The Soul Within

Submitted into Contest #148 in response to: Write about an apartment building being demolished.... view prompt


Speculative Fiction

I have stood on this stone foundation for as long as I can remember. I remember the men and women who brought me to life all those years ago with hammers and nails, cement and brick, paint and gold filigree. They built me over long nights and days, one wall at a time. They painted my walls and ceiling, filled me with religion and children, singing and knowledge. I have been home to many things over the years, gutted and rebuilt to make room for something different. I was a marvel for years, evident in the stares of those who would stop on the street and gaze up at me in awe.

Tears have been spilled on my floor. Laughter has filled my spaces. Anger has nearly brought me down more times than I care to count.

Still, I stood as a reminder, never brought down by either fire or tools. Only brought to my knees.

I have lived a long, wonderful life. If given the chance, I could tell you story after story of the people that lived within me. The nuns and priests who preached about their differing gods. The children left on my stoop as squalling newborns to be raised into beautiful yet despondent adults. The performers who sang out playwrights’ love and despair. The scholars of all ages that came for information and story. The family that lived in their own separate lives, never knowing what I used to be.

I could tell you the stories of the beings that went up around me one by one, filling the street with new ventures and new lives. Some succumbed to fire, some to natural disasters. Some still stand around me, new and shiny and modern, all with similar personalities to each other.

Unfortunately, this is not the time for such stories. This story is the story of my death. My final words silently given to any who might be able to hear. I can only hope that when I am gone, someone will tell the stories I once held.

I had hoped that I would be saved like many of my brethren in the far off world across the sea. Souls so old that I still marvel at their longevity. While my time has come though, I know that one day they will join me as everything must perish eventually.

So here I stand, watching as they gather outside my decrepit doors. Doors that have been shut for decades except for the curious that would sneak in and gawk at my peeling paint and rotting shelves and find trinkets that families left behind. Now they will never be opened again. Different men and women from those who built me stand outside, these ones intending to bring me down one last time.

You must think it silly for me to be ruminating as my end approaches, to not be terrified and fighting to remain. As I have said, I have lived a long life. A new soul will take my place, and hopefully they will be filled with as many stories as I have been.

I am scared, make no mistake. I don’t know what I will become once I am brought down. I once housed story upon story about where human souls traveled to after death, but there were none that spoke to the souls of plants or animals or buildings like myself. Fear will not stop my end from coming. It will simply ruin what few moments I have left. So, I chose not to focus on the fear.

Instead, I have chosen to focus on what I am, what I was, and who will come after.

As they move around my foundation, setting explosives at my four corners and between, I look out across the city that has grown up around me. At the lives that I have been able to touch in one way or another. At the sky, so clear and blue, stretching into the horizon. I only wish that it were sunset where the sky blooms orange and red so that I could see it one last time.

Around the city, so many don’t even realize that I have been here to watch their births, lives and deaths. Those that have loved me and loved within me will not know I am gone for weeks, months or even years. One day, they will walk past where I once stood and realize that I am no longer here. Maybe it is selfish, but the fact that they will mourn me makes my end easier. Simpler.

The workers finish setting their charges and erecting the fence that will protect bystanders. They return to one another's side, looking up at me. I see disinterest and disappointment, that familiar awe and equally familiar disgust. Some even wear expressions of satisfaction, and I can only wonder if it is the satisfaction of a job well done or that of destruction. Not all people find beauty in the old, in history. I don’t hold this against them. It’s hard not to appreciate history when you have lived so much of it, but I understand that when you live so little of it, it’s harder to find the good.

Once more, I turn my attention towards the sky.

The blue trembles as the charges go off all at once. For a moment, there is stillness, and then I begin to crumble.

It does not hurt -nothing ever does- but it is discomforting. I fall slowly, dropping in on myself in what feels like slow motion. The dust that has collected in me year after year plumes overhead. My ceiling cracks into pieces, dropping to the stone of my shattering floors. My walls fall into each other, crushing what has been left to remain within me. Below my many floors, I feel the very bones of those buried in the dirt shudder.

I fall for hours, years, decades until there is nothing unstable left. Only my four primary pillars still stand, as strong as the day they were first erected. When the dust clears, the workers move in again. They bring equipment and trucks, one with a wrecking ball attached to a chain and the rest with beds to haul away my pieces.

When the first pillar falls, the world begins to fade, black encroaching in. With each successive pillar, I fade even further.

It is only when the last pillar falls that I finally greet the darkness.

May 28, 2022 23:40

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