Once Upon a Time in a “Great” City

By: Pedro Venancio

She ran rapidly to the scorching stairs of her neighborhood. As she reached the downhearted street, each minute carried the poignant weight of an eternity. It was summer, and the heat sizzled off the rocks, the narrow street was suffused with a muggy air heavy with emptiness and sorrow. Hopelessness traveled through the city’s polluted air in a vicious cycle like a widespread illness. The cacophonous sound of ambulances, machines, and industries, discreetly infected the atmosphere. Meanwhile, this quiet venom stretched through every building, surreptitiously contaminating each inhabitant. Everyone in the city felt lonely, dead inside, and the melancholy weakened their already damned souls. The depressive heatwave struck the famous city of China, Beijing, in 2072. The atmosphere reeked of spoiled air. For the first time, people roughly tried to breathe, and when they did, they tasted the acidic and bitter taste of pollution. The woman stood by a trashcan whose repugnant stench corrupted her sense of smell as she found herself at a loss for words. She looked solemn and thoughtful; something was deeply provoking her, but she could not express the pain of feebly watching as the world fell apart around her.

The lost woman, after wandering thoughtlessly, came upon a curious finding. At her feet, in a small heap of tattered bones was a dove, which she would have mistaken for a pigeon were it not for the few white feathers sticking out amongst the otherwise grey ruffled plumage. A symbol of hope, uttered a small voice in the back of her mind. Although the dove smelled like a corpse, it’s chest rose and fell with what she presumed were the shallow breaths of a being who toed the line of death. It probably used to be beautiful, full of white feathers, like soft clouds, bright as it crossed the light blue sky, spreading its wings and delivering hope to people who were neither worthy nor appreciative of it. She tried to rescue the hopeless bird; she tried to share her dry saliva to keep the bird hydrated; gave a little bit of her skin and blood to prevent the bird from dying from starvation.

The unbalanced and disoriented woman ran down the narrow street with a bundle of the bird clutched to her chest as if being chased by her own worst nightmare. Desperate to keep the dove safe, she ran until she felt like her bones were melting, and a migraine repeatedly hammered her already crammed head. All she could feel was her leaden guilt, mischievously whispering from thought-to-thought. It was all she could think was, How did I lose the war to recover Earth’s dignity and naturality? The exhaustive guilt on her unhinged mind caused the woman to lose faith in the nanoscopic fraction of humanity that wasn’t yet extinct. Just the idea that the sudden death of the implacably lustrous soil was her fault was indigestible. She began to realize that her sweat evaporated even before it touched her dirty, scarlet cheeks. 

The impotent woman questioned the dull integrity of the city, How could they even do this? How could they suddenly turn clean air into fume? I feel blinded by the thick smoke covering society’s eyes like a blizzard; I smell the hypnotizing oxygen fill my lungs as it shrinks and darkens by the second; I feel the heatwave on my skin as if the sun was getting closer and closer to the atmosphere. As the pollution increases, hurling my hope off a cliff to the bowel of misery, I feel increasingly unavailing. My death-wishing migraine becomes part of my inhumane soul as the venomous oxygen I inhale furtively possesses me. How can I live? How am I supposed to walk through this never-ending narrow street and not let my spirit escape my body forever? I wish I could have overpowered the closed-minded murderers who unregretfully ceased every piece of green left on this alienated land.

In that single minute of continuous running, pure fatigue, and death threatening migraine, she felt like her life passed before her eyes. The once-called beautiful day was now bleeding, permanently staining the Earth’s soil. At that moment, she wanted to be six feet underground; she lost all hope. So, she flashed back to the time when the city was great. Inside her head, she pictured the Green city with nostalgia, I remember when I freely walked through this same wide street, the sun was sparkling and radiant. The shimmering rays and the vivid, colorful trees were in perfect juxtaposition; the increasing shadow throughout the day danced upon each house and every nest, and protected the population from the tropical sun. The contrast between the soft rain and sharp heatwaves forced people to see the natural beauty as if drops of melted gold were falling from the sky, and when it finally touched the rough earth, it was like miraculous enchanting sparks which gave birth to the Green City. The doves quietly flew high above the sky and smoothly charmed its way through the soft clouds, surrounding the city with charm and hope. The same hope that humankind knowingly and forcibly exterminated. It used to be beautiful; people’s gaiety was contagious. If that were to happen right now, it certainly would be a miracle. I tried warning everyone that this abundant endless path for urbanization was leading to an apocalypse, and worse, it was not meant to happen; ignorant humans were unjustly treating the environment as a natural dumping ground.As the woman was at death’s door, crossing her empty heart and yielding for demise, she saw someone else in the same situation. The world was tearing apart like thin paper in water, but she could feel a glimmer of hope. The attenuated bird kept his eyes open for once; it started to move a bit as something told him to wake up. Although the poisonous air formed a fog that blinded the poor woman, she could see the big, soft, dirty, blond hair of which she guessed pertained to a tall man. She tried to hide under her despondency, but her curiosity got the best of her. She cautiously approached the lost stranger and spoke with a weak, tremored voice as if she was asphyxiated due to the unbreathable air, “Sir, are you okay?” The inanimate man did not respond. He just softly laid down on the same flaming and narrow street; closed his eyes, accepted his destiny, and sent a bullet through his skull. The transient hope disappeared in a second. The dove drew its last breath there as the sound of the gun stopped his weakened heart. The woman took a deep breath for the last time, smelled the putrid smell from the burnt trees, and, as the unfaithful, helpless man did, accepted her faith, desisting to fight this inane war. After all, it already was a lost cause. The monster lived for many years, persisted to slowly kill every human, and finally completed his mission: to reign the world. Humankind was eliminated by its own idiocy.

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