Looking from the distance, one could say that the sun was the only thing keeping the town alive. From a large distance, the idyllic town shone and glimmered and reflected the sunrays from thousands and thousands of hot rooftops. A slight hum could be heard, from the distance, making one think “oh, it’s alive.”
However, once one came closer to the town gates, one could see that the bright sun that governs over all mankind, did nothing good for this particular town, for it lay its unforgivable rays upon its ground, turning everything to dust. The yellow dust was patched, here and there, with darker spots, like grass had been burnt, or like blood has been splattered everywhere. The almost shiny rooftops had holes in them, and bore the dangers and the horrors of events that have long ago happened, and now it looked like the sunrays were a burden they had to carry until the end of time. Everything was rotted, the wood, the concrete, the asphalt, the steel, fruits and vegetables and people too. Upon it, like a sentence given by the old Gods, a dusty memory hung around, screaming “decay” at everyone who dared step closer to the gates, or had the misfortune of crossing them. The old railway screeched and puffed as ghost of past trains carried through time the same old, same old whisper: run…run…run…
Looking from the distance, one could always say that it was a punishment those people had to pay for what they did. Up close, the ghostly people knew that what had happened to them was no punishment. They looked through dirty, smashed windows, hidden behind torn drapes, at the street below them, where the same thing happened over and over again, like it was put on repeat, or like a record that was scratched by listening to it constantly. They were in a time loop, or so they thought, but they never knew why. They understood their so-called punishment, but why did it had to be this? Surely some other form of “punishment” could’ve been given to them, and not this barbaric display of the past, right? I mean, what is the point of moving forward, if you have to relive your worse memories with the precise of a clock?
Hope was all forgotten. Redemption was a taboo no one even wanted to think about.
So why was it that when he came, everything started to fall back together? He was nothing but a mortal, so why was he so special? The ghosts could not tell.
And neither could I, for that matter.
Everyone saw him walking on the street, far away from the gates, almost reaching the Town Square. He took every step with precise consideration, almost philosophizing whether he should make that step, or go back. From where he stood, he almost looked like one of those ghosts: no hope of redemption ahead of him, and no place where he could safely return to if he decided to turn around. I guess, the only motivation keeping him moving was the water. The sweet, cold, energizing thought of finding water, of washing his face, of calming this wretched thirst that was still laughing at him, although he desperately tried to ignore it. If the human body is made out of 70% water, then his supply was steadily and undoubtedly going down. One could say it was his destiny, to run out of water in the middle of this desert and find this old, forgotten town.
He could see only water. It rose out of the ground, in 15 meter geysers, or swirled on the ground, fumbling over dusty, almost non-existent stones, or, at some point a few steps before, dancing around him, splashing his face, as water demon fairies drove him mad. Oh, how he longed for that water.
Slowly but steadily, he walked and walked and walked until he reached the Town Square. It was just like any other Town Square, with empty food stands, and stands where trinkets were sold, and carpets and animal stands, a paved, broad, stony street with multiple arteries going up and down the city, following the lines of the houses, like a big flower that let its petals run amok in the wilderness that was the town. In the middle of this old, forgotten piazza, an old, forgotten well stood tall. Well, not that tall, after all it was just a well, but it was big nonetheless. And it looked just like any other ordinary well. Only, there was a problem with it. It held no water.
The man should have expected that. He hurried towards it, anticipating the moment the water would touch his lips, the sweet taste of fresh, cold water travelling down his throat, rejuvenating his powers after the long hours wasted in the desert. He leaned on the well, wanting to take a good look at its contents before the bucket started its descend. He mechanically threw it in the well and waited for a splash that would not come. He swung the rope up and down, to the left and to the right and after a while, he brought the bucket back. Inside, only sand covered its bottom. Old yellow sand that held no memory of humidity, of water, or even of animal body liquids. He could not drink sand.
The man sat down and took his head in his hands. He wanted so desperately to cry, but he was afraid the tears would dehydrate him even more. So he sobbed, he used his voice to give life to those tears that wouldn’t come out. Pathetic.
A brown hand reached for him and lightly touched his shoulder. It shook him until he looked up. A mane of curly, short, brown hair, with a halo made out of light gazed upon him. He could see a child, a girlish child, sitting in front of him, the brown mane and the brown hand and the light halo being the only things that he could clearly see. If he thought about it more, maybe it was a boy next to him. Or a middle-aged man, a sort of midget like he once saw in one of his grandma’s picture books about Lords that hunt the barbaric uncivilized men at the end of the world. The silhouette could have been the water demon that taunted him not so long before.
A staccato voice filled the air around them. He realized the man-child before him spoke, but he could not see his lips moving. Is this some kind of sorcery, he wondered. He realized he was being asked a question. The annoying voice repeated … what are you doing here … again and again until he had to answer … water … but the man-child only looked at him with feigned politeness … there is none … until he looked away. The light was just too much for his dry eyes.
… look around you and you will see … The man-child clearly wanted something from him, but he was just a passer-by, he had nothing, hold nothing, his mind was blanc and so was his soul … see what, there is nothing here … because for too many years he wandered the planet in search of that which was lost with his childhood … just look, and you will see … and now this damned desert with its lack of water turned the imagined oasis into a nightmare … fine … he’ll do anything if it’ll make the man-child turn away and leave him be.
His eyelids were growing heavier and heavier by the minute. He laid his head on the pavement just as the sun changed its colours. The bright, sterile cerulean sky morphing into softer shades of pink, orange, and purple one would most likely see on the walls of a nursery. And look, bunnies and bears started dancing in the sky as well. A brighter shade of red invaded his vision. Dust rose from the ground. Sounds could be heard everywhere near him.
The man opened his eyes, and found himself in the middle of a party. A traditional dance took place a few meter in front of him, multiple couples circling the Town Square and himself at the same time. Flowers fell from the sky and perfume scents enveloped every human around him. They all looked clean and fresh and perfect, with perfect smiles plastered on their face, with broken laughter coming out of them. It was like he was trapped inside a rusty music box. The particular sound of water splashing the ground caught his attention and he looked to his right. Fifteen meters geysers erupted from time to time here and there. Under one of these geysers, the man-child stood and looked smiling and him.
The man started laughing. He laughed and laughed until his stomach hurt and he bent from the middle. Tears started rolling down his face and he covered his middle with his hands, fearing he would soon break half. He kneeled on the yellow pavement laughing and laughing and laughing and ignoring the sudden coldness of the water that showered him for two minutes straight.
If one would look at the city from afar, one would see the sun shining brightly on the freshly cleaned rooftops, the dusted pavement welcoming travellers to spend the night in.
Once the town gates came closer and closer, one could see a ghost of a town, filled with dust and memories. White-backed vultures circled the town for their next meal. At the centre of the town, where the old Town Square used to be, a white circle, resembling a light halo, can be seen near an old, dust well.
And everywhere, from the town’s gates to the lower city, the wind laughs and laughs and laughs.