Whatever Happened to Mesopotamia?

July 16, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Posted in Fiction | 5 Comments
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This is another in the series of flash fiction from Chuck Wendig’s site “Terrible Minds.” This week it’s a thousand words, about your favorite apocalypse. Everyone has their favorite, right? To see more and to check out the other entries, go shopping here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: An uncharted Apocalypse
I wrote this story many years ago–in fact the original appears elsewhere on this blog. This story has seen more rewrites than a sitcom with an out of control diva with a producer credit. So…this should be the best version, in theory. Right?
And I do have an idea for another one that I may write, to keep it fresh.

The streets were empty, save for the man selling his wares from a handcart, and the woman sweeping her stoop.  The old brick buildings and the cobblestone path made even the most subtle noise echo, giving them life beyond their want.
This country is a different place now.  There was a time when children would play in the streets, and adults would gather and talk, sharing the family wine or perhaps some lager.  Hardly anyone has children anymore.
Everyone came around to a new way of thinking:  Do what you want.  Think of yourself.  Live for today.  With these thoughts our goals changed.  Why have children?  Burdensome and expensive, not to mention the smell.  Would we ever get a peaceful night’s sleep again?  Ever?  Non.
And so, the children started to grow up and hardly any replaced them.  Schools started to close.  Having a child almost seemed to carry with it a stigma.  What were they thinking?
I could see it in their faces, down at the pub.  All the adults drinking and laughing, enjoying their childless life.  With a twinkle in their eye—

I came from another funeral today:  the provost of this area.  Suicide.  No one said it.  No one cried, either.  Too many tearless funerals of late.  The service was in a church, but no one mentioned God.  No one has for years.  The priest gave a little talk, and his concubines handed out beer and crackers.  Ashes to ashes-
I felt as though I was standing on the edge of the world.  Close, perhaps.  Was it the edge of civilization?  Some individuals face the end of the world every day.
Is this what it was like in Pompeii?
Or when Rome fell?  The rules and order that they had known was overwritten by the new order.  Like a thousand other times throughout the course of civilization.
I stood at the bar in the pub.  Normally loud, it had taken a somber tone recently.  It suited me.
Old Man Johann sat next to me, brooding.  He was ready to fight.  Trouble was, he wanted to fight everyone.  Sometimes, I agreed with him.
“Slovenly bastards,” he muttered quietly.  I nodded as I tilted my glass.  When the time came, I would fight.  I was going to use what dignity I retained and go out like a man.
We imagined we could hear the hordes just over the mountains.  Taking the land, killing the people, and changing the world.  I would fight them.  And Old Man Johann, and the half-score others who were so disgusted with their own people that we felt like killing them ourselves, for practice–and to prove a point.

My Spartan existence, that I once thought so chic, has left me with little to show for my life.  When this ground is buried beneath layers of civilization, will there be anything to show of what my life had been?  Trinkets, souvenirs, and heirlooms…I have none.
Will the scientists and philosophers know that I had loved, truly and deeply, and that my love had gone?
The bare walls betrayed the paintings that had once hung.  My love had a flair for the creative, and making a statement.  When she died, I made a statement and ripped them from the wall.  My bed was now a single.
With my beloved gone, I thought I had nothing to live for.  But in my early morning café-induced meditation, I realized that I wanted our love to never be forgotten.  Whether I was remembered or she was, it mattered not; I wanted our love to be remembered.
Looking out at the empty square, I had an idea.
The side of the old courthouse, long abandoned because there was no law anymore, became my canvas.  With somberness of purpose, I painted.  I painted a picture that was a story, a poem, a sonnet; an ode to the love we shared, that was bigger than all of us.  The self-involved townsfolk left me to work in peace, saying nary a word.  I knew what they thought, though:  I was crazy.
Ha!  At least I wanted to live!  Who was crazy?
It took weeks.  Time was marked for me only by the setting sun.  What else did I have?
I knew the savage hordes that would come would not destroy it, because it was the largest building in our valley.  Their savage kings and savage priests would claim the building as their new temple, as they often did.  In generations to come, it would be forgotten that the old people had put it there, and they would claim credit.  And the mural would enter their mythology, and it would be a story passed down through the ages in their barbaric tongue.
And perhaps the painting itself and the story it tells would inspire one of these savages, and cause a turn in their thinking, ever so slightly, and down through the ages, and perhaps be the catalyst for a renaissance for their people.  Perhaps some good can come from this after all.

That night at the pub, I celebrated quietly the completion of my work.  I could die in peace.  Levin read us the news, and the story of his travel over the mountains.  The news always made me angry; that’s why I listened to it.  I had so little emotion left, anger was the only one I could muster with any real conviction.
They are close, and closing in.  We won’t last the winter here.  The fall leaves crunched beneath my feet as I ambled drunkenly home.  A fitting metaphor for our whole stinkin—
A couple of coffees later, and of course I couldn’t sleep.  Lately, I never did.  I sat up thinking and sharpening my sword.  I would take some of the savage horde with me.  I swear to the God who has abandoned us to our fate that I would.
The price of civilization is blood, and theirs was going to cost them.

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5 Comments »

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  1. Plenty of passion here. Made me want to see the painting.
    And sharpen my sword : )

  2. When you got nuthin’, you got nuthin left to lose. No, “Please, Sir, may I carry your bag” for him. Calls back and gives new meaning to: Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, Rage against the dying of the light.”
    Damn Straight. Thanks, man

  3. I enjoyed reading this. So I went through your blog a bit and loved reading chicken Soup for assholes. and why you chose the name for your blog. Cool.

  4. Something like this Must have happened in the early days of human development, it’s just too ‘right’ to not be true in some way.

    You’ve captured the atmosphere very well, and I found myself caring enough about your MC to read on to find out what happens to him. Very nicely done.

  5. Really makes you feel like there’s not much hope left. “The priest gave a little talk, and his concubines handed out beer and crackers.” I like that line. Just goes to show how the world has turned in your story. Good job! (Sweet and depressing at the same time!)


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