The boy sits; he writes but cannot read, tracing the shapes of letters into the wet earth as shadows envelope us. The towering plate-glass of the ancients still stands around us, already we call our fathers the ancients, echoing the rumours of their godhood, enhancing their legends. He asks me about them and the errors of their ways, asks about the world I was born into, about his parents. I never knew them or their world. I don’t know the first thing about erecting shining monuments into the face of the sun – although some quixotic sense of vindication swells in my chest as the last traces of sunlight reflect from the crippled, resurfaced subway carriage that makes our home.
He writes but cannot read, copying down the mute pronouncements from toppled billboards and awnings torn from their moorings, falling softly into the dust that deepens every night. Enjoy Coca-Cola! Anytime is XXXX time! The Revolution Will not be Televised. He asks, “What does that say?” When I answer he asks another question, “What does that mean?” Our nightly ritual, as though he were some future-archaeologist surveying the crumbled decay, searching through modern pits for some Rosetta Stone to unlock their mysteries. Inventing new jingles that echo through the shattered canyons leading from the city’s heart.
The sun sets in a blaze of grapefruit glory and night falls – the night is the story killer. Silence rides in on the coat-tails of dusk and we lie there in the darkness – I lie to him, whispering that everything would be alright. He never replies, just listening for the horrors that stalk the night.
We lie there in the darkness, beside his illiterate etchings, waiting for death or for the morning’s light.
Whichever comes first.
This story was written for this week’s InMon prompts Story Killer, Just Listening, Writes but can’t Read, and Falling Softly. It also features (as usual) the new Trifecta prompt Decay, suggested as it was by my lovely wife, Heidi. I managed to work in this week’s 3WordWednesday prompts as well, which were Error, Jingle and Vindicate. And made it just in time for Trifecta, so this morning is turning out all right…