Back in the day I, like many teenagers, was writing a fantasy novel. Here’s a chapter of said juvenelia:
Sick of sorrow, Reilly went into another picture: a vista of what might have been the central street of Flint. He saw the Genesee Towers Bank, the calcified limestone of the Mott Foundation Building and Waterstreet Pavilion with its ridged roof too blue to be the aged bronzed it imitated.
Only the hush of the river and a few flitting birds broke the pall of quiet. The air was warm and breezeless, not unpleasant. The ground, though still encrusted with chunks of asphalt and concrete, was broken and buckled by new mild grass and spindly, pale shrubs. If I walk just up Saginaw Street then I’ll come to Northbank Center and my dad’s office and maybe I’ll find something with his name on it.
But Saginaw Street was reverting to crumbling cobbles and asphalt stubbled with grass gone to seed. The bridge had melted into the river like a slab of ice cream. The Flint River flowed brown and unknowing, around the mildewed bridge pillars, filling Saginaw Bay as it had since the glaciers dug Lake Huron. As it would until the glaciers returned.
Lining Saginaw Street were crumples of cars, slowly becoming mounds of lacy rust packed with mulching leaves. Breaking through the accumulation of weather and seasons flashed incongruous reminders of the cars’ past identity: shreds of white-walled rubber among the strawberry creepers, blunt iceberg-colored squares of safety glass littering the richer blue of forget-me-nots.
When he looked up, Reilly would always see the same level sun, as if it had been suspended at five o’clock on an August evening, glinting off exposed girders in the upper spikes of the Mott Foundation Building. On the twelfth floor of Genesee Towers, the University Club had lost its flat facing of windows and was a dark hole instead of a reflective surface.
He tried to catch a glimpse of the light globes attached to the ceiling. If there was a party at night you could see them glowing a dim, weary sophistication of yellow that he had always classified in his mind-files as the apogee of worldly glamour. Their light was the color of tired ivory.
He associated the twilit, aged lights with cigars and snifters and furtive too fervent sippers of Glenlivet and Balmoral, whose beredded faces belied their eloquent, apparent sobriety. Also the muted glinting of gowns sequined and beglittered to maximize the paltry mist of light. But he couldn’t see the lights. He couldn’t even see the wires hanging from what had once been globes, twelve stories above him.
It was always the same as he walked down the uneven plain that had been the parking lot, through the wrack of Buicks and Chevys and Cadillacs and Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles and Lincolns and GMC trucks –and Dodges and Fords and probably a few beige Honda Accords or russet Mercedes Benz, deep within enemy territory: LeSabres, Rivieras, ParkAvenues, Regals, Cavaliers, Corsicas, Impalas, Bonnevilles, Sevilles, Eldorados, S-10s, F-150s, Rams, Intrepids, Stealths, Escorts, Mustangs, Explorers: a civilization’s worth of evocative names, carefully chosen and reminiscent of ships or war or wealth or chivalry. Silver bits and tatters of their names still littered the parking lot, winking in the weary sun. A fractured Cen crackled beneath his toe.
Even the memory of war had been greened and rounded by the seasons’ unfailing insentience. The skeletons of the buildings held themselves above forest that was not second-growth but now third-growth and would grow undisturbed until Flint and Michigan were once more cathedralled by white pine. The bears would find their halting fumbling way through the regreening north and the wolves maybe from Isle Royale or Canada, maybe now gathering in their reflective-eyed packs by Poe Lock, while the dormant caliginous refineries sat darkening the runoff rain.
Maybe a thousand-foot ore ship rusted listing in the locks, and the wolves’ feet tracked coal dust and copper crumbs across its eroding deck. Above their sempiternal lonely voices the constellations wheeled in patterns altering only at their imperceptible pace, until after wordless ages had passed, even the stars would be alien to the moments when Flint and Michigan and America and Earth had been named.
Vast and implacable silence suffused the ruined city, more absolute and impersonal than any man-made destruction. The impartial ruin of time weighed upon Reilly. It was over. He and Lowan had died, and the moss covered up the names cut into their gravestones. Even Alkarrik had grown ugly and frail and white-haired, and now was dust. Even Chamkin with her fiery hair. Sorrow like he had never known welled up in him.
It’s over and it didn’t matter, what we did, what we wanted. It’s all over. No one is around to remember that Lowan was my friend when there used to be Flint, when we used to go downtown to my dad’s office and hang out in Riverbank Park. When there used to be a park and the bridge and the dam up by U of M Flint. When there used to be cars. Brought to completion. Finished. Here it is.
No more bright cars roaring and clattering past Citizens’ Bank and Waterstreet Pavilion. It had all gone under the wave as irrevocably as Atlantis, and Reilly was alone upon the glittering, silent waters. Never again, never again.
Sorrow so fierce and irredeemable that he couldn’t even cry.