The Last Temple

“I walked into a temple, to photograph everything I saw there. There was nowhere else for me to go – I had searched almost the whole town and all I could see was the world around me shredded to pieces, kindling for this global fire. But there were still temples, I knew that, because they’ll never be able to get rid of temples, whether you consider them a cancer that will simply not go away, or a human hope that will endure as long as a single living being still breathes. And even if not…

“I photographed everything I saw, an old habit really, a throwback to younger, more naive days. In the main room, there were rows of seats, mostly destroyed and covered with ash. I tried to snap the windows, painted as they were with stories I couldn’t recognise. But the light was not quite right and so I’m not sure they will come out well, if I ever have these photos developed. Maybe I’ll stumble across a dark room at some point, when I venture out into the Overworld again, and then I’ll be able to give light to this temple, in a way that our phones and computers used to do.

“I remember that there was an explosion outside and I hit the deck just in time. But the glass shattered all around me, so I turned on my back to take pictures of this rainbow shower. What’s that? Yes, I suppose I was lucky not to have been injured by any shards – but I guess I’m lucky like that. Lucky enough to come across the only temple left in this town and watch as its beauty is blown away. Lucky, eh?

“I walked a little further, stepping over the debris and watching as flecks of dust fell on my shoulders. There was an alter in front of me – it looked like those in charge had to leave in the middle of something because there was still a liquid inside the vessel. I poured and drank a cup for my dry mouth, but I spat it out immediately for it was like vinegar. Vinegar will stay with us until the very end.

“I could not see a single corpse in the room, even though light was beginning to pour through the empty frames. In most other buildings, as you’ll see from the pictures if we ever get them developed, there are bodies everywhere. Even some still living, but not with any chance of seeing it through. Here, it was empty – maybe the old storied I once heard about temples from the elders are true.

“Beyond the altar, a huge window overlooked south and there were mountains in the distance. I can’t remember if I saw any snow on top of them – I’d like to think I did, but no-one has seen snow for at least 20 years. Above the mountains, the orange sun, clear and round and very hot, watched for any life left to burn. But I hid myself before it saw me. Yes, I outwitted the sun!

“But I’m not a fool, you know. I knew that it was only a matter of time; that the surface was dangerous; that I could be found at any moment; that more explosions might give me away. So I stuffed my camera in my backpack and headed out, through the blown out streets and walls pockmarked with decades of bullets. I ran past the flagpoles with the various coloured tattered rags underneath them, a town given and taken a dozen times. And I remember most of all the bodies of a mother and child, perhaps only dead one week. Can you see them too? Or is this just one of humanity’s oldest clichés?

“I ran faster because I could sense the sun in the sky and like the cowards we have all become I showed it my back, but made sure to kick up some dust. I got into the forest, just as I felt heat hotter than lava on my heels and I fell into darkness.

“You know the rest, because you found me there, clutching my bag. I’m tell you everything that I saw – I’m trying to be as honest as I can. I swear it – there was nobody left in the temple. And be careful with that camera – if you open that flap, you’re going to ruin the… You’re going to expose the film.”

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