From Embers to Ashes by Aarushi Kaushik

This story is one of the January Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.


Pros outweighed the cons. She folded her ebony sweater and placed it on a pile of books.
She perceived Madison climbing up and humming the new Ed Sheeran tunes; but that was just wishful thinking.

She looked around the tree house and a reel of flashbacks played through her mind. Everything here was precious and held the power to send her emotions spiraling, ending in a dark room. Battles were lost since the last time she was this far up from the ground.

Morning sun blazed in through the casement windows and wind brought in an earthy musk of wet soil. Her head almost touched the wooden roof, and the scattered leaves on the oak floor crunched under her feet.
After keen consideration, she kept the unsolved Rubik’s cube, hoping to learn the logarithm one day. Old board games and silly drawings that she co-owned and co-created with Madison were tokens of summers well spent. A kite with broken strings, weathered paper airplanes and cranes, cheap trinkets, and discount coupons for ice creams seemed worthless now.

Polaroids of them shoulder to shoulder, sitting on their haunches on ladder steps leading here were faint memories. An overwhelming urge filled her as she flipped through the album; without contemplating her actions, she evulsed the pages one by one.

She couldn’t take it anymore; the memories were sharp and wounds were fresh. She was hurting and wistful. This past week, she was around people a lot. Madison’s family for mutual support or her family to distract from reality. She shouldn’t have been left alone. Even the marks on the woodshed weighed her heart down.
She swept off stuff from shelves into a box. The tree house now looked like the first time she saw it, only different. She was afraid if this would be how it will be etched into her memory forever: empty.

She fumbled through her pockets for a lighter, which paved a way for her to forget everything. With a click there was a flicker of flame in her hands and the boxes caught fire, rapidly, understanding her need for escape.

It took her brain a moment to interpret what was going on and synchronise it with her actions. Her childhood was burning wild into dark gray ashes.

She was hoping for someone to save her, to take her someplace where it didn’t hurt, but she was alone again. This is how she was going to be for the remainder of her life. The fire lost its essence against power of strong wind currents. Memories went from embers to ashes. She took a last look around and climbed down, defeated, knowing that she lost the strength to come back. Her heart ached at her, begged her to save something. However, she knew that she shouldn’t, and reason outweighed emotion. She wanted to cry for the loss of her second home, but she couldn’t. This loss was nothing compared to that permanent scar.
She looked up at the ash falling from the sky like snow. With a final sigh, she turned and walked away, not looking back at what she was leaving behind.


Aarushi Kaushik

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