Straw Flowers

Straw Flowers
"Straw Flowers" by L. Folk

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Fallen Kingdom of Ozymandias (from Upon Waking)

Lena was angry with her mother for buying a beaten down cape in New Jersey, half a mile from an overpass, three quarters of a mile from a beach littered with abandoned cars, old tires, and discarded clothing. It was ugly and Lena hated ugly. She lamented her mother leaving the well preserved beauty of the New England landscape, but her mother could no longer afford it. She told her daughter if she had to move, she'd go south, to the mid-Atlantic states where she could be closer to extended family. So she did, and Lena begrudgingly went to visit her and walk the coarse sand of the polluted beach where someone had dumped cabinets and suitcases. Her mother said it may have been the mob. Lena regarded the tall smoke stacks as they belched fumes into the gray sky and felt ill.

Afterward, they took a ride east. It was sunny and they drove with the windows down, the songs from the radio hampered by the din of the wind. The land, with its enclaves of reaching blue water, was buzzing with summer activity; people were out jogging, riding bicycles. They passed a carnival with a Ferris wheel and games of chance. Tickets littered the streets; people waited in lines for rides and concession stands where food associated with fun-- cotton candy, ice cream, fried dough-- was sold. They passed this place and came to a bridge, a contemporary slender and elegant structure in decks, towers, and fanning cables that spanned the inlets of blue, connecting the polluted modern world with the eroded ancient ruins of the old world. It was a fine summer day now, was it not, her mother asked. Indeed, the water is blue, Lena thought. On the other side of the bridge was the abandoned land of Ozymandias, its once enchanting sandstone structures still in place. Here people wandered through the ruins and pocketed ancient gold coins embossed with the King of Kings.

Lena pulled up to the gate and realized she was alone in the car; her mother had become only a memory. Or had she evaporated? She got out and squeezed through an opening in the giant gate. There were people carrying stacks of books in the ancient streets, looters with scraps of fool's gold in their hands. Vendors were selling trinkets of the once-great kingdom; you could buy a t-shirt with Ozymandias's eroded face on it. She thought of the pope they dug out of the Catacombs, his casket within a nether casket made of cypress wood within a marble crypt. And that top shelf embalming fluid? It was no miracle his body was preserved; that's what the Church said, so let's not be too hasty about divine intervention. Suddenly the earth shuddered. Did I imagine that? thought Lena. The great gate creaked and leaned forward, spreading its arms out to the forgotten world. She imagined the tower in front of her falling to her feet, and then it did. The people carrying books dropped them and started running. Chaos and mayhem ensued as each of the ancient sandstone structures started to crumble. Why now? Lena wondered. After thousand of years of being upright, why now? Then she saw an old friend on her cell phone just outside the gate. She was calling her high school sweetheart. Lena knew he would come for her, just as he did every other time she called him in distress. And with that, she drove away, alone, as the land turned to dust behind her.

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