The old man sat staring out towards the ocean. A rushing serenity that lapped at more than golden sandy shores, taking hold. The tranquil touch of such a view shifted the presence of buoyancy and natural limitations to a new understanding, a vivid clarification of life that may yet come to pass, even if that life would not be his.
How many years had it been since he was last here? Twenty? Thirty? Had he come here at all since she passed? Now, with wrinkles etched like beautiful calligraphed words chiselled into hard, cold, granite, there was more felt through such an experience than ever before in his longevity. Yet he had survived, he was here, he had reached this monument, and though time was growing ever so short, he knew there was only one regret that spanned this incessant lifetime. One melody, that played time and time again in the background of his derisive heart that, even after so long, would not allow him to sleep soundly at night.
With ages, he knew how precious life had become and knew that his unique outlook was something that would die with him. He had lived through the finest and vilest days of his species. Through the endless wars of religion and democracy, where the strands of humanity had been manipulated by avaricious men into the thinning fabrications of what his species saw itself to be. Now, the transformation of age had reclaimed all guilt and judgment into the final days of uncovered storms, except for one. And, at one hundred and twenty-four, he knew the rough roads had been worth the trek and this one guilt was his spectre, his soul, his miracle. What else was expected really?
An imperturbable breeze moved through his chaff bleached hair like komorebi as he thought to himself, “am I really the oldest person alive?” The last remnant of the-good-old-days. He couldn’t imagine another person being as archaic as he today. The Age Restriction Enactment took violations extremely seriously. There had been no other possible choice in a world that had seen over breeding and over consuming at such alarming rates. No citizen could now live beyond their fiftieth year, it was biologically impossible; other than he, the grandfather of this new age of man. The deadly architect that shaped the sphere, and now cruelly lived on as a reminder to all: This is what we did, this is what we paid. Although, to him, there was one greater aide-mémoire than his shrivelled age.
He sat back and wondered about this for a while, before eventually logging into his optical interface and conducting a quick web search on the subject. It speedily noted that the last elder had died some twenty years previously, at the age of 98. Not that he really cared, life was too short for such insignificance these days; but, in an epoch where technology had slowly become integrated into every aspect of conscious thought, it was more habit and, eventually, his only obsessive comfort. Knowledge, as always, controlled the course of years and the tears of all.
Behind him his nurse shuffled, trying to remain as invisible as he wanted her to be. She was a pest, shattering illusions.
The landscape that surrounded him shone in hues and shades that he could not recollect witnessing in those early days. The days before sacrifices were made. He remembered the hustle and bustle of the-comers-and-goers, spreading so much of their unproductive lives across the globe. Consuming the mother that protected them. Leaving their plastic wrappings and toxic touch wherever they leached. Waters polluted by micro-plastic, the land razed of their lungs, and the heavens burned with unquenchable insatiability. The vampiric decadence of the turn of the 21st century carved at the heart of Gia and left those with the means to remedy it with little alternative.
Of course, there were still things from before he missed, people he wished to see once more before his curtains closed. But, if anything, their sacrifices had revealed just how imperative it was to think before allowing oneself to be consumed by greed and self-righteous narcissism. The old beauty of civilisation.
Had it all be worth it, he wondered, as he watched the waves crash against the unblemished bluffs below. Had their pretentiousness been forfeited? They had all lost, all mourned, all paid as much as each other and it was only now – fifty years later – that true magnificence and hope were beginning to manifest. Was humanity human once more?
The ocean excelled with its clear azure dominance, a grandeur that had not been witnessed since before the plague of industrialisation and human conquest. Likewise, the sky governed with such brilliance, such crystal perfection, that who could not wonder and bask in its presence. He wished his wife was here to see it. Wished her exquisite jade eyes could marvel on the uncontaminated soliloquy of its evanescent love, relentless and stirring as it was. But she had given, like so many; sacrificed everything to what-had-to-take-place.
Yet it was not her, or her absence that he now grieved for, she was not the reason regret tiptoed between those innocent sheets that covered the monster his soul secretly remained, the monster that slept and wept deep into the night. The beast that crawled with the faces of so many lost dreams. She, like those dreams, was a cost that could not be changed, nor avoided any longer. So many slept for the few, and now the long hours that called out in whispers against the sliding mirror of reason were his alone to see each face without repentance or lament.
As relentless and corse as it was, he knew that recent years – with new scholars and new insight – had shown the magnitude and need for the actions taken by those whose granite furrows were etched like his. If not, the world would have reached the point of no return decades before. Would have died and burned and been forgotten to the ageless face of the cosmos.
He looked up into those skies, undressed and blue and, for what was not the first time in his many years, realised just how naked they had become. Were they a parallel to what his life had become? In the distance, privileged waves lapped at the horizon, against those likewise empty cobalt skies that sheltered his only heartache.
Once Seraphs had held the world in their view, soaring between the ephemeral clouds. Each unique in feathered compassion that age had drawn through aeons of smoke and memory to see humanity far below. Magnificent beings that filled forever for eras before apes crawled and crept to cover and curse the sphere. A place they themselves, were too high and mighty to understand. Their haunting absence mocked those grounded with their loss; a side effect they said, the sorrow of humanity, said he. A side effect that only he truly understood and experienced.
What beauty was in their wings, their infinite washes and feathered essences. Spiralling against the stars themselves in raptured importance. He closed his eyes and wished he could do more than project void holographic puppets into the empty atmosphere through his artificial eyes. To once more see their wings beating against the currents of the air, against the breath of the mother herself, he would give each of his long unending years.
In a whispered voice he spoke.
“Why do thou look’st so?’—With my cross-bow I shot the ALBATROSS.”
A distant roar reached his ears in expressive understanding. They were gone, and now, with all the hopes and dreams of every child, woman and man who had placed one foot in front of the other down the ages of time herself, the aspirations of furthering humanity lay with them.
“It is time,” he spoke with a voice as gritty as his etched face. “With my cross-bow I shot the Albatross.”
He did not feel the bullet that distributed, so eloquently, the tissues and bones of his cranium, nor did his long-life flash between his eyes. He only ceased to be. Finally blinking out of the story of his species. Taking his and their shame with him; and leaving only new hopes and dreams to come.
The nurse positioned the revolver back into her satchel. She turned in silence and with her tablet, carefully lead the dead man’s wheelchair and herself away from the cliff edge.
Writing © Phen Weston 2018