The City also Falls
by Taybrook Mills
In the morning the sun rises. The hills are for a moment set a flame as they are touched by this light. In the moments before this light comes, Aruna does sun salutations atop the crest of a mountain. The sun begins to hit him and he continues the motions with his eyes closed. The moment the light has fully enveloped him he opens his eyes, but he knows something dreadful is coming. Aruna dresses as a sun worshipper. Soon the light is too intense and he descends into the valley. At the bottom of the hill he sees a field littered with large scraps of metal. There is an old man sitting atop one of the large pieces of metal. Aruna watches as the sun slowly traverses across the hill behind him until it rests on the old man’s face.
“I see that you’ve finally found me,” says the old man, without looking at him.
“It wasn’t that hard, once I knew where to look,” Aruna replies.
“Spoken like a true worshipper of the sun. What can I do for you this lovely morning?” the old man asks, turning to look at Aruna.
“I have travelled from across these mountains, farther than the eye can see, yet no man has been able to tell me where I might find the place that this comes from,” Aruna pulls out a large conch shell from the inside of his robes and holds it out for the old man to take. The old man takes the object and mulls over it carefully. Finally he hands it back to the young man, shaking his head. Aruna turns away disappointed.
“Snails,” mutters the old man.
Aruna sighs. “I was hoping … since you seemed so wise … you might … ”
“It’s a snail. An underwater snail. But I’m very busy. I’m recycling,” grumbles the old man.
“Recycling what?” Aruna asks.
“Don’t you see all of this metal?” The old man gestures all around him with his arms raised.
“Where do you think it all came from?” asks the old man.
“I guess it came from the Earth,” Aruna shrugs.
“Damn right it did!”
“So what are you doing with it?”
“What does it look like I’m doing? Sitting here? I’m putting it back!” The old man cries.
“Can you tell me how to find this place where these … snails came from?”
“That depends.” The oldie suddenly seems interested in Aruna.
“Are you going to put them back?”
“I only have this one.” says Aruna, looking at the shell.
“This place you seek … What is it you hope to find there?”
“Someone told me once, that this comes from the largest body of water I would ever see. I thought maybe if I went there I could bring back enough water so that I might help my people to prosper,” Aruna says.
“It might be that water goes where it wishes. And here is not one of those places,” the old man laughs. “If you were to find some, though, say in the direction of those winds,” the old man says, pointing to the West, “could an old thirsty man trouble you to bring him back a drink?”
“Do you know that I will find water if I head towards the sun’s rest?” asks Aruna.
“I know that one day my work will be done and I may rest,” sighs the old man, staring at Aruna.
“And by then you might have a drink of water. If I follow the right direction,” Aruna stares back.
“The right direction is whichever way you go. Follow the path laid before you and it will take you where you need to be,” the old man says, turning his back on Aruna.
The young sun worshipper heads to the west, only occasionally glancing back at the old man. His journey takes him to the top of another hill, where he is hit by the full weight of the sun. At the peak Aruna stops, covered in sweat. He can feel the sun sucking the moisture from his skin. Aruna begins another sun ritual when he spots the glimmer of water below. After a second glance he begins running down the hill like a ram, zig and zagging. In a shallow puddle of water at the bottom of the hill lies a mermaid. She is beautiful, but she is dying. The young man kneels down beside her and takes her hand.
“You came back Phorcys. I knew you would,” the Mermaid whispers.
“You are mistaken dear lady, I am Aruna, a mere worshipper of the sun,” Aruna tells her.
“It can’t be true. He said he would return to me,” the mermaid shudders, “Your blessed sun brought this on me. It has withered and dried my once perfect form into this crisp. This is how I will die.”
“Do not despair. You will not die. I will find Phorcys for you,” Aruna says.
“It is too late for Phorcys now, if you are not him. I need water to survive,” the Mermaid croaks.
“I am going to the water. The great waters! I will bring you back enough that you might live!” Aruna cries.
“All of the water is gone. It does not wish to be here when the sun beckons it so eagerly elsewhere,” the mermaid sighs, “There is nothing you can do.”
“That is not true! A wise man pointed me towards the place where I might save all of us! Please wait until I come back. Don’t give up hope,” Aruna pleads.
“Wait! Before you leave, there is something you must do for me,” the Mermaid beckons him closer.
“I will bring you water,” Aruna tells her.
“Tell Phorcys that I will meet him in the sky when he returns, perhaps by Venus this time. Yes, Venus,” the Mermaid seems to float out of her body as she says this.
“You can tell him yourself, for I will be back soon with water!” Aruna cries as he runs away.
The young sun worshipper runs for a while along the gully, but is soon confronted with more hills he must climb. He runs with zest, quickly cresting the top of the first slope. Here he ties a feather on a string to a yucca stalk. The sight before him is grim, as there is no sign of water, merely hill after hill. He continues however, climbing hill after hill. As he climbs he can see ahead of him the largest hill of all, one he cannot see over. Eventually he reaches it and climbs it, exhausted. At the top, the sight is overwhelming as a vast ocean of water stretches farther than he has ever seen. He hurries down and jumps in the water. He drinks from it and fills a sac full of water. It is incredibly heavy and he struggles to carry it over the hill. He continues his journey back, but it seems to take him longer than before.
Finally he reaches the marker with the feather, and he heads back down. As he turns the corner there is a wild man with a goblin standing where the mermaid was before. The wild man is on his knees in front of where the mermaid lay. She is completely covered in dirt, save her protruding tail. The wild man gnashes his teeth and wails, grabbing handfuls of dirt and throwing them onto the body of the mermaid. The goblin is hysterical, running in circles around him and jumping onto him. The wild man sometimes pays the goblin no mind and sometimes pushes it away or swings at it, but the goblin continues its mad dance around him, regardless.
“Is she dead?” Aruna asks, coming closer.
The Wild Man snaps his head towards the intruder and screams.
“I have water,” Aruna offers.
“You are too late! Why are you here? Go away!” The Wild Man bares his teeth at Aruna.
“Are you Phorcys?”
“Are you a demon come to haunt me?”
“No, I am a friend,” Aruna says, gesturing with the sac of water.
“There is no such thing left in this world. Not now. Not after Ceto is gone.”
“I came to her as she was dying and she thought I was you. If you are Phorcys.”
The Wild Man screams and rushes towards Aruna and attacks him. Aruna drops the sac of water, which spills over the mermaid’s body. They struggle for a moment, and the goblin joins in, jumping on both of them.
“Wait!” Aruna screams, frantically trying to grab the sac, but only a small amount of water is left in the bag. “I travelled farther than I have ever before, to get this water to save her, and you spilled it all, as if I am your enemy!”
“Where did you find water?” Phorcys asks, sitting in the mud.
“Far. Over many hills in the direction of the sun’s rest.”
“I searched everywhere for water for her, but it was all gone. What will I do now that she is no longer here?” Phorcys grabs his head and moans, “The beast has gone mad, he will tear me to shreds and I will let him!”
“Do not despair. She told me to give you a message.” Aruna says.
“A message? What message?” Phorcys glares at Aruna.
“She said that she would meet you in the sky, by Venus.”
“Is that a joke? Or are you tempting me to kill you? Curse you and your empty promises!” Phorcys screams, “I will be in the sky as soon as I can swim there! I will kill you! Let me mourn her in peace!”
“Just leave us!” Phorcys yells.
The young man departs from the wild man, somewhat shaken and too exhausted to repeat his journey back for more water. Defeated, he travels the distance to the old man. As he reaches him he notices that all of the large metal scraps are gone, except one almost completely submerged. The old man is nowhere to be seen.
“I see you made it back here in one piece,” a voice comes from below.
“Oh!” Aruna cries, startled. The old man is stuck in the ground, with only his head visible.
“I’ve almost finished my work,” he says, “Just this last piece to go.” The old man concentrates very hard, till it looks like his head might burst. The piece of metal sinks down a couple more inches into the ground. “This is hard work for an old man. Sure could use some water.”
The young man pours what’s left in the sac into the old man’s mouth. There is barely a mouthful.
“I found the ocean,” Aruna tells him.
“Is that all that’s left?” asks the old man.
“At least I got my share.”
“Why is it that we can’t be satisfied?”
“I’m quite satisfied. At least once I …” the old man starts to concentrate on the piece of metal again.
“At least you know what you’re looking for,” Aruna sits down, dejected, “I went all that way to get water to build a life here and I ended up spilling it for someone who was already dead. Maybe you’re right. The water will go wherever it pleases, and there is nothing we can do to change that.”
“I wouldn’t bet that housewives won’t like horsewhips,” the old man mumbles, chewing on his tongue.
“I can feel so much down here. The Earth is speaking to me,” the old man yawns, “Who knows? You might get your water after all. Our mother is feeling great with these bones back in place.”
“But what about you?”
“My whole life I searched for something that wasn’t there. I wanted to feel something, I worried about my self and only wanted more and more,” says the old man. “My lust was never satiated, and I was ignorant to the fact that I didn’t need anymore, which made me angry. Life just kept repeating, over and over. It must have happened thousands of times.”
“But you’re sacrificing yourself to rebuild the Earth’s skeleton,” says Aruna.
“I eventually realised that she was the only reason I could enjoy anything I did. There was nothing without her. No good, no evil. No fruit, and no breath. I owed every good feeling that I ever felt to her. Nothing would exist without her.”
“The sun exists without her,” Aruna says.
“But I would never be able to enjoy it,” counters the old man, “She clothes us and feeds us with her air and her body. And all we want is more and all we take is more. No one is using these things. I thought I might give them back to her. She always seems to know what to do with the things that are left behind,” the old man looks up at Aruna, “And she’ll know what to do with me.”
“Don’t thank me. Thank her. It seems like you might not have wasted that water after all. It feels like something is coming. Just don’t waste it this time,” the old man seems to forget about Aruna all together, and it seems like his chin is sinking further into the dirt.
Suddenly a humming noise that has been building up breaks into a cacophony of sound, that seems to be coming from over the hill. The young man rushes to the top. As he looks over the edge he sees a roller coaster with screaming people riding on it. A vast city has filled the previously uninhabited valley. He reels in awe and horror as he understands that this is what happens when you bring water to a place where there is none.