an abandoned city - quotes and descriptions to inspire creative writing
In those streets he was the only beating heart, the only being of warm blood and flesh. The walls around him were doubtless home to many in the fairly recent past, yet now it was an unfamiliar maze to all. The light fell on the words that spoke to nobody, unaware that their audience had vanished, or that the streets lay silent beneath no boots at all, save his. It was as if God had stopped time, removed all the distractions so he could see it for real, see how it really was, what it really was. And in that moment all he wished for was another beating heart in this deserted city, another being of warm blood and flesh, one more pair of boots to walk next to his.
The city is as it was before, just devoid of the warmth that made it worthy of that term. It is a collection of buildings, roads laid like a carpet for a queen that will never come. Banners hang with slogans to be read only by the dust-laden wind. The market is all set up like it awaits the stall holders any moment. The only sound is the black bird that cries as if it can bring back the people who left tasty scraps if only it calls loud enough. Against the wall of the old court house is a bicycle, the chain dangling on the sidewalk. Ahead is the clock tower, forever stuck at half past noon. If I stand still enough perhaps time is indeed frozen, perhaps is just my bones that don't realize it.
The buildings stand in defiance of the people who fell. They are no vulnerable flesh but concrete and steel, not as timeless as the mountains that ring the city but able to outlast the civilization that created them by centuries. Given enough time even the smooth grey will give way to a jungle of green and this “ancient” civilization will lay ruined for future generations to discover and perhaps piece together how we lived. I wonder if they'll know how we, with all our labour saving devices could barely glean six hours sleep, and even when the opportunity to rest came our stress levels kept us unwillingly awake. But for now all I can do is walk ant-like between the monoliths, grey at my feet, grey at every side, under a carpet of grey that promises nothing but a storm.
In the old days the leaf blowers were out as soon as the first brilliant leaves of fall tumbled onto the sidewalks and the ploughs pushed away winter snow after each flurry. We worked every day, raising kids, chasing careers, being consumers for the goods made out East. But life was so polar- brutal long hours of work glossed over with fancy goods and the knowledge that at least we weren't the ones in the factories and fields. We bought five dollar coffees and were connected to the web twenty-four/seven. Now the leaves decompose over the concrete and the snow is unabused. Our city is mostly abandoned, the buildings are shells, no longer receiving power and running water. Some of us stay, stick it out farming the gardens left behind. Parents actually raise their kids, teenagers are more like adults than they ever were, adults have less mid-life problems. It's like we had to loose the world to get grounded in what the humans need: family, love, togetherness and God.
In the fog the city is blurred like an old painting; it could be a great work drawn by expert hand. The buildings and the Japanese cherry trees are silhouetted black, two-dimensional. The streets yawn in every direction without only the old newspaper dispensers and street-lamps to break the view between buildings so high that the tops disappear in the swirling white. It doesn't smell right at all, in fact it smells of nothing but the damp trees not yet in bloom. Without the fumes of the traffic its odour is as fresh as any meadow without tincture of grass. Jenna's footsteps echoed like stones off a cave wall. She wanted to melt onto the darkness but what was the point? This place had been abandoned long ago, other than the odd roosting birds, she had the only beating heart in many square miles of concrete.
When these city streets hummed we have everything except our freedom and we liked it that way. We had the toys and the gadgets, the labour saving devices and minimum wage workers to care for our children. We had designer clothes and designer coffee, we had the media to tell us everything we ever needed to know. It was so simple to know how to think and act. Of course it wasn't perfect for everyone, the teenagers were so wild we had them locked up from thirteen through twenty. They never listened to their parents anyway. Never listened to those who loved them enough to pay the bills. For the most part they were surrendered gladly, leaving Mom and Dad to enjoy their hard earned money. The “kids” were taught some manners in the military and worked off their room and board. It was wonderful! Now we are like the peasants of old, huddled on the outskirts to avoid the radiation. Our missions to bring back bounty start at sixty, then we are considered expendable...
Where once was smooth grey concrete, kept clean by the robotic street workers in orange jackets, are now cracks and pioneering weeds. The buildings are long overdue for a pressure wash, how fast the lichen colonized the northern faces. The city planted saplings have exploded in their pots, given more time they will either break their man-made prisons or die, root bound and weak. The wind passes almost unhindered, passing down the streets faster than a freight train and howling just the same. In the plaza there are still the fashionable store signs for coffee shops and delis. How decadent life had become to offset the awfulness our stressful work-lives. To just get through those mind-destroying hours at a desk we had to pamper ourselves with everything high fat and sugar, keeping our tastebuds infantile and our waistlines saggy.
A generation ago these streets were rivers of people night and day. It was the kind of place you held your wallet tight and your kids tighter. The winters were full of viruses spread like morning kisses on the commuter's faces, all them crammed in to those subterranean trains to sneeze on one another. The houses are tall and thin, and for the most part in-tact. The cars left with the people, taking them as far as their gas tanks would allow. I hear the motorways are chocked with them. The pillar boxes are still cherry red and the wrought iron railings are black. The front yards are subdued only by winter, and in this February bitterness they are wrecks of tangled weed and overgrown bushes. Some homes still have their cats, the unlikely inheritors still enjoying the eiderdown. These felines had the immunity they needed to live, like me. I still haven't decided if I'm lucky or not.
The city is perfect. There is no dirt, no cars, no people. From the air it is identical to the architects table, skyscrapers on a grid pattern. There are shopping malls and business parks, an air-strip and city hall. Right after the concrete dried the first people came in a wave of excitement. It was a new city, purpose built, not something that had grown haphazardly from a village to a town to a sprawling metropolis. Life had begun with the citizens joking about how they were like peas rattling in a drum. The rush to buy the new condominiums never came and the smart early buyers soon started to feel duped. One by one they swallowed their losses and left, no buyers meant they might as well have burned their cash. Now the great icon of our land is abandoned except for a few movies that get shot here. All those billions in exchange for some Hollywood pocket money.
Avery hated everything his eyes could devour - corruption, disaster, deception, false hope. These were all that this home city had left to offer, the remains of yesteryear. There was no going back, and as life goes on, Avery decided so will he.
"So start walking, Avery," he said.
With that, he travelled through the rubble and broken asphalt, through endless plies of dismembered buildings that sprouted smalls vines from the forest beyond. He wasn't ready to move on or let go, but every journey starts somewhere.