After it all came down and we knew the fires burned most everywhere, we cowered in our various holes and waited out the worst. But the worst kept on coming, so some of us lifted our heads in the oily air and, timidly at first, stepped back into silent streets that had once screamed our gaudy dominion.
Almost silent. In those dark canyons, between the edifices we once called skyscrapers, high rises, their very names dripping with hubris, flapped the occasional bird that had found new places to nest. Pigeons, hawks, more and more crows. At night, the bats came instead. These buildings, especially the older, more organic stone and masonry types, had become strange cliffs, home to small creatures, looming shabbily above quiet streets dotted with abandoned or burned-out cars: yellow cabs, tourist buses, delivery vans, once-black power rides gone charcoal with dust and debris and the shame of recall.
The hollow silence of the streets, punctuated by the lazy flap and echo of some baffling new bird, both awed and frightened me. That we'd been brought this low. That while we'd thrust and bellowed, our Achilles had been sliced. And behind it all, the greater silence of the East and Hudson rivers, absent their ghost freight, and the even louder silence of the shocked continent, everything from sea to gunmetal sea rocking back and forth like psychosis.
It was about this time I first saw you. Despite the grime that clung to your clothes and hair, the dust and human stink, you were a tarnished apparition, a stained goddess to me.
I held out my hands in supplication; you side-eyed me and moved away.
The next time I saw you, all of history was being reduced to the echo of a long howl, our planet's geometry incised by lines of brilliant sun fire and blackest shadow, you and I alone in a dwindling penumbra where all nuance was leaching away, taking all hope with it.
I was brokenhearted. You were stern. Then angry. And finally exasperated.
"What is it with you?" you screamed at me. "What the fuck do you want?"
I thought about it and we locked eyes—me inconsolable, you incandescent, all else irreparable. For all I knew, my answer, moving no god to pity, yet a human cry to match the avian shrieks and screeches, was the last prayer ever uttered in this condemned place.
"Place me in a bright house on a shining hill under cerulean skies and with views of a luminous bay. Return to me the fresh, inchoate world."