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Nolan lived a perfectly alright life. At thirty five years old he was 5' 11'' and weighed 185 pounds. He had bright green eyes clean cut brown hair, and as his wife told him “a dashing smile”.
He drove his treasured KIA optima back and forth to his work that paid a generous, 45,000 a year which was enough to support his lovely family of three, which included his beautiful wife and his brilliant nine year old daughter.
The family was sheltered by a medium sized home on the west coast of the United States. It was three bed, one bath and had a decent living room and kitchen. Other than the toilet that seemed to clog every once and a while and the pipes that sometimes got a little frozen in the winter, the five year old house was in decent condition.
Nolan went bowling on Wednesdays with colleagues and liked to go to the movies on Saturdays. He attended church ever other Sunday but solemnly read his bible that was boxed up in his closet. Nolan visited his parents every month just as any son should and they always told him of how proud they were of him and his successes and all he had done in his life.
It was the life that he had worked so hard for, the results of four grinding years of high school to become the valedictorian and another four years of harsh studying in college to get his degree. He wasn’t filthy rich and he wasn’t dirt poor. He was living the so called American dream, wasn’t he?
It was about three weeks before his thirty –sixth birthday when Nolan had the first concerns about his mortality. Seventy- two was the average amount of time a man lived in the United States, and he was almost too the half way point. At first he shoved the thoughts away telling himself that he had plenty of time to live, and it was silly to worry about death, he was healthy and felt good as a thirty five year old, but the thoughts still stayed in the back of his mind.
They resurfaced every once an a while when he was at work and heard of an older man retiring or when he watched TV at home and heard of actors or politicians who died and how they affected the world.
It didn’t take long for the thoughts to become more prevalent in his day to day life. Hearing the affects of fast food on the heart made his cheeseburgers look less pleasing and the studies of certain substances in the water supply that could be carcinogens brought the thought of cancer every time he drank from the tap. So death became more and more real no matter how many times Nolan lied to himself about his health.
As any man knows, with thoughts of death comes feelings of depression, and sometimes feelings of worthlessness. He began to eat a little less at dinner and wake up a little earlier in the morning, however no one really took notice. They were simply to busy with their own lives. So Nolan's thoughts of death and mortality had no comfort or help.
He tied to assure himself that it was only a midlife crisis and he would quickly get over it. That it was just another part of life. But that was just it wasn't it? He thought. Life, what was it? Why are we here? Why did he exist? What would it be like if he didn't, would anyone around him feel empty or incomplete? Or was he simply dust in the wind compared to the universe that had existed for billions of years.
It was six at night and Nolan was driving home after finishing some after hour’s at work (it was the first time his boss had asked him to do so in many years). Nolan was driving just above the limit to get home before dinner got cold, and on his mind was once again the thought of the meaning to his life, and as he saw the many cars driving in many different directions he began to feel small, he began to feel insignificant. An emptiness started to form in the bottom of his stomach.
He was about five miles away from home when he came to the rail road tracks that he crossed everyday to get to and from work. To his surprise the gates lowered ahead of him and the lights began to flash. This was particular, in all the 10 years he had driven this exact route he had never seen a train. Then again, he had rarely driven this route at this hour. Nolan sighed and stopped in front of the tracks.
He tried to see if he could see the end of the train but it stretched on beyond visible sight and into a tunnel. Nolan gasped and looked around. No other cars were in the area. He pulled back a little and took a side road to the left. Now he was sure that his meal was going to be cold.
A little ways down he saw a sign: Blue moon bar, happy hour 6-7. Nolan didn't go to bars very often, but tonight was different he felt he could use a beer or two to fill the emptiness in his stomach and with it being happy hour it seemed as if a deity had shined a light on the place.
The bar wasn't very appealing to the eye. The walls were covered with old rusty antiques and wearing paint. Some roughed up pool tables and a dart board provided entertainment. The men in the bar looked lower class and thuggish. Nolan made his way to the bar trying not to draw to much attention to himself. He sat at the very end, and ordered the weakest alcohol they had. Then he sat there, waiting on his drink. Alone. Once again the thoughts of life formed in his mind.
About five minutes after Nolan got his beer a man came and sat next to him at the bar.
“Hey bartender! I need the hardest stuff you got in this joint!” He yelled. The man smelled like he hadn’t showered for a week and looked as if he hadn’t had a haircut in a year. The bar tender shot a look at the man for being obnoxious, but he didn't take any notice. The man turned to Nolan.
“Cheap punk, bet he takes a good fifteen minutes to get me my drink,” He said. Nolan shrugged, but the man didn't take the hint. He kept looking a Nolan. Studying him.
“Hey I know you!” He said.
“What?” Nolan asked.
“You're Nolan Wayne!” He exclaimed.
“Yeah, what of it?”
“What, you don't remember me? Remember Penn State man, I was you're room mate!” His voice was so loud that people from halfway across the bar were looking over.
Nolan tried to think back to his college days. Finally he remembered his roommate, and sure enough it was the man in front of him. Barry Ernst. He was character. Always talked about how he was going to be a writer and blow the world away with novels about extra dimensional travel through dreams or something weird like that. It was almost pleasing to know that drop outs like him do end up failures.
“Yeah I remember you,” Nolan mumbled. The man smiled and Thomas could see the man's yellow teeth. He slapped Nolan on the shoulder.
“Man, those were the good' ol days, back then, when daddy was paying for everything, how's life been treating you?” He asked.
“Oh you know, decent, I finished college, have a loving family, decent paying job, okay car and house.” He said. The man's expression changed.
“That's it? Man you were like brilliant in college, and that's it,” He said.
“What?” Nolan asked. “I have everything that I want, and what do you have?” He defended. The man wrapped his arm around Nolan's shoulder.
“You have everything they want you to have Nolan,” He said. Nolan shook off his shoulder.
“What are you talking about?” He asked. The man shook his head.
“They are holding you back Nolan, just like they do everybody else. Billions and billions of us making us robots, or like dust in the wind. Meaningless.” He said. The last couple words seemed to echo through Thomas's head, dust in the wind. It took him a minute to throw the words to the back of his mind.
“Get away from me you lunatic.” The man stood up and got really excited.
“They are holding you back Nolan! You have to get rid of them,” He said. Nolan backed away from the bar, a little scared.
“All of them Nolan! You must get rid of all of them!” He yelled.
Two policemen then barged into the bar. The man looked over and his eyes became wild.
“Don't become one of them Nolan! Or you'll die a no one,” He yelled. Then he took off toward the back door and the policemen hustled after him, he barged out the door onto the street and disappeared. Nolan stood there dazed and wondering what had just happened.
When he recovered he deiced that, that was enough excitement for the night. He laid some money on the bar and took off without a word.
That night Nolan lay wide awake in bed with his wife curled up next to him asleep. Her hand lay on his chest and her lips were curled into a smile. They had just made love, and she was very satisfied. She had insisted, since they had gone a while without. But he had felt emptiness the entire time. So he lay staring up at the sealing. Thinking why he had even bothered in the first place. The fifteen minutes of pleasure was nothing, nothing but dust in the wind. Barry’s words found there way into his head. Don't let them hold you back Nolan, don't let them hold you back. Nolan did feel as if he was being held back. He was going through the motion his entire life and he was being held back but by whom, by his boss at his dead end job, by the government that kept taking the freedoms and fun out of life by the universe and everyone in it?
Nolan got up out of bed and headed down the stairs to the kitchen. He grabbed an old bottle of wine (which was the only alcohol in the house) and began to drink it. Nolan was being held back, he wanted to be more than just dust in the wind, but he was being held back, but by whom?
It was then his wife came down in her gown.
“Honey, is something wrong?” She asked. Worry about yourself women. The thought came and left his head to fast that he didn’t have the time to reject it.
“Nothing’s wrong,” He said. She put her hand on his shoulder.
“Well then come back to bed, you have work in the morning,” She said. They are holding you back.
“I don’t want to go to work tomorrow,” His voice became soft but queer. She gave a nervous laugh.
“Honey you have to go to work, to make money,” She talked to him as if he was a child, and it started to annoy him. They are holding you back Nolan, she is holding you back. He shrugged her hand off.
“Nolan?” She asked. They were holding him back, they wanted him to keep going through the motions, keep going to the same dead end job, keep wasting away in the house. Nolan took a big gulp of the wine. It was no close to empty.
“Nolan, are you alright?” She asked. But Nolan knew she didn’t care, she only cared about the man who brought money into the house, if it wasn’t him it would be someone else, just another piece of dust in the wind. Nolan turned to her and smiled.
“I’m just fine, honey,” he said.
“Well then let’s go to bed,” She said. He shook his head.
“Is that all you think about? Bed, work, food, money?” He asked.
“What do you mean?” She asked. Her ignorance infuriated Nolan. He took a step forward, staring her into the eyes. She backed up a bit, soon her back hit the wall.
“Nolan you’re scaring me!” She cried.
“What? Can’t stand that I might do something else than what you want me to?” He asked. She put her hands up. They are holding you back Nolan.
“Nolan what are you talking about? I don’t under….”
“Shut up, you winch!” He yelled. Her hand then found the side of his face. She immediately regretted it, but before she could say she was sorry he slammed her against the wall, his hand clasped around her throat. You have to get ride of them Nolan! You have too. She yelled for help but he squeezed.
“You’re not going to hold me back anymore!” He slammed her against the wall again, this time rattling dishes in the cupboards. He gripped her neck with his other hand and began to squeeze. Her feet were now off the ground and kicking widely. She chocked and beat against his arms, but Nolan felt nothing. He only kept squeezing, driving his fingers farther into her neck.
It took twenty seconds for him to realize that she was no longer struggling. He let go of her and she dropped to the floor with a thud. He stepped back and looked at her. She was pail and motionless. Her chest didn’t move up or down and her eyes stared straight ahead. To Nolan surprise he felt no sorrow; he actually felt a bit of fulfillment, he was more than just dust in the wind now. He was more than just average, he was something more.
It was then that the little girl walked into the kitchen. She was rubbing her eyes and holding her teddy bear in her arms.
“Daddy, I heard yelling, are you and mommy arguing?” She asked. He didn’t answer. Nolan stared at her as if she was a stranger, which she was in his mind. The girl looked around the room and saw her mother slumped awkwardly on the floor. She was then hit with a sudden since of shock. She turned back to Nolan.
“Daddy what’s wrong with mommy?” She cried. Nolan took the last sip of wine, and took a step forward. He then smashed the wine bottle against the table, leaving him with nothing but the handle and shattered end. The girl leapt back. She was now breathing heavy and looking at him nervously.
All of them Nolan. The girl had no warning or chance. Nolan was on top of her before she realized what had happened. He shoved her to the ground before she had a chance to plead with him. Nolan drove the broken end of the wine bottle into her neck cutting off her screams. Blood spewed out of her neck and on to Nolan’s face. Nolan looked into her eyes. They were filled with the fear of death the sweetest kind Nolan thought. Nolan watched as the life drained from her eyes. She was dead faster than her mother. Nolan took a step back and looked at them. He smiled again, all these years he had been dying; now he was living, and he would live until he died.
Detectives knew the fire that burned down the home wasn’t accidental. They also knew that there were only two of three bodies found in the house. But Detectives aren’t paid by the crime they solve or the criminals they catch, they aren’t paid to be adventurous or go beyond the normal. They aren't paid to do anything special. They are nothing more than dust in the wind. Thought Nolan. And I am God, and angel of death.