Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Flashback: The Dry Ruin

Through the end of the year, Kurt is re-running some of his favorite Friday Flash Fiction stories. If you like this one, it--and a hundred similar stories--can be purchased on Kindle in a new collection.

The Dry Ruin
Word Count: 600
Published: 10/25/13

How did it last so long, I wonder? It’s an artificial structure, clearly made by something intelligent. It extends out of the water—a dry ruin—and yet does not seem capable of holding water in. There are pipes to run water up, but the cement and glass that make up the exterior could never have held it in. How did these ancient simians live without being submerged? Bless my fins, but it is a mystery.

Perhaps the dryness is how it has lasted so long. The water teems with life that destroys anything it can use and overruns anything else. All that’s left of the ancient simians is a grid of concrete, and even that has nearly wasted away. Only the structures that extend out have survived. And there are so few of them.

I’ve heard tell of trees that grow up out of the water—currents bring new friends and new friends bring stories—but I’ve never seen one. They say the trees put down their roots in the ocean and stretch up past the surface and go on forever. They say they’re bigger around than a whale.

Perhaps this is a concrete tree, then. It just grew and grew and died, and no one told it to fall over, so it never did. Sometimes I think if I said to it “Hey fool, you’re dead,” it would crumble away to ash and foam. Sometimes I want to try, but I don’t.

The HighFish thinks I’m crazy for wanting to come out of the water, for wanting to see what the ancients left. Maybe so. But he didn’t forbid me, so I came, and that’s how I’ve seen what I’ve seen. I’ve seen the concrete trees. I’ve seen the old ice that floats on the cold waters where the ancients froze their homes.

I even saw one of the ancients—well, I saw what was left. It was only bones in one of the ancient simian structures. I had a breathing mask to keep water in my gills, and I managed to get about ten or twenty feet out of the water. I found him there in a chair, a pile of bones unmolested by time and undertow. He looked ill-suited for swimming, but what can you tell from bones? Not very much.

His chest was like a cage made of bones, and his head was round and gaping. Only half of a mouth—the rest must have rolled off somewhere. Long and gangly arms. It was oddly beautiful, I confess. I wanted to take a bone with me to keep, but I know what the water would do to it. Better to leave it.

I told all of this to the HighFish. He still thinks I’m crazy. He says it swims close to blasphemy to ask so many questions about long-dead monkeys. I assure him I won’t swim too close, but I am lying, of course. I want to know how they did it. How did they swim up to the edge of the sea and keep going? How did they plant the roots of their concrete trees? How did they live with the sun on their faces? How did they face the day and the night and the day and the night without the constant change driving them crazy? How did they drag their heavy selves around the dry ruins?

Who were they? Where did they go? Are they coming back? Before they gave up and cast all of their secrets into the ocean, to be destroyed and overrun by those that followed.

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