What does it mean
When all the stories have been told?
You can stand upon the plains
Feel the dry, cold wind on your face.
See the dust blowing through titanic skeletons
And the weight of those stories pushes back at you.
Cracks in the mud flats,
Jagged canyons in the oil fields
Civilization collapsed as the surface did
And burned as the air did.
There’s nobody left to fight the elements
No one to defend our legacy from the ravages of time.
As metal will rust and cement will crumble
The Earth forgets we were there.
You can place the stone upon that spot,
Surrounded by towering ruins.
It says that we were here, we grew on this world
And consumed it.
You see, it isn’t that everything died.
It isn’t that the planet looks dead.
It’s that we grew in its old nature
And we can only remind ourselves of what it was.
That old warehouse down the street
From the place we all would eat
Has a history like most buildings out there
And unlike most, it’s left it out to share.
Old equipment scattered around an open space
But it i not like any other empty place.
The equipment hasn’t been moved or been victim to theft.
By vagrants or vandals, it’s simply sat where it was left.
Rotting boxes beneath a hole in the metal roof,
Mold encrusted shipping labels, barely reveal their proof.
That within are medical supplies, by the ton.
Why wouldn’t anyone take these? Or destroy them for fun?
The offices are oddly full, computers from 10 years before,
Filing cabinets, still neatly organized, save a few, their contents on the floor.
Upon a desk, beneath a “Safety First” sign affixed to the wall by rusty tacks
Are scattered papers with names, numbers, and emergency contacts.
I read a few, that cold night in late November,
With Colin, Nathan, Joanne and Amber.
They’ll tell you we were there, and more you might hear,
But only to this point in my story, and no further, for fear.
The names on the papers meant little to me,
Their wives, their fathers, a dangerous allergy
But I checked on my phone, just to know,
That every one had died, 10 years ago.
Now this is a coincidence one doesn’t ignore,
The rest of my group, however, wanted no more,
Thought maybe it would be better not to remain,
Even though, at that moment, it had started to rain.
We went to the doors, that led out of the office,
We’d come in the back way, to avoid any notice.
The lock, though unsettling was merely a stall
It was the newly jammed door in the back that unsettled us all.
The rain poured in through that rusted out gap,
And something came out of those boxes and oozed like a sap,
Mold and pulped cardboard, Colin said it might be,
But that’s when we saw the derelict form of a wrecked AC.
Beneath the sagging boxes, previously unseen,
Sat the wreckage of an industrial air conditioning machine.
It dawned on me, then, that this place was not overlooked,
And the reason this place was empty, was for the lives it still took.
Upon closer observation under the stacks all around,
We found pools of toxic black sludge all over the ground.
The supplies had defrosted, molded, and grew,
Into something toxic and deadly, a poisonous stew.
We fled in all directions, searching for an open door,
Our frantic steps echoed across the cement floor.
Our determined silence was broken shortly thereafter,
By a scream that shook our nerves, and clanged off the rafters.
Amber had tripped and fallen behind a pallet
We rushed to her aid and found she had gone pallid.
She’d narrowly missed a pool of that forboding black scum,
When she tripped over the rotten leg of a long dead bum.
Our nerve finally broke, as panic took hold.
For that homeless man’s corpse had already foretold
Our future in this forgotten crypt of disease.
We’d succumb to sickness and die by degrees.
Finally we found it, a hidden emergency escape,
Behind a tall pile of boxes, wrapped in shining red tape.
The door opened easily, and we ran into the night,
But the handle I pushed, was buried in that black blight.
I knew you’d not listen, if I’d told you that first,
But I needed you to hear that I’ve avoided the worst.
I washed my hands soon after, and scrubbed the black off.
There’s no sign I’m dying, I’ve just got this cough.
So I started contemplating that semi-famous Alice in Wonderland riddle;
“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”
Even though Lewis Carroll eventually answered it (“Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!” with never being intentionally mispelled as to be raven backward), I was struck with the same sense of demented madness that Wonderland reeks of.
The question is not “How?”, it is “Why?”. Why must it be like that? What purpose would it serve? With that logic at work, and the setting in which the riddle is presented, any number of silly or disturbing reasons arise.
“Because something has to be!”
“Because who would tolerate such a nuisance?”
“Because how then would we ever awaken from our nightmares…?”