Beauty of Dying
Nothing can happen more beautiful than death - Walt Whitman.
The scent of decay, of the passing of the city, hangs in the air. I can smell the sweet scent clearly. The city is dying. Everyone knows it, but why do we stay here? The truth is, most of us don't. Most have moved out to live in newer cities, cities with life. But I haven't. I am one of the few who has remained behind. I think this place is beautiful, in a haunting, perhaps morbid, sort of way. The eternal drizzle, the broken windows, the cracking sidewalks, the lack of color and noise and movement. I can hardly imagine a more beautiful wonderland.
Everyone has left. That is, nearly everyone has left. My "family" and I have remained, as well as those who cannot leave. The old, the poor, the sickly: those too weak to move to what they consider a better place. Only old tramps, old vagabonds loiter about the streets. The city is ours, the city is mine. My home to protect, my home to worship, my home to govern. Rats and alley cats, doves and mice, vagrants and invalids—the unwittingly loyal subjects of our dying wonderland.
See them hunched against the wall of a wet, gray alley, a paper bag in one hand, head lolling to the side, oblivious and uncaring to the ongoings around them. Raindrops fall on matted hair, creating a strange sparkle to clash with the tangled mane. Small furry creatures scurry by them, whether large rats or mangy alley cats is hard to tell. With the state of things, it doesn't matter. We are all living together. The city is dying, and yet it is plainly beautiful.
The buildings are empty. The paint peels off to reveal concrete underneath, darkened by the seemingly endless drizzle. The harbor is barren, the bridges are rotting, the sea is slow and calm as though waiting on its death bed. The pollution has been slowly washed away. The garbage has been eaten by desperate creatures, or decomposed by time and rain, or settled under the ground by mud. The graffiti is being scrubbed away by the showers, tiny drops capable of erasing human markings. The smells of the city—garbage, pollutants, chemicals, car gas, and rotting foods—have been drowned out by the fresh smell of rain.
The streets are clean. The buildings are bare. Tiny seeds struggle to send forth shoots while old humans struggle to live one day more. The rain washes away, decomposes, buries everything it can. Water, the bringer of life, also spells death. Slowly but surely and cleanly it works. And yet the city is strangely dry between the rain drops. The water comes and washes and then leaves and then it comes again. Even moss has decided this is not the place to begin a new life. It is the place to see it end. Rain brings a beautiful death for our enchanting wonderland.
We are the last. As rodents move out in search of food, as white doves migrate to warmer climates, as homeless animals leave for a new hope, as weak humans leave behind only tattered clothing, I remain. None of my comrades can see the beauty in this city. They shiver and huddle closer to the last embers of a fire they built, rocking back and forth, rubbing together their hands, breathing on them in attempts to be warm. To be warm and dry and to remain alive. They glare at the soft drops as they walk hunched through the streets, cold hands inside torn pockets, heads low and necks stiff. They silently curse the decay and the wetness. They only wish to leave, but they never do. This is our home, our domain, our twisted wonderland. They stay because I stay. I stay because I cannot find a place more beautiful.
I walk through the streets with a small smile on my face. A sad, subtle but sincere smile. Sad and subtle, otherwise the mood would be disrupted. My clothing is old and decaying, but it holds. My hair is falling, my skin is paling, my bones are weakening, but my peace is growing. "The beauty of dying." A smile on my face and a tear in my eye. My eyes that will soon lose their purpose. For now I cherish the scenery because I know that soon the world will be only lights and shadows. "... lights and shadows." And then I will have no more reason to smile. My eyes are dying. They have never shone more beautifully.
Watch my companions suffer a similar physical fate. Their skin becomes sallow, their hair mats and thins, their eyes grow black rings around them. Their expressions turn glum yet resigned and their frames lanky. Their bones are small with hardly any meat encasing them and only thin skin stretched tightly around them. They look worn, they look tired, they look frail. They look small and delicate and sad. They are dying. They have never looked more beautiful.
I listen as my worn soles dance upon the wet, cracked pavement. They dance in tune to a secret melody only my wonderland and I can hear. The rain joins our quiet tune as it drops and splashes. "As it drops and splashes... it plays a song, Klara." My hair whips to and fro as I dance, adding another instrument to our silent song. My cloak wisps about me, the buttons chinking delicately. The bare branches of the trees creak lightly in gentle harmony with the passing breeze, sounds so faint you would not hear them unless you knew the sound of our secret song.
Tiny claws scrape against the top of a trash can lid, temporarily disrupting our tune, but then joining it as well. A remnant of what was once a thriving city, the rat rushes by trying to escape the decay of our wonderland. Its mangy fur is slicked-back by the rain in places and in others it stands on end. Every individual bone can be seen against its skin. Its fur is both gray and black, as of some old man whose hair is turning white with age. "I'm going to leave soon, Klara. Don't cry, it's beautiful." The fur is bright from rain, but the eyes are dull from age. Its tail is half-missing, ripped apart by some predator or perhaps from being caught in a trap. It is dying. It is undeniably beautiful.
I continue my dance. The breeze, the trees, the rat, the rain, my hair, my cloak, my shoes, my buttons, and even my bones play in tune to the music I hear. The world is spinning. "Klara, I am spinning!" I see everything at once, until it becomes a blur. I continue my dance, my face pointed toward the cleansing, killing, drizzle. I keep spinning and blurring. The sun peeps out from behind the heavy clouds creating areas of light and dark. I keep spinning as my wonderland keeps blurring. I dance until I can keep no longer. I stop to regain my balance and my breath. But the blurring has not ceased. The city is a blur of light and dark. "It's simply... lights and shadows." I see only lights and shadows.
My breathing is hard, it comes only in gasps. I calm myself and settle on the dark pavement. I feel so weak and tired. "I'm... weak... weak and tired." I only wish to sleep. I cannot stand, I cannot breathe, I cannot see. I cannot even panic anymore. Remembrance. Realization. Resignation. I lie my head on the concrete and stare into the sky. Into the blur of lights and shadows. Cleansing rain drops kiss my face. I shut my eyes and remember the city I watched die, the city that showed me not to weep, the city I called my wonderland, the wonderland that looked more beautiful while dying than when full of life. "And I'll leave behind only tattered clothing." I am dying. And I have never felt more beautiful.
Thanks for reading.
Edit #2: Semicolons are my bane. Thanks to Bloodflower and R.L. McCaid for pointing out punctuation errors. Feel free to mention any others. Immense thanks to everyone who has reviewed so far and, in advance, for those who might review in the future.