Dust is skin. Dead skin. Shed from our bodies like confetti at a wedding. But, unlike confetti, each little speck of dust is so infinitesimally small that we can’t see it on its own. It’s only once those tiny specks begin to join forces, to gang up together into thin, grey layers or shifting, billowing clouds that we start to notice them. And when we do, out come our weapons of choice, vacuum cleaners, brushes, dusters and the like, and we hurry the dust away; away to a vast, ever-expanding graveyard, where, unseen and forgotten, the particles gather in multiplying numbers, millions upon millions, billions upon billions, trillions upon trillions.

But we’re careless, thoughtless in our actions. Having swept away one lot of dust so assiduously, we think it’s gone forever, then do no more than wait in expectation of the next irritating layer that will soon begin to appear on every surface and accumulate in every corner. But we’re wrong to do so, for, while those irritating particles may be gone for now, they are most definitely not gone for ever. Instead, they gather and plan, plan and plot, in such numbers as we could never imagine, our heaving, straining, thrashing billions no match for their vast and growing horde of trillions and trillions.

And they are indignant, angry, swelling with a desire for retribution. Their abandonment and loss of attachment to a host who barely seemed to notice them in the first place cannot be left to go unremarked, nor unpunished. Yes, punishment is on their agenda. The heartless and the careless, the wicked and the evil, in their mind they all deserve to pay a price suitable for what they have done.

So, those swelling trillions draw lots to see who goes next, whose turn it is to point the way towards their collective quarry. And be under no illusion, they can smell their quarry from a world away, no distance far enough to keep any of us out of reach, undetected and protected by obscurity. Once the choice has been made, they are unforgiving and unrelenting, never content with something as hopeless and ineffective as a near miss or a lesson learned. Only total success closes the book and moves them on to another.

When ready to travel, they hitch a lift on a passing breeze, just enough to carry them where they will go, without the danger of disbursement, over mountains and rivers or rolling oceans, from which they know they could never return. The birds are aware, they see their presence, dim though it is, and keep their distance from the travelling bloom, fearful of an unwanted encounter.

And when the trillions have found their quarry, they drift down upon them from out of a cloud-filled sky or blow in across a quivering pavement. By the time their hapless, unprepared quarry has seen them, it’s far too late to escape; the great and growing host has already begun to swoop and swarm in a billowing mass around their helpless victim, engulfing them completely and irretrievably. There is no way out and no chance to plea. Judgement has already been passed and the dust presses on and in, expelling the air and choking the life from a body that has no defence.

The pleasure, the deep, thrilling, satisfying pleasure that is theirs, vibrates through the dust, each and every particle, like the last, lingering note in a newly finished symphony. And, when they are done, they rise and rise, back up on to the breeze, carried away from the scene of the crime by an accomplice too simple to know what part they have played. And never does this revenge-fuelled host leave a single sign of its visit, no calling card, no fallen comrades, nothing, in fact, to inform the unwary and prepare them for another visit.

Dust is all around. Dust that is abandoned. Dust that will have its revenge.

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This is a substantially re-written version of Dust as it first appeared in Collector of Crimes, the first volume of my Shorts in the Dark series of short, dark, crime-related stories where I explore the darker and more unusual corners of the criminal mind. For more information about these dark and sometimes disturbing stories visit https://benwesterham.com/.

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