A lonely figure drawn to the City of Gold over a century ago haunts Market Street today. He stands sentinel over his sidewalk as generation after generation pass. He smiles as they flaunt their differences between the previous generations as if this were something unique.
He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t interact with people. He gave up trying long ago. The people today don’t care about him. They never knew him. He has been forgotten. Still, he watches them. He sees everything they do. He hears every curse whispered under muttered breath. He sees acts of kindness and evil coexist side by side. He bears witness, but he is no judge. He doesn’t care anymore. He’s not a bogeyman waiting for us to fumble at the car with our keys that he may pounce. He is a lonely figure that haunts Market Street, held rooted by a long forgotten memory.
There was a time when he had a name. He had a family. He had a job. He was a banker, he remembers, when he was alive. His memories exist as photographs in a dusty patchwork album. The past, whispers to him of picnics with his beautiful wife. He wishes he could remember more of her. He sees a picture of himself during a business meeting in a smoke-filled room surrounded by fat and greedy men. These men stir something deep inside him. Anger blackens his vision. Blood that no longer flows through him begins to foam and roil like the ocean surf. There was a betrayal, he recalls, though the details have been long since forgotten. He has one remaining memory to feed the seething rage. It is a fat man in a tweed suit with a brown bowler hat. He is smoking an equally fat cigar and laughing at him. There is finality in that laugh that speaks of a plan come to fruition. He knows instinctively that hearing such a laugh means you are doomed. Beyond this, however, he remembers blessed little. Time has whittled away all else.
He feels the pain of loss when he tries to recall his wife. The one constant in his mind’s eye is her undeniable beauty. He never got to know his child. He died before the boy was born. He was able to see him from time to time as he walked through the city, though. A father knows his own son in this world as well as the next. He tried to talk to him once. He followed him up Market Street for an hour pleading for him to stop and listen. Though he possessed no voice his son eventually did stop and turn, certain that there was someone just within earshot trying to get his attention. But his son saw no one. He only stared at the vacant spot before him, unable to see the wisp that was his father waving his arms and screaming a soundless warning. He tried to warn him about the Fat Man. He doesn’t remember why he did this. He only recalls that he felt that he must do so. His warning went unheeded. He fights to recall even the memory of his son beyond this day. He saw the fat Man shortly after this and remembers with clarity that he had something he was not supposed to have, but even this memory proves slippery and elusive.
Through all the time that has passed like so many grains of sand in the hourglass, through the Earthquake, the Fire, social unrest, and just plain strangeness, his city remains the same. This sidewalk he stands on is the same one that he stood on in the days he hardly remembers. Its soul remains unchanged. It is this thought that keeps him here, he thinks. “I wanted to know how things turned out.” He says in a voice only children can hear.
He has noticed a faster tempo to the living lately. Though they always seem to be in such a hurry, going faster and faster as they go these days it just feels different. There is a thread that ties all living things together and today that thread is pulled tight. He can see this. He notices that they look up at the sky more often and point. He doesn’t care enough to follow their gaze, however. The matters of the world tire him these days. He recalls a time when the world mattered to him. A War…no, several wars. He felt connected to them then but that was so long ago. Now they are ants bustling to and fro contained in their own little farms. They dig their little tunnels and go about their daily lives. And they point to the sky and look worried now.
As more time passes he notices that the people have stopped walking past. He thinks to himself how long it has been since he saw something, anything move past him that was still alive. He sees the reddish haze that hugs the ground and the single enormous cloud that blankets everything and is reminded of his city during the fire that claimed his life. It looks all too familiar but this time there are no people running about to put these fires out. He thinks that something has happened this time. Something very, very bad. The absence of people amidst the presence of all this flame can only mean trouble. He looks for something alive. He looks for Anything alive. His search is in vain. Nothing remains. Not human, not animal, not plant. He fell asleep in Eden and awoke in a burning desert.
Sometimes, if he looks very hard, he can see others…like him. Gossamer wisps drifting in place. None of them can see him now. It has been too long for him. All that is left of him now is a memory with eyes. As he finally unties the knot holding his ghostly form together, he is blasted by a flood of sights and sounds from the others that surround him. It is as if he is reliving the memory of these wisps. He feels the crush of their panic. He hears the odd word mentioned over and over. “Asteroid” He hears the voices mention Australia and then he feels the fire from the wave of destruction that washes across his tiny planet. Then he understands. As the final atoms of his spectral form dissipate he allows himself the luxury of a single tear in the memory of his home.
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