Richard Ehrlich photography, from “Homage to Rothko, Malibu Series” 2012
(In collaboration with R. Mac Holbert, a series of montages composed from original Malibu sky images as an Homage to Mark Rothko)
I wrote this story a while ago. I submitted it without success. I think this is the right time to share it. Dismal, but true. We don’t change, do we?
The End and The Beginning
They said the Day of Judgement had come and the end of the world was near. Then the skies turned granite, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis devastated towns and villages for days until all the unwanted were washed away from the surface of the planet.
Waking on strange beach, I looked around and saw that everything had changed. Not a building in sight, nor any remnants of “civilization”. A vast emptiness as far as the eye could see, bordered by tree covered hills. Even the sun didn’t look familiar, an alien shade of red, casting a rosy light upon the land.
Following the sound of water gushing from an unseen source, I dragged my feet towards it until I came upon a rivulet fed by a spring. Scattered around its banks, people talked to each other while perusing me with suspicion as I approached. I bowed my head, then cupped my hands and drank water to quench my thirst.
Resting on the grass to observe the survivors, I noticed everything was different. Snow White was no longer white, but black. Rapunzel had close-cropped hair. Alice had lost her wonderland. Soldiers and pirates exchanged clothes and identities, as Sleeping Beauty walked around, eyes wide open. Lords had become peasants as peasants flaunted their elegant outfits.
“Who are you?” a young girl asked.
“No one special. I’m me.”
“How come you haven’t changed?”
“No idea. Are we on a different planet? Is this Earth or elsewhere?”
“We don’t know, yet. Nobody does. We’re gathering to decide on a plan.”
I joined the discussion about our survival and voted to move up the hills to take shelter rather than staying on the beach in case of a Tsunami. Perhaps we could find food up there and a safe haven to settle.
Scouts explored the mountains and returned with the news of a valley beyond the hills. Hunting for food with sharpened sticks, on our way, we reached the meadow at dusk. Gathered around fires lit with flint, the head count of 500 remaining humans discussed the strategy of our survival on this strange planet.
“Back to the stone age,” one said.
“At least we have the knowledge. We can make tools, wheels, and shelters. Start farming, agriculture. Keep livestock, form a community.”
Knowledge without tools was a sad consolation, but we could always try as humans had done in the past and advanced.
Survival being our mutual cause, we worked in harmony as a leader emerged in the colony. He formed a council of advisors, and much to my surprise, included me they called Unchanged. It seemed like a privilege, but I wasn’t sure. Perhaps it meant unchangeable, inflexible, rigid. Was I so, though I tried very hard to adapt to the difficult conditions of our existence?
“A transformation,” they said. “A test for humanity to do better this time, understanding the past to build the future. At least we speak the same language and can communicate. We’re civilized without being civilized.”
I wasn’t sure about that either because I heard a wise woman and a wise man speak.
“You know what will happen at the end of this, don’t you?” she said.
He chuckled. “Politics, greed, wars, division, and devastation. The rich and the poor.”
“Progress and destruction.”
“Can’t we prevent this, having the knowledge?”
“Not unless we can stop time, but you know we can’t change human nature.”
I wept with the knowledge that someday this world would end, too, despite the efforts of survival and co-operation here. Perhaps, that’s why I hadn’t changed. I represented all of them, in my perpetual state of being.
Thank you for reading. 🙂