He couldn’t believe his eyes. That his world could come to this. What had happened suddenly to the busy streets, the lush green gardens? Where were the men going to work, the peddlers selling wares, the women hanging laundry? All of a sudden…? No. It had not been sudden, he realized. He had seen it happen, seen it come about, rise to this level of destruction. He had seen it, and so had everyone else. They hadn’t sensed their future, just as he hadn’t.
He walked past the street which used to be filled with iron, steel, gold smithys, filled with carpenters, builders. It used to be filled with the clank of metal on metal, as man converted nature to his use. The sounds, however loud, would soothe him. He found an unusual happiness in hearing them. They conveyed the victory of man over nature. The idea of taming materials given by nature, and bidding them to serve us, had excited him. But the street was empty. Now? In the middle of a working day? He walked past a few people. Walking slowly and without purpose, without aim and without direction, as if they had no where to go, but still moved propelled by the desire to do something. Why weren’t they walking faster? Why did their shoulders droop? Why don’t they walk erect, proud and arrogant, real and alive? Why, he asked, looking at one of them. He didn’t bother to reply, trudging away.
He knew why. It was the sickness. It had taken too many lives. It had ended too many beginnings. He walked into another street. It was where the artisans worked. Used to work. One building would be stacked with the works of the city’s greatest artists. There would be painters, of sublime skill, provoking emotion and thought merely by the stroke of their brushes and the hues of their colour. There would be works by sculptors, of men and of women, that made one gasp to see their brilliance and might. There would be potters and there would be poets too. It seemed a strange mix of people working together on the same street. But they always sat together, inspiring each other as they said, only half-jokingly. The colours, the verses, the designs, the smooth stone of the statues, all had inspired him. They inspired him not by being fancy or possessing god-like imagery. They inspired him because they invoked wonder and awe, through their portrayal of humanity. He’s one of us too!, he would think as he saw the great statue of a runner, put up in the centre of the city quadrangle. Now the streets were empty. What could have done…? He chided himself for coming back to that. He knew what it was, didn’t he? Why must he keep not believing it. Just that it seemed too incredible to him. That their end, for this is what it is was surely, could come in such a way. So swift, so complete, and yet so expected if one saw the trail that had led to this.
His wonderful, beautiful city had closed in on itself. The galleries, the museums, the rich streets hadn’t emptied all by themselves or even suddenly. The disease, the sickness, had done it slowly over time. First the museums had been closed. The galleries shut down. The king’s decrees were to follow the path shown by him. Not to venture out oneself. He didn’t fancy the diverse art created by so many artists. He ordered them to work in his direction, to develop only his choice of art. He applied the same rule to administration. All would work as he directed, or they would not work at all.
They did not work. They turned to wine, gambling, and to other ill-pursuits. Noble men, men of ideals, and if not ideals, then men of simple duty and honest mind, all turned to vices. Their heads no longer looked up proudly. They hung in perpetual shame, lips curved in a horrific smile of the next shaming act they were to indulge themselves in. They did not look ahead anymore with eagerness to the new day. They only saw a now. And they only knew how to end the day as quickly as possible, and bury its sorrows. For in their new world, sorrow was all that ever lasted. The streets emptied slowly.
He knew the day wasn’t far away. The day of the end. When Atlantis would finally go under. He wished things would change. But it didn’t seem like that could now happen. How had all reason fled? All sense? He would stay, he decided. And fight on. He picked up a piece of paper he saw lying on the ground. He had always loved to write. He wrote this. A plea for help. It gave him strength.
Whatever their futures, at the dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of man's nature and of life's potential - Ayn Rand.
I was born intelligent. Education ruined me. - Popular T-shirt slogan.
No dark sarcasm in the classrooom. Teachers leave them kids alone. - Pink Floyd (Another Brick in the Wall)