Friday, August 12, 2011

Muse Calliope Week 64: The River

Mod note: Sadly, SwedenSara has decided to leave us. Happily, in her place, we have Muse Calliope, ready to jump in. Here's her first PicPrompt!

Muse Calliope

Picture 1

Picture 2

Muse Calliope's Choice: Picture 1

The River

The water was old, its bed was not. Once it had been but a creek, a trickle lazily curling its way through an open field ringed by forest. Tall grass grew along its banks, shading it from the heat of the sun, keeping it cool and moist in spite of the sun's best efforts to the contrary. Animals of all sorts came and went. More often than not their tongues lapped against its gently running current, taking it into themselves and making it more, making it better. Raccoons, such quaint, polite little creatures, would perch on its shores and wash their food. Birds — most of them small, like finches and sparrows — would sit in its shallow depths and bathe, their feathers ruffling and spiking around them to briefly give them the appearance of hedgehogs. Frogs would hop and leap among the stones littered around and through its waters, and dragonflies and butterflies would dance along its surface, swirling and twirling like blossoms caught in a wind. It wasn't a perfect existence, but it was one that teemed with life, that offered much to watch, much to experience.

And then the humans came.

They came with their stone and steel, with their axes and hammers. They bit into the earth and built their cities. They clawed into the creek's banks and made it larger, made it deeper, made it more. They brought in stone, great giant cubes to line its shores and prop up their city. They stretched its girth to fit their plump little boats and they dug and dug until they'd twisted its length and latched it to the sea so very, very far away. The connection brought with it a rush of new water and the former creek swelled with a sweeping current that washed away so much of what was, what had been, but the water remained, the water remembered.

The years passed, becoming first decades, then centuries. The humans thrived. Their little town of stone and dirt grew to one of better stone and better dirt. The river's banks teemed with life, but it was man's life now. They built, they destroyed, they built again. New inventions came, and old relics were tossed away. Sometimes, the river claimed a life, washing it away with current and waves, but that was rare. The animals were gone now, except for some fish and some sea gulls; even the butterflies and dragonflies kept away. Mostly, it was only the humans and their pets that lined its banks, only the human vessels and occasional fish that swam it waters.

One day, the city burned on one side of its shores, the flames licking at the stone and dirt and ravaging what the humans had built in a single night. The river gave its waters to douse the fire, but too late. Many humans died, but many more had lived and so they built again. Their new city, or half city, rather, since the other shore had survived unscathed, was one of white buildings and black roofs. The humans had tried to keep an element of the old, but mostly they built new and it showed. They built hotels, they built shops, they built it all so other humans would come and see and stay, spending their time and their money for awhile before departing back from whence they came. They paved their streets with prettier stones and lit their buildings with so many lights, cut their white stone with so many windows that the brightness was like the dawn upon the waters. Humans teemed the shores, visiting, living, thriving. And in between, slicing through their city like a velvet ribbon, was the river, always watching, always waiting, always there.

It missed the days of the quiet field and forest; it missed the animals and their play. Birdsong had long ago been replaced by a shifting maelstrom of human music; so many styles, so many instruments, so many voices, all of it clamoring together and pouring forth into the night air. Laughter and shouting, weeping and cursing, the sounds echoed off their stone and sent vibrations through the water — heard but not understood, carried away but never forgotten.

One day, the humans would fall. One day, they'd leave and never come back. One day, the grass and the trees would reclaim the shores. But then, maybe not. Maybe one day something else would happen. Something as different from the human as the humans were to the field. Whatever the future brought, however, the river would be there, watching, waiting, witnessing. Perhaps it would become a sea, as it had become a river. Perhaps it would return to being a creek. It would not matter. It would still be there; all water was one, sooner or later. It would not matter.

The water was old, its bed was not.