Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Dreams of Afterward by Mariam Kobras

Today's guest post comes to us from three-time IPPY award winner Mariam Kobras.

The Dreams of Afterward

It was so quiet that Sal thought he could hear the sound of snowflakes falling.

They made a soft, swooshing sound, as if they had to turn and settle their crystal forms into their siblings' waiting arms.

He could see them drift from where he lay in his bed, slowly floating like tiny fairies, like shreds of a bridal veil, like frozen tears.

There was no wind; they drifted on the air, feathers of frost, icy cotton candy.

The wooden house moaned from time to time, the old timbers stretching their winter-stiff limbs, trying to huddle closer to the warmth of the fireplace.

Sitting up, Sal wondered what time it was. Time passed differently here, slower, darker, held down tightly by the reign of the seasons.

He hated Canada. He hated the dark, the cold, the rough air and the emptiness. His homesickness for the California sun was like the yearning for a big piece of cake after months without sugar. Sal craved it with every fiber of his soul.

Beside him, Gemma was sleeping peacefully, the quilt pulled up over her ears. Only some strands of her hair were visible, black tendrils on the white backdrop of the pillow. She was a carefree sleeper; his love, curled up like a child her hands under her cheek.

He loved watching her sleep. Her soft form radiated warmth and peace, and he needed that more than anything. Seeing Jon again for the first time since they’d all left New York had brought back memories that he’d managed to push into the most obscure corners of his mind. But here they were now, fresh and raw, just as terrible as the real thing had been, and it made him gasp for air.

Clutching the front of his pajama shirt he sat up. His heart was beating wildly, the pulse hammering in his temples and neck, and sweat itched on his back.

The sounds, it was the sounds more than anything else.

Screams, those horrid drawn-out screams, and then, when another body hit the street, the lament from the spectators. The city had been roaring in pain, so many voices, so many dirges, and he and Jon had been caught in it.

He remembered their long, desolate trek to the Brooklyn Bridge, and from the safety of the bridge, they had looked back and seen the cloud of dust over Lower Manhattan.

Jon, he recalled looking at Jon, at the famous face covered in grime and dust, mixed into a white mask from the sweat and tears, and for an instant Sal had been amused by it. He’d been on the point of saying that no one would recognize him like that, and maybe it was a good way to go incognito, but then he’d realized that he was on the brink of hysteria, and quite insane. Just then, when he was ready to scream and possibly jump from the bridge, Jon had given him a ghostly grin and said, “Sal, you look like shit. I hope I look better than you, or my wife will never kiss me again.”

That one stupid, silly sentence had brought him back to his senses and made it possible to follow Jon down the long slope of the ramp, and into Brooklyn.

That’s what he had done: follow Jon, step by step, too dazed, too confused to think or even breathe.

It had been Jon who’d made him walk, who’d pushed and talked him across that bridge to safety.

Gemma stirred, mumbling something he could not make out. Her hand dropped on his pillow, and he stared at it where it lay like a lily blossom. The ring he’d given her that day, the same day the World Trade Center fell, winked at him in the light from the open bathroom door.

Lying down carefully so he wouldn't wake Gemma, Sal took that hand in his and held it. It was warm and soft, and her fingers curled around his in a reflex. Sleep was a luxury these days. Sleep without dreams, a treasure he couldn’t even measure. It was as if, in the dreams, the dead lived on, forever and ever reliving that last morning of their existence.

Sal lay, his eyes on the snow, on the soft, slow dance, and in the gentle rhythm he could see the echo of fluttering paper, million of sheets of paper, drifting down from the burning towers like giant snowflakes, like the vanguard of things to come.

At last he fell asleep to the memory of howling sirens, of the roaring noise of a city in pain.

© 2014 Mariam Kobras

Award winning author, Mariam Kobras was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Growing up, she and her family lived in Brazil and Saudi Arabia before they decided to settle in Germany. Mariam attended school there and studied American Literature and Psychology at Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen. Today she lives and writes in Hamburg, Germany, with her husband, two sons, and two cats.

Her latest book: Waiting for a Song, Naomi's Story releases June 3rd. 

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