Âme Damnée by Kaitlyn Bancroft

There’s a wander to your steps, the way you waft through my streets, whisper in forgotten wind. You drift and drag, pale and pall, gossamer gaze growing wide; I’m afraid I expected as much. I have that effect.

The sidewalk shifts beneath you, struggling to pull together. Buildings creak, rust rasping and reaching to watch you; drafty gusts, ghosts of eras past, rise and rush through my skeleton. “Someone’s here! Someone’s here!” I can’t deny my own intrigue. Who are you, stranger? The ease of your limbs and the gloss of your skin, naivety’s glow on your face—you’re young to meet me alone. I knew many like you once; the impulse of this age, the curiosity, is difficult to contain. Is that what brings you to me? Have you come to see the angel without wings, the innocent shamed without cause? The city your grandparents built and tore down, loved and betrayed thoughtlessly? Do you seek to touch treachery’s scars? Look no further, child. I am sorrow’s song.

You tread warily, shakily, scared I’ll erupt; your caution echoes through concrete and steel, rings in what’s left of my pipes. But you need not fear, small one. I simply wish to show you shattered peace. There’s the market, where I soothed their growling stomachs, clothed their naked, freezing flesh. The hospital, where I mended their hurts and righted their wrongs. The school, where I taught them perfection, how to craft it, how to be it. What did they tell you? That I controlled them, oppressed them? Was greedy and corrupt, stifled their freedom and rights? Look around—l know you see truth. I existed for them, gave myself and then some. Their aches were my anguish, their dread my distress, their laughter my joy and life. My sole purpose was their happiness; I couldn’t have adored them more. And they treasured me, their beautiful, sparkling oasis. Their utopia.

Now there’s wonder in your walk, questions in your stride. What happened to me? How did it go so wrong? Whose fault was this, did I—abruptly you stop. Blood drains from your face, through your feet to the ground; it wets the stains of wasted wars, the rubble of battles and bombs. Your horror is tangible, and why shouldn’t it be? City Hall, the burnt out carcass of my heart, is a grisly sight. This is where it began. Revolution’s a bloody word, ravaging and raw; they didn’t respect its power, and then it was too late. Their courage was cowardice, their sacrifice selfish, their noble cause founded in lies. This glorious rebellion was a slaughter, and I the greatest casualty. I bled and burned for them, crumpled and cried, ultimately broke because I wasn’t enough. I couldn’t save them from themselves—and it was foolish to believe I could.

I am old now, and time has done its work diligently, wearing me to dust. Soon I will be no more; I rot in remembrance, the mold of years gone by. There is nothing left for me, for anyone. And I will not be the last. More cities will die, more paradise come to ruin, more flawlessness be destroyed to further a brighter future that doesn’t come. That’s the problem with humans—never satisfied, always asking, starting revolts for gluttonous gain. First I was their haven, their precious dream come true. How quickly I was chaos, their ghastly, waking nightmare. But I never changed, small one. They did.

Eventually, child, you will tire of my gloom and gore, my haunted solitude; even now you regret the urge that paved your path, your indulgent need to know. And you will leave me. You will return to family and friends, the comforts of home, your shimmering City that murmurs your name. Its streets will caress you, its trees kiss your feet, its wind warble “Where have you been? I was worried.” Nowhere, you’ll say. I was out. Thinking. Your City will smile and rumple your hair, lovingly nestle your face. “Alright, as long as you’re safe. But if something’s on your mind, don’t you want to talk about it? You know you can tell me anything.” Yes, you’ll say. But I’m fine. Nothing’s going on. Then you’ll keep walking, swallow your lie, bury it deep and dark in your stomach because your City is gone, unable to comprehend warning. Oh, you’ll think, can’t you see? Already the fury of discontent burns through the people, blazing and bold, the fire about to unfurl.