A Momentary Thing by dblauvelt

Summary: The Gods have left, the Earth is slowly dying; dreams are fading, sleeping as we grieve their loss. The Universe has turned its last, and as cohesion is lost, a great power finds itself free, lording over the wreckage of the last Great War.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Other Era
Characters: None
Genres: Action/Adventure
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2006.05.30
Updated: 2006.09.06

A Momentary Thing by dblauvelt
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Author's Notes:

Stretch out your hand before you and with your eyes take in the world, every building, every brick, every flower, every cloud. Each has a potential future, an infinity of possible outcomes. Close your fingers into a fist and pull it tight until your fingers dig deep into your palm. Bring your fist to your chest, the palm facing upward, angled up to the sky.

Now, open your hand, let go. Feel the subtle shiver as reality slips across your skin and settles back into place.

If you can feel the shift, you’re nearly there.

Reach out and close your fist again, bending the air to your will. Imagine what you want to happen, how you want to change the world. How you want to choose one future out of the many that surround you. Hold tight. Only this time don’t let go. Clench your fingers about the nothing in your palm and lower your fist to the ground.

Make a wish and let go.

If you are one of the few, you can see the air shimmer and twist in a quivering haze of intangible smoke above where you have planted your seed, your wish. If you are one of the cursed, like me.

In the city, where granite walls have stood for centuries, their sickly skin sullen and quiet, lacquered in grime and soot, here the seeds are everywhere. Columns of smoke issue upwards from every street corner and billow out from the ancient churches and cathedrals. Even the graveyards are not still, their tombs and crypts nestled within trimmed grasses are plagued by disquieting tendrils that snake upwards into the sky, their seeds sown by the grieving or perhaps even the dead themselves. In the centre of the city the wishes are thickest, a chaotic tangle of shimmering vines that twist and heave like the root system of some heinous tree huddled in the dark and grey sky, the blackness obscuring the twilight and waning moon. A million wishes birthed over thousands of years, each wish bending the future to their own wants, their own needs. And sometimes, just sometimes, they come true.

I’ve stood many nights upon the Watchtower, a crumbling mausoleum by the river’s edge, and watched these ever-shifting pillars waft upwards into the eternity of the night’s hidden stars and restless stormy clouds. I’ve found many Watchtowers scattered across the land, sometimes they are windmills, other castles, others abandoned takeaway shops… their faces are many but they are easy to find. A simple touch to the cold stone tells you that they are eternal, have been here since the world was young and will be here still ever after. I’ve heard some say that they are anchored to the world’s core, never moving, never shifting, only changing appearance so as not to be noticed. I do not believe this to be true, for I cannot imagine them lying with in the abysses of the sea floor or buried beneath the glacial ice. I like to think that they move and shift and watch us in our folly. After all, is that not what they were built for? Alas, no one I have found truly knows where they came from or why. I like to think that I keep them company in their silent vigil. If only for a time. I shall pass on, as do we all, but they remain behind, alone.

Sometimes I see them inside people, the seeds glowing in their hearts, the steam trails wafting behind them as they walk through the crowds. Sometimes the seeds have been placed within them by others, by parents, by lovers, wishing them to be something else, to be something more. Sometimes people place them inside themselves; I avoid these people, as their chests blaze an unbearable light of the wish trapped inside, trying to burn their way out. Sometimes, I saw them on television, their inner light casting shadows upon those around them, pulling the trails of others out of joint, mischievously tangling them up and snuffing them out.

I was five when I first made my first wish, first placed a seed under my Snoopy pillow, wrapped round my front tooth. In the orange red ember of my Spiderman Nite-lite, I remember staring at my simmering pillowcase, my breath still, watching in awe as the snaking plume drifted up to the ceiling and beyond. It was then that I could see them everywhere, these golden seeds and their smoky tails that clouded the pews in the churches and steamed in the gutters of the streets around the school. Some were thin and wispy like the ones Mum kept in her linen closet, their little gray plumes sputtered each time she opened up the wooden door and let out an inaudible sigh. Others appeared blackened and dark, ones like those I found tucked away in the woods or sprawled across street corners amid bits of shattered glass and cracked plastic.

I learnt swiftly not to speak of the wishes, not to point them out whenever they blossomed and bloomed or faded and died, but I could not stop seeing them, no matter how I tried. I thought I might go insane for watching them, but soon I was able to tune them out, just like everything else, and only watch them when I wanted, when I cared. I did stop wishing though; that decision was conscious, deliberate. I’d seen so many others writhe and die, leaving nothing but blackened smoke and seen so many other wretched ones tangle with simpler, better wishes so that neither flourished.

I did not want my wishes to become tainted. There’s enough pollution in this world. One doesn’t need to have special sight to see that. A simple glance at the sky would have told anyone that. But no one was looking any more. The sky just grew thicker, darker, less blue and more dusky. Even I stopped looking, for the oppressive mass of the millions of wishes converging had given me more headaches than I could care to count.

I’m no better than anyone else. I’m not sure how long the sky had been that way. The change was so dramatic, I never even noticed. I had spent a long day at school, sorting through revisions and lingering in the darkroom, staring at the slim yellow trays of developing fluid, watching the black and white images soak into focus. I never looked up. I’m not sure how long it had been since my world had changed. I just remember stopping by the corner curry stand, holding a bag filled with spicy chicken rogan josh and a soggy Peshwari naan, its coconut muppet-flesh sweaty with steam. It was only as I was wiping off a dribble of red sauce from my chin that I looked up: and saw the stars.

The mangled roots of the wish trails were gone. There was not a seed to be found anywhere, in anyone. Not rotten or faded, neither singed nor forgotten. The minarets atop the mosque were touched only by the shadow of a stray cumulus humilis and beyond that there was nothing but the moon, its crisp edges bare and glaring.

The wishes were gone.

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