In an attempt to escape stagnation and oppression from the religious, myself and three others went on a journey away from a city that recurs in my dreams. We made our way for the longest way with an old white bus, stopping and playing music in the open at other towns as we would go, each conspicuously like the last but more run down, grimy, or putrid. Each town had the same general layout, no matter how far apart we found them, whether in grassland or desert or something even less hospitable. Each time, we would set up on the same corner and, dressed in 1960s-era garb like most everybody was wearing -- only a little more flamboyant -- we four would play a different combination of instruments every time, get some food, rest, temporary companionship, then move on again by ourselves.
After weeks of solid travel, moving on again though the copy-towns filled with different people in similar places... a differently named hardware or clothing store from the last town, for example, but in the same location... we were setting up to play and explosions were sounding constantly. No one payed them any mind since the people of the city had been in violent conflict with faceless police for longer than anyone could remember. When we asked if things could have ever been different, we were advised to leave and most people treated us at heretics.
Further on, our vehicle was lost as we entered a more disturbing city. As we made our way up the walkways we heard our own music playing in this place we had never been, and in the light from campfires set by the city's dwellers and the perfectly working public lighting, we realized that there was no earth. Every building, stone, road -- everything was built upon heaps of human corpses, mostly preserved. People walked around like it was normal for them, because it's all they ever knew. They did not want to hear us play our music, because they already had music that wouldn't go away. There, a group of faceless militant people attacked for the same several hours every day, mortar explosions sending the foundation-corpses tumbling to land anywhere and leaving holes for children to take their places, suffocating with stifled screams while their parents just stared on, since life had always been that way.
During the protracted battle across the city, the others were scattered and displaced and apparently had the misfortune of drawing the militants' attention -- with the help of the townspeople who were all too willing to point out the strangers to the force that was killing them too but had been there forever. I've always had a tendency to become seperated from groups. Having little choice, mind filled with images of the carnage amidst twisted versions of our songs blaring over loudspeakers and dried blood blowing across streets, buildings, happy picknickers, and everyone else who dismissed it as commonplace, I continued on to the next city.
But there wasn't one. Climbing over the field and hills of mile after mile of bodies -- most preserved still and producing remarkably little odor -- many days later I came to the edge of the world.
So far below the edge of a sheer cliff of metal so shoved full and piled with corpses -- foul-smelling and burst ones, some torn apart, some shoved through others -- was a glowing body of orange-red sea or perhaps a furnace. It was too far to see for sure. A similar, unreachable distance away stood an enormous cube, atop which were piled more bodies, and upon which was another world with its own people, its own cities, its own problems, as far as the eye could see. And others beside and beyond it, stretching in every direction as far as I could see from atop the mound, numbering greater than I could hope to estimate, fading into an impossibly distant sea of glowing orange. The stench was unpleasant but manageable. The temperature was too warm, but bearable. There was no wind -- perhaps I'd imagined wind my whole life.
Some movement across the glowing orange field. There was someone on the edge across from me, running in a blind panic to the edge. A girl about half my age, with dark skin and completely white eyes, stumbling over mounds of the dead and sending delicately but accidentally balanced corpses raining by the thousands into the sea/furnace below. A mechanical arm, immense beyond belief and built something like a wiper blade, descended upon that tower-platform and unceremoniously pushed a billion dead bodies -- and the one screaming girl -- over the side. For a brief instant, I felt her eyes meet mine. And in the instant along with the bodies, collapsed buildings, rusted out vehicles, and other debris, a huge industrial chain bearing a hook swung down and tore her right in half. The top half of her clung to the chain, crying and looking at me as if to beg all of creation in her last instant to know why *I* would do this to her, and then her insides fell out in a stream, her grip released, and she was lost amidst the rest of the junk of an entire world.
I still remember some of the songs and music. Perhaps I will try to write them down somehow.
And for a brief moment, in one city, I had seen the person I love and am with now. Safe, and walking away from me without recognition, but as safe as anyone else. There is, I thought as a thousand more cleaning arms descended onto random towers in the distance to sweep away partial or entire civilizations, at least that one comfort.