by Sorji Claus
a people remember the destruction of their village; published in "The River Bluff Review"
This is where the sun set the day they brought destruction. I remember it quite clearly because it all fell just last night. I suppose the sun went down everywhere, but here it meant much more. It meant the tribes were coming to destroy everything my people had loved. We built it with our own hands after our people suffered long and hard for freedoms we were owed. Our backs ached, our fingers bled, and the stone resisted the change but it gave in and gave us a place of our own. They did not know any of that when they came and brought it all crashing down. They knew we were the enemy; that our people looked and acted differently from their own. They saw our foreign rules and customs as strange and dangerous because they could not understand how or why it came to be. Though asking may have sufficed, fear and adrenaline took the reins and brought them hurdling toward our walls.
They started with our temple, where we worshipped every day. The pillars had taken weeks to carve. They had to be straight and perfect. They fell like reeds in the wind of the storm against their swinging hammers. The alters and art inside was just as fragile, just as precious, but that too lay crumbled in their wake. The faces of our gods meant nothing to them. Why should they? They were just strangers in the stars. Why ours and theirs could not coexist is beyond all comprehension. They were right, we were wrong. We were right, they were wrong. Why can we not agree that we were all just hoping that we were doing things right and trying to do our best every day?
They moved on to our library, where our histories were kept. Not all of them were true, but the stories all served their purpose. They carried our people's customs, recipes, morals, and grief. They explained why things are the way they are in nature, our best guesses anyway. We were not a people of science but of belief, and the world was an awfully big, confusing place. It served us well, I do believe, because we always had everything we needed. What vexed me was that those raiders knew not what they destroyed. They could not read our script, so what did they think they were saving us from? What awful knowledge could one impart onto paper with a pen? What could drive a man to save his brothers from the evil of words written on a page, words he cannot even understand?
They burned our homes and salted our fields. They herded our livestock and took them as their own. We looked on from afar as they wrought their destruction with ire and determination. Many made it out alive, though some were not so lucky. One might say they were in the wrong place at the wrong time when they came in the night, but being home with family while the sun prepares for dawn seemed like the perfect time and place to be. Safe and sound among loved ones. How better to endure the frightening darkness?
We watched them leave on their valiant steeds. Their mission had been accomplished. They crushed us under the foot of adversity without warning, without sorrow. We gazed upon our shattered lives and wept together as one. Everything we had built was ruined. How would we ever start again? Then a voice rang out from a child's lips.
"We'll make it better than before."
This is where the sun rose today in our new village. It is a new day here and everywhere and full of endless possibilities. The old stone has fallen hard, not to time like the buildings of old but to hate. The stone does not care, though. It rests just the same. This place looks bleak and hopeless now, but with all of our hands and hearts in it, we will make it home again.
Word Count: 666