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Ash ©

“I had a dream last night where you died.”

“You lay down on the pavement and you died. I knew you were dead because you breathed out ash. Ash which floated in the air and blew away in the wind. Your cigarettes fell out of your pockets and grew around you like willow.”

“Your death was very personal to me, you stole yourself from me and left me empty without you. You always were a selfish bitch, but I still loved you; still love you. It hurt me in my dream when you died, and it still hurts now when I am awake.”

“You lay there still and I walked away and left the willow to cover you. The other people on Oxford street walked around you and carried on looking in the shop windows.”

The recording was low quality; heavily compressed. Jessica listened to it with her back to the computer. Her hands were laying on her stomach and her fingers picked at the feathering skin around her nails.

“Oxford street was like normal really. Loads of people. I turned off into Soho to get away from the people. On my right hand I had a thick rubber glove. Black, the kind of you get in films where men are dealing with nasty chemicals. It had a rip in around the wrist. I didn't take it off. There was nothing on my left hand.”

“Soho was different. Different to how it is really. As I went south, away from Oxford street; away from you, the streets got narrow and the buildings got tall. The further I went, the darker it got. There were groups of men, only men, no women, standing around oil drums with fires in. Like you see tramps doing in eighties films. These people weren't tramps, they were normal people. I couldn't see their faces. They rubbed their hands together over the fires. I didn't feel the cold.”

“As I walked it got darker and I could only see by the light of the oil drum fires. It felt claustrophobic. The road opened into a square. It was like Buckeydoo square in Bridport. Not like a Soho square at all. It was so dark now that I couldn't see the join between buildings and sky. I was in an infinite vertical tube where the air was thick and I could feel the heat from the fires.”

The recording stopped. Jessica spun in her chair and looked at the screen. There was another file on the list. She paused.

“Fuck it.” she said and double clicked the next file and spun back. The voice came back, clearer this time.

“I held up the black glove and there was ash on it. It was dark but I could see the contrasting speckles on the rubber. I knew that it was the ash you were breathing out.”

“I wandered in the darkness in Soho until I found a road that went back to Oxford street. Soho was a sad and dark place. All the people just wanted to keep warm but I wasn't cold. I was looking for light. I walked up the street I had found and it became overgrown with ivy. The road got thinner and there was a wire roof over it. The ivy had grown over this as well. In the end the road became an ivy tunnel. The tunnel was sloping up”

“There were other people in the tunnel, they all wanted to leave the darkness. We had to walk single file up the slope towards Oxford street. I met Toby there. You remember Toby don't you? He recently got married and was walking out of the darkness too.”

“I got back to Oxford street and you were not there any more. All the shops and people were normal. The shops were in the wrong place but I saw the one for Three Mobile and went inside. I wanted a new phone. This piece of crap isn't any good.”

“I was still in my dream, after you had died, after the darkness in Soho, buying a new mobile phone. But they didn't have any I wanted. The shop assistant didn't have a face.”

The message stopped again. Jessica turned back to the computer. There weren't any more files in the message system. Jessica closed the window on the screen and picked up her mobile. She scrolled through the phone book and stopped on one number.

Turning round and round in her chair she looked at this number.

She slumped back in her chair let the phone drop onto her chest.

The chair gently lost momentum and came to a stop.

Jessica picked up the phone and called the number.

“Hello, Who is this? I don't have your number in my phone.”

“You're a fucking dick.” Jessica said.

“What? Why?” The voice on the other end of the phone was groggy. Jessica bit at one of her nails and chewed the piece that came off before answering.

“You got drunk last night and left me some fucking message about me dying.”

“It was a message about my dream.”

“Yeah, the dream where I die and breath out ash. I haven't smoked in four years; since you fucking dumped me.”

“Huh? Has it been four years? You still don't smoke? That's good. And you still have my number? I thought you would be with someone else by now.”

“I was, for a couple of months. I heard you were too.”

“No, not really. Nothing serious.”

“Oh, nice for her! Anyway you still have my number too...”

“Only your home number. I only found I had that last night.”

“...and you leave me fucking messages about me dying.”

“and...”

“and what?”

“a message about my dream where you die. And...”

“you wandering around Soho in the dark.”

“before that.”

“about me dying and about you still loving me.”

“I do.”

“What?”

“I do love you.”

“For fucks sake, are you still drunk?”

“No. But I still love you.”

“oh.”

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