"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Fallen Land of Ozymandias

The Fallen Land of Ozymandias
(from the flash fiction collection Upon Waking)

She 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 she 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 her daughter 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 might have been the mob. The daughter regarded the tall smoke stacks as they belched fumes into the gray sky and felt ill.

After lunch, she took a ride east. It was sunny and she 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. She 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. She 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. Indeed, the water is blue, she 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.

She parked the car, 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 remembered the pope they dug out of the Catacombs, his well-preserved body on display at the Vatican, the face looking calcified.

The earth shuddered and she thought Did I imagine that? The great gate creaked and leaned forward, spreading its arms out to the forgotten world. 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? she wondered. After thousands of years of being upright, why now? Then she saw a high school friend on her cell phone just outside the gate. She was still thin, with long black hair, a cigarette in her hand, imperturbable as the world rushed by her. She must’ve been talking to her high school sweetheart. She would take him back, despite what he did, despite what she did—a forgiveness poised at the end of the world.

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