The citadel of knowledge, a bastion and temple for all of civilisation, burned just as poorly as fresh wood in a furnace. The tomb constructed to protect lives of ages past, disgraced not by time or entropy but the desires of arrogant man. The groans of my ancestors could be heard through the destruction of all they built for us; and to say I collapsed would not do justice to the agony that coursed through my veins. The blanket of heat that seared my skin did little to break me out of this infernal reality. As scattered embers fell, mesmerising me with their hypnotic dance, the plebeian cries became akin to an animal’s death throes.
Shouting shocked and shook those around me, as on those frantic faces nearby comprehension dawned. I could not bring myself to care. The fleeting plight of strangers did not matter. The would find solace as ash soon enough. The soon-to-perish failed to capture my attention or pity, as I was too preoccupied by my own thoughts. Thoughts of four siblings that would know that I had failed. The rubble, blustering with embers, exacerbated the fractures that grew inside my mind. I knew what I had done was wrong, but the world is wrong, this society… It was as if life was naught but struggles without end. An eternity of pain from which those in power would never allow us to escape.
I expected; I wanted; no, I wished for something more. For them, please let there be something more. Yet Gods and heroes failed to appear. They failed to intervene, to protect, to save the waning sanity of modern society. The gloom of ashen clouds, that stole away heaven’s light, bespoke the direness of people’s minds. Curses were flung, oaths made, and vows taken to illustrate human resolve - yet, such symbolic actions were cast into the endless void of those souls forgotten by eternity. There was no greater being or divine reckoning at hand, only human error. Thus, one by one those trapped within the crumbling architecture were reunited with their ancestors; only in death are we free.
Answering the damned cries were men in red. As they burst onto the scene, hailing witnesses and victims attempting to enforce order on the chaos, I stood impotent before the burning wreckage that I had wrought. I felt a hand grasp me from behind. It was rough and unapologetic, attempting to pull me away from the glorious blaze. I resisted. Flailing, shouting, I did all I could to escape. Reaching down to claim a weapon, I finally grasped the conflicting comfort of a molten stone in my frantic search. Numb from setting torch to history, I hurled the stone at my saviour without care for the searing pain that was emanating from my right hand. The man in red recoiled, bellowing in confusion. It was not his fault. But I could not leave, at least not until they arrived.
The red figure attempted to tackle me, his burly frame hidden behind layers of inflammable cloth. Clutching my blackened hand, I dived aside of his assault. I couldn’t leave yet. They have to arrive. They needed to be here. Otherwise what hope was left for them? Unbeknownst to me the man in red recovered his footing, and once again lunged at my frail form. The impact stole my breath away. The red man bumped me over thrusting his weight into my side, shoving me towards the molten pavement. I rolled with the strike, taking the edge off the blow. Scrambling to my feet, the man in red was nowhere to be seen. Smoke and fumes clouded my sight, with the sirens and screams of people wailing I could not hear my assailant either.
Where are the heroes? Those selfless beings, that could right wrongs and protect the innocent. Are we too lost, too weak, too corrupt to deserve such virtuous individuals? These men that adorn bright colours, and falsely proclaim themselves protectors cannot be all that is for us to idolise. I don’t know if I could live with that being the case. It was all for them; for someone to show me that they aren’t a fantasy. So I could tell those who I love that all will be well. If the saviours don’t exist… then we are truly lost.
I ran. In which direction, I could not tell you, but as the wisps of smoke veiled my exit, I could only think of the corpses I left in my wake this night. No longer could I conceive visions of the heavens in this infernal realm. Roaming this modern hell, I epitomised the hubris of man; allowing pride to dig myself an early grave. Concrete constructs loomed ever watching, as if judging and condemning my flight. I sprinted, ignoring the small voice that gnawed at the back of my thoughts. I was not ready for the epiphanies it would provoke. Thus fear spurred me onward, yet it wasn’t fear alone.
Fear could not describe the variety of emotions that plagued my addled mind. As I cowered from public attention, avoiding all men and especially those in blue and red; the pawns in the hidden kings’ games. I scraped soot off my eye lids, huffing as I stumbled through alley after alleyway. My chest tight and constricted, allowing only shallow breaths that emitted wheezing noises.
Sirens blared and lights flashed, red and blue, red and blue. The systems protectors arrived, along with my doom. Sighing and coughing intermittently I found contemplation didn’t suit my mind. The mortal mind was never made for wanton terror and destruction; yet here I am. Guilt roamed my body, yet apathy barricaded my mind. I could feel the end was near for me. But I still need to tell them…
“Sir! Are you okay?!”
The cry came from the end of the alley I had discarded myself within. It was a woman in blue. She must have stalked my retreat from my… the scene of the crime. I’m not ready for questions, or to provide answers; yet the voice grew ever louder.
“Sir can you hear me? Do you need an ambulance?!”
She sounded so honest, sincere even. But there was no medic alive that could heal my addled mind. My hand had ceased sensing, now a useless appendage attached to a rotting corpse. The woman noticed it; whether it was due to the acrid smell it emitted, or the charred visage of what was once a hand, I could not say.
“I’ll… I’ll be right back. I-I-I’ll grab help. Wait here!” She commanded, abandoning this wretched scene.
Left bruised, broken and burnt, I knew that help was far from my reach. I did not deserve the efforts of mortal men, only condemnation. I was wrong. I was flawed. I am mortal. As clouds of ash encroached on my final resting place I could see their faces. They were the faces of those I had failed. Doomed to float before me, ever out of reach. The pallor of their skin as ashen as the dust they appeared upon. I extended a hand, wishing I could touch their innocent flesh to say goodbye for the last time.
“Please,” I croaked, “forgive me.”