s curse. You see, after God cursed Adam into leaving the Garden of Eden, He also laid a curse on him to always be reborn when he dies, to live a life of sorrow and misery until he finds his true love, Eve, again. She got the better part of the deal. Though she is reborn, she never has any feelings of depression or an apathy toward the rest of the world that Adam would have. She gets to live a normal life. You, on the other hand, won’t be happy until you find her.”


It took a few seconds for his words to sink in. One thing became clear to be very quickly. “Umm…so which looney bin did you two escape from? Do you think I’m stupid?”


Lily and Mike looked at each other, then stepped out of the car. The parking lot was deserted. I hadn’t realized the restaurant we had stopped at was shut down. I got out behind them.


“Here’s your proof.” Lily said, and stepped backward into the darkness of the unlit part of the lot, while Mike stepped directly underneath the light.


I seriously almost blacked out; Lily’s image shifted and grew more beautiful by the second. Behind her arms, two large dark masses appeared. I couldn’t see what they were in the darkness. Then, stunned, I realized I was watching her grow wings in the dark of night.


Mike’s face, on the other hand, grew into a scowl. Two little indents raised in his hair, until I realized I was looking at horns. He had wings as well, but of a dark velvety black color than reminded me of dried blood.


“Now do you believe uss?” he hissed, his tongue slipping out from between his teeth like a snake.


“Yep.” I breathed quietly, then everything swirled and my head hit the pavement.

It took a few hours for me to come to, but when I did, and saw Mike and Lily looking down at me, I tried to scramble away. Only my broken leg prevented me from getting very far. About twenty feet away from them, I collapsed in pain. Those pain-killers had worn off.


“Do you want some help with your leg?” Lily asked quietly. I hadn’t even seen her walk up.


I grunted at her. She must have taken this as acceptance though, because she laid her hands on my leg. I tried to pull away but the cast fell away in dust and her hands traveled the inch down toward my leg.


Now I really freaked. She had just turned my cast into dirt with her hands. Now they were touching my leg. I kicked out with my bad leg and connected right in her neck.


I got up and ran about four steps before I realized it. My leg was perfectly fine now.


I turned back to look at Lily, being helped up by Mike.


“What the hell did you just do to me?” I yelled, advancing on the two like I had a chance in a fight.


Mike held up his hands, “Relax, Nate. Lily hass the healing touch.”


I sat down where I was. Hard.


My mind was reeling. I couldn’t sort through this craziness. Supposedly, two angels, one of light, one of darkness, had stumbled upon me, the archetype of man, and now they wanted to help me, maybe, find the love of my life. My Eve.


“Why should I believe a word you two say?” I was just trying to stall for time now. Who knew what they had in store for me.


Lily came to sit next to me and put an arm around my shoulder. “I know it’s hard, but, if you let me, I think I can unlock your memories.”


That was unexpected. “Why?”


“Why would I help you? Or why do I think I can help you?” Lily smiled at me and I felt myself warming to her regardless of what she was.


“Both,” I said, after a minute of thought.


“Well I think I can help you because no one, not even God, can destroy memory, so it must be there somewhere. And for why…”she trailed off looking up at Mike.


“I guesss we should tell him,” Mike said with a warm smile on his face. “Nate, God iss becoming more and more paranoid. Every century, he thinkss man is going to not need him anymore for some different reasson. So every century, he helpss them create something that hass the capability to destroy them. Firsst it was gunss, then bombss, then the Atomic bomb. Now he’ss becoming paranoid again and we can’t take it anymore.”


Lily stood up, putting her arm around him, “Mike and I are actually great friends, but after the fall, you know, Satan’s fall, Mike was sent down for not helping either side. God is going to try to eradicate all humans and demons,” she grimaced at this word, “in an attempt to bring goodness back into the world.”


I didn’t fully believe them yet. But something was nagging at the back of my mind. “But why do you need my help?”


“Actually, we didn’t even think of you,” Mike said. “But chance workss in funny little wayss like that. You are one of perhapss three or four different strategiess that we could employ to take God out, but also the hardesst to find. The probability of uss finding you wass asstronomical.”


“But now you want me to do what?”


Lily put her hands on my head, “Remember who you are.”


It felt like a bolt of lightning hit me, a bulldozer ran me over, and a thousand other unpleasant and potentially fatal deaths happened to me at once. My lives flashed before my eyes. I was Romeo looking down at Juliet’s corpse, in actuality Eve. I was Hercules standing over the corpses of my children and Megara. I was Perseus, Theseus, Tristan. I was Hamlet, Mark Anthony, Lancelot and Arthur. I was Paris, Orpheus, Mr. Darcy and John Smith. Every time I found my love, God had halted our happiness, for if we died a natural death, happy with each other, our souls would travel to heaven, freeing mankind from our damning sin.


I was Adam. Now I was Nathaniel. But no gift of God, I was the destruction of his ways. I knew what I had to do. I had to find my Eve.


“Thank you.” That was all I said before I turned away from the empty parking lot and starting walking down the road. My love would guide me to her. Of that I was sure.


“What, you think we aren’t going to help you?” Lily said, grabbing my arm and pulling me toward the car. “You humans…all alike.”


I got into the back and we started driving. I had no clue how long it would take to find my love, but I was happy now. I knew who I was. Something still bothered me, though.


“Lily, why were you so scared to see Mike outside that restaurant?”
Lily laughed a little guiltily, shooting furtive glances at Mike. “I didn’t know whose side he was on then.”


“Side?”


“Well, Nate, most of the angels and demons are going to try to kill you.”
I sat in silence for a minute, absorbing them.


“Well, you two are here to help me right?”


“Of course,” the both piped in unison, then laughed.


“Well then, step on it. We’ve got a world to save.”


Mike punched the gas, making the tires spin out for a second. A huge dust cloud rose behind us and we shot off into the night.