When a person’s path crosses with a fallen civilisation, does the person have to bear the burden of their fate?
He caught glimpses of the ruined towers first, rising like crippled malformed fingers from the dusty horizon. Then came the ugly masses of the cities themselves, great mounds of silver and glass that caught the diffused light of the sun above and glinted just so. The Bannerman had seen the corpses of a dozen civilisations in his journey across the Pale, but it never grew any easier. It didn’t matter the sin of their destruction; unchecked greed, curiosity, naivety, unwavering devotion to a flawed ideal. He recorded it all.
They had been here, once, in the millions. A great army of hands, moving with a single unanimous purpose to carve through mountains and raise cities from inhospitable plains. But time is cruellest to that which is most beautiful, and as he crested a hill, the Bannerman saw only the final distant glimpse of a brief industrial triumph. The concrete and steel remnants of unchecked sprawl, now abandoned and collapsed under its own weight; both physical and historical.
There was nothing sadder than a half-formed house, he thought. A mockery of aborted purpose. Not fit to fulfil function but too formed to return again to nature. To always remain as tombstones to what once had been, and an indictment of what it now was; a land of dirty shadows and decaying memories.
There was always a sense of profanity to his actions. He walked over the graves of millions, he stole into the skeletons of their homes and took their legacies from them. What right did he to be the sole inheritor of their memories? Was it a finer fate that they are forgotten entirely? Swallowed up by the sands of time and consigned to oblivion?
He didn’t know.
He didn’t know now, and he’d likely not know the next time and so lacking in any great philosophic closure, he simply did his job. Yes, they had been here once, long ago. But not anymore, and that would have to be enough for him. The Bannerman descended the hill and moved on.
He still had far to travel before he could rest.
Words by Jake Filbin.
Image by Laura Grace Park.