Crossings and Stepping Stones is a short story I co-authored with Dustin Brackbill. This is our second completed story. Our first one, Crumbs of Curiosity, started with a simple prompt. I began the story while he finished it. We alternated turns in between. The rules were simple: no discussion of the story whatsoever. This was difficult and fun and it certainly stretched our creative writing muscles. With Crossings and Stepping Stones, we again alternated turns this time with Dustin beginning with an original prompt and the first part which left me with the job of finishing it. With this particular story we did have several conversations and as you read you'll see why that may have been a wise choice. Still stretching our creativity, we are very pleased with this story and we thank you for reading and sharing our dream...(speaking of sharing, please share on Facebook).
Crossings and Stepping Stones
A Short Story by: Dustin Brackbill and Ryan S. Graybill
Ashlyn blinked. Shook her head. Wondered if this was a dream after all and she simply needed to wake again.
Dwayne, however, did not take it so easily. In fact, there was an anger rising up that surprised even him.
“So, you are seriously saying that you know us AND know this place?! What kind of trick are you playing, man? Did you orchestrate this is any way? YOU certainly weren’t blindfolded or kidnapped or thrown in a truck. In fact, you DID look like you knew what was going on when you stepped out of that limo.” Dwayne’s fists were tightening. Not only was he ready to protect and defend this confused girl, but he felt a need for some sort of justice. He stepped forward two steps. “Explain yourself, Anvay.”
“Ah, so, you do know my name as well. Interesting. Maybe your memory is blocked. Hers too I would guess.” Anvay wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed or how much to divulge.
“Let’s say this much for now,” he continued slowly, “we need each other. While I am here freely and you are not, there is no doubt that we need each other to move forward.”
“Which way.” The soft clear voice of Ashlyn was back, certainly confused but seemingly ready. Ashlyn was once a decisive person. Once, as a child, she had created an elaborate scavenger hunt for her brother. It was meant to entertain both of them, and to keep him busy and out of her hair for a while. She knew the plan, the map, the clues, and the endgame as they developed like a polaroid in her head. It was a past that she could enjoy remembering. Then things all got so clouded and desperate and real. Now she faced a reality that seemed beyond her, but asking this question might have been the turning point to her fragile mind.
Unfortunately, Ashlyn’s partners were not much help on this point. Dwayne was all for making plans and getting going normally. He would be up before dawn to work with full dedication to his craft. Only problem was, he didn’t see much of a future. It was the old “one day at a time” scenario for Dwayne, and now all of his days brought him to this place. He had regrets, no doubt, and his share of pain inside and out. In fact, facing a disease like leukemia as a child was a shadow that hung over him. Even when he overcame it and was pronounced clear and healthy, Dwayne hung on to that shadow like a cloak. He knew there were silver linings aplenty, but looking too far ahead for him only meant the chance to see another storm. So he took it “one day at a time”, thankful and full of his best effort.
Here and now, there was no plan and too many questions. Dwayne was angry and confused and most definitely indecisive. Looking after Ashlyn gave him a focus, but he had no answers. He had only a shrug for her and a strong stare for Anvay.
“Do you know what my name means?” said Anvay with a sincerity that could be real or practiced, and most likely both. “In Hindi it means joined or intersected. This was very relevant to me as a child, for I was born with a conjoined twin. She did not last through the first day after a very difficult delivery. My mother would hold me as a baby and weep for the loss of one child, while crying tears of joy for the survival of the other child. Can you imagine that?” Now there was real heart in the speech that Anvay was sharing. It was not planned, in fact, the memory had not been uttered in many years.
“My parents moved us to America when I was still young, for my health care, education, and success. I was often reminded of the path we made and the rewards, hardships, and decisions that came as a result of my birth. Now, Ashlyn and Dwayne, we are here at a crossroads. As I said, we have been here before. And I am afraid to say, we may be here again. For our destiny is joined. While our past and future may be time away from us, this moment is ours. And so is this decision. So, I turn it back to you… which way?”