Consequences

Composed 9/10/13
Description: Inspired by a similar event that happened today.

Light was just beginning to fade as they walked across the parking lot. The air was cloaked in a buttercup yellow, and dusty shadows from trees and cars spilled across the blacktop like prowling malicious spirits. The only sounds were the clopping and smacking of their shoes against the dry ground. Only with much focus could one pick up the distant cries of racing metal machines and the eerie lullaby of leaves.

He inhaled, and the air was like wood.

“Smells like someone’s burning something.”

His companion breathed. Her eyes paled; once an ocean, her irises melted into ice. She stared off into the distance, past the cars and the trees and the parking lot. Past the grass. Past the horizon.

He knew that look. She was Seeing something.

Her irises filled with ocean blue. Her pupils refocused on the ashen ground.

“What’s up?”

She looked across the parking lot and pointed.

“There. In the median. In the mulch between the trees.”

He followed her finger and noticed a trickle of smoke leaking from the ground. They walked over to the place where the wisp originated, just as she said, in a median filled with mulch and a few trees. A cigarette butt lay in the center of a ring of dried up woodchips; around its edges, the ring smoked. A tiny red spark brightened and dimmed at one point of the circle.

“Put it out,” she whispered.

He took his water bottle out of a pocket of his backpack and let the water flow over the ring. He spread the mulch with his shoe and stomped on it once he was done to make sure all the coals were out. The smoke halted.

His companion exhaled heavily, as if she had been holding her breath. He jumped back onto the blacktop and stared at her. Her eyes remained on the upturned earth.

“What was that about?” He asked. She nodded at the now damp mulch.

“That would have set the whole campus on fire.”

He looked back to the place. It was just a bit of mulch now, not at all remarkable. Even the cigarette butt was buried. He glanced up, then, to the buildings around him – grand, brick structures with tall, arched windows. A concrete fountain bubbled yards away.

“Really?” He looked back to the mulch. “But putting that out seemed so… insignificant.”

She nodded. “It always seems that way. But little, seemingly insignificant things change the world. A cigarette. A bullet. A kiss. They determine the course lives take. Or how they end.”

With one last look she turned and walked toward the place they had been heading before. His brow furrowed, but he stuck his hands in his pockets and followed.

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