Ancient Souls

“It’s cold out here,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around herself.  She was wearing her night clothes and nothing else as she joined her new husband on the balcony.  The wind blew gently compared to most nights.  This high in the air it was normally very fierce, making her wonder why they even bothered putting balconies in at all.

“It’s not cold, Miranda,” her husband replied gently.  “You just aren’t dressed for it.”  He leaned against the twisting, wrought iron railing that overlooked the bustling city below, full of lights and sounds and sirens that never slept.  The insulated glass kept all of the noise out when they were inside.

A coy smile appeared on Miranda’s full lips as she slid a hand around her husband’s back.

“You could keep me warm.”

Some of the distance in her husband’s eyes disappeared as he looked at her with a grin, taking her in his arms and stroking her skin for warmth.  His gaze, however, was courted by the metropolis below him, and he became pensive once more.  The wind stirred the bundled lovers.

Miranda playfully rolled her eyes, then she nuzzled her head into the nook in her husband’s side.

“This isn’t exactly what I had in mind,” she commented, “but it is nice.”  She sighed and her husband kissed her forehead, continuing to look down on the busy streets below.  The sound of car horns reached them from far away, echoing into the artificial business of night.

“Jack,” she said softly, putting her hand on her husband’s chest.  “What’s on your mind?  It’s nice and quiet and warm inside the apartment.”

“I know,” Jack replied.  “I just sort of want to be out here for a little while.  Stay with me?” he asked, raising his eyebrows and unknowingly showing his wife the expression that made her love him.  One of them, at least.

Miranda nodded her head and shivered against the wind.  It was October, after all.

“I was struck by an odd thought,” Jack began, deeply.  “Or maybe it was more of a feeling.  I had to come out and look at it all.”

“The city?” Miranda asked, tilting her soft, enrapturing eyes up at her husband.

“Not exactly,” he said, then he cocked his head to the side, considering.  “Well, sort of.  All of this.  This place, these people, this time… I needed to see it.”

“Mm,” Miranda assented.  She found her husband fascinating, but she was also very tired.  It was late.

“Do you remember the ruins we saw in Greece?” Jack asked suddenly, piquing his wife’s interest.

“I’ll never forget them,” she said, smiling as she closed her eyes.  “It was only a few days ago.  And a bride never forgets her honeymoon.”  She eyed him in her special way, but Jack was starring off into the bright, flashing advertisements and the hundreds of buildings that surrounded them.  He didn’t notice.

“They were magnificent.  Mysterious, beautiful… so far removed from us.  But I started thinking- they weren’t always ruins.  Once, people lived there- maybe a husband and a wife, a young merchant, maybe a politician, in what they must have thought was the greatest civilization that man has ever built.  And now they’re dust.  Irrelevant except for the quaint value that they give to foreign tourists on a holiday.  And that has me thinking: why are we any different?  Why would we be?”

Jack sighed, and some of the distance in his eyes had spread to Miranda, who was listening carefully now.  She stroked him softly.

“I guess what I’m thinking about is that as I lay in bed, next to you, my beautiful wife, in our high-rise apartment building, I was hit by a sense of history, but out of order somehow.”  He turned away from the lights and the cars and the sirens and looked at Miranda with pleading, poetic eyes.  “We are the ancient souls that lived in this art-deco high-rise in the 21st century.  We are the shadows and the ghosts of the past.”

A shiver ran over Miranda’s skin, but she continued to listen faithfully to her husband until he was finished.  She looked concerned, just as he did, and as he stared at her in uncertainty, she took his face in her hands and kissed him.  She had to stand up on her toes to do so.

“You’re just upset,” she said, stroking his hair.  “Come back to bed and hold me close.  It will be better in the morning.”

With a furrowed brow, Jack nodded slowly, and then his expression broke and he grinned at his faithful wife.  His ideas still troubled him, but he pushed them to the back of his mind and let Miranda lead him by the hand back into the warmth of their apartment.  The insulated sliding glass door shut behind them.

~°~

The wars came, as they always do.  Men and women forgot what they once held as sacred and they served the cravings of their own bellies.  Pulling further and further from sound footings of reason and faith, they shut their eyes and imagined their own way that the world was, instead of acknowledging reality.  Debt supported excess and excess supported labor, until the labor ceased, the excess turned to lack, and the debt was exposed for the vapor that it was.  Professing to be wise, they became fools; calling themselves rich, they wallowed in squalor, and at the end of it all, the only thing that had changed when justice was finally sought, was that the weapons of war had improved, and men were vastly better at killing one another.  Smoke rose from the earth in consequence.

On the heels of this destruction, and with the passing of many years in which man’s plight revealed to them their inherent poverty, peace came, and true wisdom was sought once again.  There was building and stability once more, for a time, and in the midst of this peace, a thousand years past, a wiry-haired researcher gingerly chiseled at a wall of rock.  A soft clank let him know that he had struck metal, and his hopes and his hypotheses were confirmed.

Excitedly, the wiry-haired researcher and his team set to work with their delicate tools, testing the integrity of the inner structure and analyzing even further than they already had, for weeks.  Finally, standing on a scaffold, the researcher and his team exposed a worn and rusted, wrought iron railing that protruded from the dusty rock which had once encased it.  Taking a breath and a step backwards, the researcher and his team marveled.

“This must be it,” he stuttered.  “My research is correct, and the scans confirm it, and now this…”  He put his arms around the bright, young assistants at his sides.  “We’ve found the lost city.”

Grins were held on every face present, and the wiry-haired researcher turned around and shouted across the void to his support team.

“We’ve found it!”

There were shouts and applause, and someone passed around plastic cups filled with champagne.  Then, after the acclamation had died down some, a woman called out from the support vehicle.

“What is it?” she shouted.

The researcher beamed as all quieted to listen.  Most knew the answer already, but he had a flair for the dramatic, and they liked to listen.

“It is a dwelling place,” he projected to everyone present, as the wind whistled through the dig.  “And dating will confirm that it belonged to a city that was once called ‘New York.’”  The researcher got a whimsical look in his eye and he grasped the scaffolding, leaning forward and speaking earnestly, poetically.  “This piece of metal we’ve found, this iron- it might have belonged to a home where a young married couple once lived.  They would return here after a long journey, they would wake here every morning, and they would lean against this iron rail and look down upon their streets and roads as they bustled with traffic.  And they would be in love, holding each other as they stared off into the wind, slowly erased from our memory by the sands of time.

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