Tuesday, July 14, 2009


He gazed out upon the grey city. Giant monument to the works of man, it stood as a gleaming sore upon the banks of the brown river. Large windows gleamed lazily upon the slight white light that permeated the clouds above, seeping through them and finally touching upon the soot covered windowpanes. The city had a thousand chimneys billowing a thousand columns of black smoke into the white air above the grey buildings.

He turned his back upon the sight, and strode towards the waiting hansom. It was black as ebony, with neat little windows and a neat little driver, with a plump belly and a stove top hat which had seen better days. Outlined upon the windows and the door’s handle was the silver insignia of the couch company, two gleaming branches heavy with fruit, carried by a raven.

He entered the handsome and soon it set off. He traveled alone, as the city flew by, with its men and women in black clothes with white faces and grey eyes breathing the heavy air outside. The rushing brown river, the only source of color, flowed slowly and thickly as if burdened by its own silt. The city had been his home, for too long, and now he was departing. Now that he had discovered his next destination.

The hansom drove on till it reached the outskirts of the city. There where the trees, blackened with soot, were slowly creeping back into civilization, the hansom stopped to pick up another passenger. It was an elder gentleman, with long dropping eyes weighed down by longer drooping eyebrows of white. His figure shook, as he held the ashen white shawl around his shoulders, coughing and cursing as he was helped aboard. He too was going to the station.

“Well, now, young man. Who exactly are you and what are you about? Hmm!” He demanded gruffly.

“I am who I claim to be and I do what I am told.” The man answered looking towards the forest that suddenly sprung up on either side of the hansom as it had begun to move.

“Heh! What a pup! Fine, if it’s philosophical banter you want, you shall have it! I am the voice of prudence and wisdom, experience gained through years of bitter toil. I am come to lend sanity and reality to your dreamy existence.” The old gentleman said, taking out a long ivory pipe, shaped as a bull and lighting it.

“I see. Well then, Wisdom, you may call me Youth, or Ideal, or Hope if you like. Either way, I am your antagonist and your polar opposite. I see potential in all the world and all within it. There is still so much left to be done.” He said smiling.

“Ah, but you are mistaken in that. We are not so different after all. I too see potential throughout all of creation… but I see the true potential, the potential for harm! The dangers that lurk out there in the world, boy, are exponentially greater than the few happenchance’s of happiness. Why, look at this hansom we share, it has much more potential for some kind of disaster to take place. Yet, the only thing that it can do that is not a dangerous potential is merely an uneventful ride.” The old gentleman said, drawing deeply from the pipe, making small embers glow in the hollow of its bowl.

“But what are the odds of any of those disasters truly happening to our couch particularly?” He countered, once more gazing upon the trees, “And even if, as you say, reaching out destination is the only good that can come of it, is that not the greatest good we could hope for? Reaching our destiny?”

“Destiny? What does a child know of destiny? A single raindrop is destined to reach the ocean, but it cannot comprehend its vastness, nor can it begin to understand the deep things hidden within its dark aquamarine folds. No, you have no idea of destiny, young man.” The old gentleman said gruffly before pulling at his pipe and releasing a thick cloud of scented white smoke into the interior of the dimly lit hansom.

“Well, that may be true, but look, it is as I said, we are here, and we did not perish, but instead, reached the end of our journey. See, we have arrived at the train station.” He said as they came to a stop.

They were in the middle of the evergreen woods, the imperial giants of the arboreal world’s dawn standing sentry around the gleaming copper and brass train station. Its interior was lit with many bright burning gas lamps whose small flames flickered and wicked in the gentle breeze of noontime, as dusty motes played upon the beams of sepia sunlight that breathed gold into the very air.

But as he stood by the stop, he saw the three tracks before him, each with a waiting train expect for one. The one. The one he had come to take to the distant land of his quest. And now, it seemed that it was not where it was suppose to be. He walked to the warm, brass counter, and spoke with the attendant in her green woolen uniform. As she answered, he couldn’t help but notice the lines on her face increasing rapidly with the slightest emotion, as if she wore a thick glob of pancake make up across her face. The news struck deep. His train was not coming at all.

“What was it you spoke to me of destiny, boy?” asked the old gentleman, still sucking on his ivory pipe.

“The train was robbed and derailed. But even in that is more potential for good. You see, either one of these other two trains will take me where I need to go. I just need to wait a bit longer, that’s all.” He answered, looking at the two gleaming black bodies of the locomotives.

“But which will you choose? You can’t take both. The one goes by the great canyon, where the sun burns each shade of the sunset into the gorge’s stones in the most magnificent display of power! But the other goes by the lake, surrounded by the gleaming mountains, where the moon’s pure light gleams of the glaciers and sparkles on the crystals in the lakebed. Both are magnificent. Both are beautiful. Both ought to be seen at least once before one dies.” The old gentleman said with uncharacteristic passion.

“But I am only going one way. I will not get to see both.” He said sullenly. “But which way should I go?”

“Heheheh! You see! I have won! Now you understand the true bittersweet potential in life, its greatest strife! It is choice! For even if none of my grim predictions ever come true, you will still have to decide between paths and people and loves and when you do, you will have to sacrifice the other path and all its happy potential. That is the true bitter, horrid, heartbreaking potential of life!”

And having said that, the old gentleman drew hard on his ivory pipe and blew out a fierce cloud of white smoke that soon encompassed him entirely. All the while cackling as he did so. Then as the wind blew the smoke clear, the old gentleman was gone. All that remained was the scent of tobacco on the wind, and the echo of the antagonistic laugh in the hollow places of the station.

He stood there, watching to two trains for what felt like a lifetime. He knew he would have to choose eventually, and the more he thought about it, the more he realized the logical choice. But it meant never seeing the other path, which was equally appealing to his soul. But he didn’t have time to waste. He had more important things to do.

So he finally boarded a black locomotive and walked to his tidy compartment. The day on the train passed quickly, and by the time he had reached his stop, the sun was setting in fierce and fiery passion, burning the clouds and setting fire to the purple heavens. He stepped down from the platform in the forgotten city, where not a sound was heard except for the creeping shadows of night. And immediately, all though and turmoil of his own choice were forgotten. He had arrived at his destination, and now he had a task before him. He walked up to the large, looming building, lit his candle, and stepped inside.

His lonely voice echoed in the high vaults of the empty cathedral. The rows of pews were derelict and dust covered, while hangings of cobwebs draped down across the wide, dusty nave. He held up the single candle as he walked further into the humid air, like a cloying dying breath held inside a moist body. The pale moonlight, glided over the surfaces like liquid silver, outlining the shapes of massive pillars, arches, angels, gargoyles, and things which weren’t really there.

He had come this far and he had to see for himself. He swallowed and walked further into the large, empty building. His shadow fell across the grey marble, growing further and further until it came to the end of the long nave. And there it settled, like some black bird of ill omen, upon the altar. Upon his destination and destiny.

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