Monday, June 4, 2012

left behind

she spent her days sifting through the rubble.  the aftermath was always what had interested her most, much more than the present.  she looked up, the world momentarily blurry through her special lenses.  she pushed them up to the top of her head, her eyes blinking as though they’d never been exposed to normal light before.

she wiped away whatever minor irritation had settled there in her eyes, and then quickly pushed the lenses back into place.  she loved wandering around these graveyards, where she spent her days slowly lighting -carefully -from place to place, her hands glancing first this touchstone and then the next.

there were so many.  sometimes, when she’d stop to stretch, her hands in the small of her arched back, she’d gaze out over the landscape, amazed by the amount of wreckage.  even if she lived a 1,000 lifespans, surely she’d never be able to see it all -there was simply too much.

and every time she stumbled across a particularly rich touchstone, she’d feel a small shiver.  there was a life in that stone -mute and trapped -just waiting for her to release it.  if only she had enough time, although she would be the first to admit that not every story was worth telling.  in fact, of the vast majority of it, very little of it was.

colleagues teased her, but she didn’t mind it.  the first time she’d overheard someone call her the “Quotidian Hunter,” she’d automatically capitalized it in her head, and mentally gave herself a superhero outfit.  when she had the chance to retort, which was often enough, she liked to remind everyone that life was in the details.

her colleagues would nod and chuckle, with no real meanness in their hearts toward her, and then go about their business.  they did have a point, she’d sometimes reluctantly admit -but only to herself.  there was a great archive in that ancient wreckage, but even if she was able to organize it all and create a new archive free of the chaos, it would still be an archive -a place where things go to be forgot.

and these touchstones in the wreckage -the lives inside were long dead.  they weren’t being remembered by her -they were only being known of for a moment.  their inner lights would pulse with what she liked to imagine was the thrill of being touched, though she knew they’d only been designed that way -designed to respond to a certain digital signal when it was within a certain specified proximity.  

at staff meetings, the director often spoke of hazing the digital touchstones with a blast that would raise them all at once -and thus erase them -because they were rapidly running out of hard drive room and the power to run them.  those touchstones were in the past; it was the present that needed tending.  she had vociferously protested, but she knew her time was running out.

she stopped with a small start, and wondered:  Will anyone remember me?

at the next staff meeting, she was uncharacteristically quiet, so much so, even the director made comment.  after the meeting, they had a quick conversation together in the hallway.  the director, (a woman, in case you were assuming the director to be a man), had made some serious forward progress with one of her, (the Quotidian Hunter’s), more outlandish proposals to save the touchstones:

they were going to send the touchstones up into the sky
to orbit the planet for posterity

the director awkwardly touched her forearm and gave her an oddly warm smile that didn’t really sit all that well on her face, and then moved on to her next meeting of the day.

she stood still in the hallway, lingering over the news that the touchstones would be saved.  the notion that the digital touchstones could populate the night sky like twinkling stars had been so appealing to her at one time...

...but now, faced with the reality, she suddenly realized that she’d never in her lifetime seen an actual star.  most days, it was not safe to be outside, much less at night, and the persistent smog of pollution, light and otherwise, guaranteed that even the sun was barely visible on most days.

when her colleagues found her, she was still in the hallway, but sitting up against the wall, with her arms wrapped around her knees.  she was crying.

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