Walkabout

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It began as a penal colony. No. That is not entirely accurate. As far as the history books were concerned, it began as a penal colony. It was an isolated mass of land where criminals could be put out of sight, and thereby out of the minds of those who had been wronged by their acts. In truth, it had existed long before the pragmatists devised a purpose for it.

Like all continents, it had already served as a home for many. In an effort to bring justice to the land, unjust men laid waste to the native inhabitants. Blood had been spilled onto sandy soil where little of value might grow. These rational minds — progressive thinkers and planners for their time — sought to sow seeds that would bare fruits of ill fortune. Strange, then, that such a blossom of staggering beauty had managed to grow from all of that pain and suffering.

The Blue Melanendria grew only in one spot, you see. Curiously enough, where once had pooled the blood of the native people, in the exact center of the ancient spilling field, for centuries sat a garden of these breathtaking flowers. They were the only life that was seen as precious on this yawning tract of sand and rock — so precious, in fact, that even the most ruthless of souls held them sacred. It was an unspoken law that these flowers were not to be touched. And so it was for 250 years.

As time passed, the penal colony succumbed to urbanization. The descendants of the law abiding pragmatists who had scorned that land saw no need to dedicate it to those who wished to harm. After all: space was in short supply, and the armies of men and women were growing beyond measure with each passing year. So it was.

Little by little, colonization made use of the land around the Blue Melanendria garden — they remained scared for a time. As years collected into decades, the people inched closer and closer to this sacred center. Time had muddied the significance of the plants, and as the armies of women and men needed more space the garden had lost all value. They encroached upon the garden until one solitary flower remained. It occupied so little space, there was no value in usurping it from its throne of blood-fed soil. Given a housing of glass and bronze, it became a monument of sorts.

In time the armies of men and women laid waste to the cities they had spread ruin in order to erect. What hadn’t been decimated by the nuclear fallout would be weathered to dust by the wind and the rain, and the relentless marching of time. Buried under the rubble and scurf of humanity’s folly, its glass container cracked and rendered useless, the Blue Melanendria remained.

I had moved the rubble that hid it from view. Like the remaining soldiers I had taken to wandering the world, which finally had the space for which our species hungered. We became nomads — ineffectual hunters and gatherers, as there was nothing to hunt, and nothing of value to be gathered. So we wandered, moving from place-to-place in search of… well, of what we didn’t know.

I hadn’t lived on the penal colony turned paradise. It was my fate to be born across the expansive ocean, and had only arrived after suffering the beating of waves and storms. Having wandered across my home, having explored the wreckage that spanned from coast-to-coast, I longed for something else. It seemed foolish to me at first; what had I expected to find? More rubble? New rubble? All the same, I was compelled.

So it was, I found myself washed ashore. Sure enough I found the same remnants of chaos that littered my home, so I attempted to picture the place before the buttons were pressed. How beautiful must it have been before we made a mess of it, before we raped and pillaged until there was nothing more to condemn to ruin but ourselves and the cities that made us all proud… I tried to imagine the sky, but had no frame of reference. I had been born well after the Veil formed, which painted the sky and all that rested below it in sickly sepia tones. My attempt to imagine the sky, and the absolute failure to do so, made me bitter. I decided it was best to move on.

Days and nights passed, and I inched inwards to the center of the land of sand and rock. The shadows of the women and men who dissolved at the first bomb’s dropping kept me company as I slept. Their souls’ lingering whispers lulled me to sleep. They recalled the faint chorus of cicadas — eerie, but hypnotic; strangely calming.

In the morning, I caught a glimpse of a bronzed plate that had long been buried in a small nest of marble tiles. Curious, I decided to inspect it only to find that a message had been etched onto its surface. The words read:

“That we may remember the beauty that once lay here, as it recalls the perfect sky we felt prudent to disguise. Heaven on Earth: The Rare Blue Melanendria (Rare, as we saw fit to make it so.)”

As if called to action by some primal instinct, I moved the rubble that made a canopy atop the bronzed plate. There it stood: the final flower, the stubborn survivor. It had not lost its luster. I lost myself for a moment, rendered inert by its splendor.

No more would I long to wander. I would settle myself near the base of this breathtaking bloom. I vowed that I would clear the rubble from its proximity, and that I would never encroach upon its space. I would have to give it the room my ancestors had refused it. I would admire it from afar, as my species had already proved that we were capable of immeasurable damage the closer we came to bliss.

I am not long for this life. I have walked the lengths of this world, and in doing so know the odds are slim you will find this. Still, should another wandering soul come across this record, I ask you: Bury me at the foot of this memorial. Bury me with my face to the sky, as I can see it as clearly as I had ever hoped.

Above all else: leave the flower be.

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