Tears of Hope

Music echoes against the cool wooden walls of the old room, each note emphasizing how silent and still everything else is. Old books, stacked unevenly on the shelves are coated in a thick layer of dust, and papers are strewn across the floor. The song comes from a music player, perpetually playing the same three notes forlornly, longing for someone, anyone, to join in with its song. The drapes flutter with each gust of wind, not shielded quite enough by the room’s sole window which has succumbed to the elements and disintegrated along with the world outside.

Far away, a man stumbles through the dry, desolate desert all alone. Upon his skinny body cling tattered cargo pants, scattered with holes and loose threads. An equally worn shirt hangs loosely, size large, though he is now a small. He was once known as Jeremy, but the name has long since slipped from his memory along with thoughts of his family and home.  As he climbs each hill of sand, his tattered leather bag slips off his skeletal shoulders repeatedly, forcing him to stop and adjust it over and over again.
A year passes. The man has survived by drinking from wells in abandoned villages and sleeping in empty homes nearby. The water is bitter and the houses coated in dust, but they offer shelter from the neverending sand and sun. As weeks pass his strength begins to dwindle, his steps become smaller and smaller as he walks; he stumbles along, eyes half closed, legs weakening.

As he drifts in and out of a sleeplike state he recalls a time where life had a meaning, when each step forward took him somewhere instead of in endless circles. More than that he remembers the days, moments, in which everything changed. He recalls the announcement on the news, that the asteroid would not avoid Earth as expected, but instead plummet directly into his future with his daughter.

He remembers the dream-like moment in which he swept his daughter up in his arms and laid her down in the backseat of the car, speeding away into the night. He relives it all, each piercing memory, as he continues across the sands of a completely different world — the car accident, holding his daughters limp body, laying it among flowers, below a willow tree. He remembers forcing himself to leave the person most important to him in the world, tears in his eyes, and, later, the feeling of the ladder in his hands as he climbed down into the bomb shelter as a red flash streaks through the sky above him.

Suddenly, the man is jolted from his memory. His body bashes against a rough surface and his eyes burst open. A wooden door greets him, welcoming him with a hard hug. One note, then another, meet his ears, beating down on him with heaviness of the past. The song that he once recognized feels distant, but the meaning is something he has never forgotten.

He rushes inside, eager to escape the brutal sun. The man is greeted by old, dusty books, and a faint breeze that flow through the broken window. He spins around, searching for the source of the music. In a corner of the room he sees a music player with the cord plugged into the wall.

With a rush of excitement he shifts the player in his hands, searching for an opening to reveal its inner workings. He flings off a small panel on one side and holds the music player up to his eyes. With a gasp he pulls out a tiny music box and the music comes to a stop.

He shrivels with sadness, sinking to the floor, shoulders against the wall, sobbing. His mind races, searching for a reason for such a blatant reminder of his daughter. He asks the music box to have a conscious, to speak to him, to explain the unexplainable, and yet he can’t help but hear a voice in his head, whispering his daughters name.

Hours later he lies, shivering on the floor, overtaken by a restless sleep. Even as he dreams he feels a presence. A shadow. As his eyes flutter open he see his daughter at the bookshelf, her tears falling across the pages of a book her dad had once read to her. He has a sudden urge to comfort his daughter, but is left with an empty feeling, realizing that no one is there. He runs to the books, noticing a select few which have recently shed their dust.  He knocks the pile down, searching for one book in particular, the one he had seen in his dream. It catches his eye, the bright fluorescent colored cover and glossy paper, reminding him of the many nights that he sat reading to his daughter.

Instead of reading the book he throws it back down, yelling internally at himself for being so optimistic. He becomes angry, angry at himself and the room for playing tricks on him. He shouts out loud, projecting his feelings into every corner of the room, yet his emotions continue to flood his body. He punches the table once, twice, three times, continuously, endlessly, expelling his rage for what had happened to his daughter.  He spots the books he had strewn across the table earlier and thrusts them onto the floor. Then he crumbles into a ball on the floor, sobbing.

Through his tears he scans the room, colors blending together from the salty tears filling his eyes. The books scattered across the floor catch his eye once and before he can resist he is on his knees, weeding through their pages. His tears scatter like rain across the paper, but he can not ignore the dried tears already among them, undeniably from an earlier time. It is not till minutes later that the truth actually sinks in. He ignores all reason, his mind clouded with hope: his daughter must have been here, there is no other possibility.

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