the "jia ren qu" challenge, based loosely from/on "house of flying daggers"
the challenge (should you choose to accept it):
imagine something -- a place, a person, a thing -- that is breathtakingly beautiful. describe it. give enough detail to give me a clear image in my head; appeal to all the senses, make it come alive vividly. and then destroy it.
It couldn't accurately be called a garden; that implied that there existed a force that controlled it, shaped it, created it. It was more of a mistake, an outlet to the world that wasn't quite supposed to be there, an embarrassing secret, a half-forgotten memory. It had once been a courtyard, probably regal and austere -- but time had changed it irrevocably. It wasn't quite beautiful. It was too wild, too rich, too exotic to be beautiful.
It simply was. A fountain sat in the middle, cracked and broken, water lilies floating delicately in the stagnant pool, fluttering in a subtle breeze. A cherry tree bloomed over the fountain, kissing the wind with pink petals; underneath the tree grew wildflowers, small and purple, tall and red, white and green and blue and alive. The colors were random, flung about with no meaning or purpose, brought in on the wind of some past storm. They grew tall, unchecked.
What remained of a path meandered beyond the fountain, old gravel, broken by patches of grass and earth, leading to a door that never opened. On the breeze, a breath of salt, a beach somewhere beyond the walls, a brittle reminder of the outside world, out of this wild streak of nature in its purest form. Beside the path were the remains of a stone bench, overgrown with ivy, the earth re-taking what once belonged to it.
The walls were a shambling gray, the color of death, except where vines threaded toward the sky, the occasional flower -- the lightest blush of pink in a sea of green and gray -- hid in the tangle of life. The walls were uneven, high and broken and ancient, serving more to define the courtyard than create a building outside of it. The outside world seemed to encroach upon the silence, leaking in through the cracks and seeping in through the dirt, barely restrained by the walls. There was an essence of urgency here, a whisper that the walls would not stand for much longer. As though it knew that it was condemned to fall under the fires of industry and ravages of time.
It had stood for so long, once proud and beloved, now forgotten, decrepit, and immeasurably beautiful because of that. When it had been a courtyard, it wasn't particularly pleasant to look at, had no distinguishing characteristics, nothing special. Time and life had conspired to turn a boring, controlled place wild.
Dawn was just touching the sky when it happened; someone had decided to get an early start on his work.
A machine, garish yellow and screaming engines, rolled through the stone, pulverizing the flowers and the ivy and the fountain and the years and years of beauty crafted by the hand of nature. A machine, the dawn light, and the destruction of a long-forgotten courtyard in a long-abandoned house.
It took only an hour.