Azteca

Nothing. No dark. No children playing. No old men throwing curses at the ages.
Nothing.
A mallet, soft brown wood sheathed in his brilliant skin. Thud! Thud! The rhythm of life revives itself from an eon-old sleep and begins the undending work of its eternal duty once again. The dust resting peacefully on the taut skin of the drum being so disturbed, so unceremoniously agitated, perks its ears to the dawn of the first day. The partcles whirr like the innards of some accursed clockwork horror, some horrible white-ghost concoction, as they fly through the cold. In barely visible first rays, behind brilliant columns of orange, red, and yellow that scorch the morose face of chaos, stretching and pulling, writhing and twisting, palpitating, churning; they form together.
Man: his stories, his words, fears, whispers, births, wars, gods, and heroes. His life, pain joys, pleasures, solitude, sounds, and dreams. His prisons, rocks, constructions, ideas, philosophies, questions, intimates, families, and altars.
The dust devil dances. Its arms and legs move with phantasmic fluidity. Its hips gyrate left to right behind the light of those blinding columns. Those solumns, whose shine of one thousand intensely concentrated stars multiplied by one tousand perfectly cut diamonds can be heard and tasted, as well as being felt and seen. Thud! Thud! The mallet crashes faster, faster, faster. Its titanic shaft brandished by some unknown (but equally titanic) hand. As the beat reaches a slimactic frenzy, clouds snap and pop; bright blue bolts stretch to the earth and strike the chest of the dust devil. His ribs crack open and in a torrent of ethereal innards they spill out, enveloped in the stuff that the universe is made from: He and She.
Instantly their eyes lock. A strong, bronzed hand clutches a soft ebony shoulder. Her lips gently part. His brow furrows. They begin their dance: two alone in time and space. The constellations, newly born, spin around their freshly cut bodies, shedding an iridescent hue of blue-green that defines their heavily muscled bodies against the curtain of stars. The do no tyet know the shame of nudity. With each passionate thrust, a new spirit flies. Her sweet moaning born before words and language toll the arduous beauty of their race. Each painfully sweet clash between their bodies creates a new god, child-city, or old woman singing as she prepares the evening meal. Their frenzy continues, wheeling through months and years until finally, their bent, tired bodies collapse into each other in a peaceful haze of untouchable sleep. They become, once again, part of the earch they helped create.
Elsewhere in the world, a man stands proud and tall in gleaming metallic clothing. His iron blade rests silently at his hip. Each nick in the sword, a testimony to a life it stole. Behind his blue eyes and underneath unkempt mat of blonde, images of a land rich in gold, fertile women, and potential slaves float haphazardly through the battle-scarred ichor that surrounds his brain. Hammers fly and boards creak. Soon virgin timber becomes gallant sea vessels that would make any white man's port city tremble in fear at their approach.
Tenochtitlan rises out of the lake. the sun appears each morning and kisses the forehead of each of its children with the silent promise that someday their father will return and again don the sacred snakefeather headdress the old ones fashioned for him out of the skin of the powerful reptile. The people dance in their gardens, gossip in their forums, and trade luscious fruits, all the while smiling at the sun, knowing without question that he will come back. Each night, the sun slowly slimbs down behind the trees and mountains; tens of thousands of perfectly synchronized tears plummet from the eyes of the citizens of Tenochtitlan. As the last night vanishes into the shadow, the tears, splash to the ground and moisten the earth that will yield their life-sustaining maize.
The galleon rolls through the spray. their father watches helpless. He knows what the proud, brilliantly clad conqueror will do, and he weeps because he cannot tell his children that their gardens, forums, and marketplaces have other owners.
The temple. It shines. It glows. It bleeds. Their iron shatters the carefully hewn portal. Their faces, serene and placid from worship turn barbarous and fierce. they pick up their obsidian clubs and lay down their flower wreathes. Two years of war in the emple. Two years of stolen wombs, severed hands and dying children. Everyone! To arms! The enemy is strong but we are stronger!
The men and women lament. they cry into an infinite night because all their arrows are broken. All their spears have splintered. Tecum Uman's wings have been burned from his body. Children will never know their fathers and houses will crumble from neglect. The Shield of the Sun has disintegrated beneath the greed and ferocity of the white man. We opened the doors to his city. We laid the garlands of the white, red, and yellow flower at his feet. We gave him our gold. We gave him our song. We gave him our women. He was supposed to save us, but we were destroyed by faith.
It was said that the poets would keep our memory after our books were burned. It was said that one prayer would be enough to invoke our dead gods after they fell from their seats in the heavens. But now our tears stain the ground and fade all too quickly. Now our gardens dry up and our marketplaces are empty. Our songs are dull and lifeless because the melodies have been lost...

And I will leave. But the birds will stay: singing. And my garden will stay, with its green tree, with its water well.
Many afternoons, the sky will be blue and placid, and bells in the belfry will chime, as they are chiming this very afternoon.
The people who have loved me will pass away, and the city will burst anew every year.
But my spirit will always wander in the same recondite corner of my flowery garden.

To this simple traveler, one strange truth glares its painful essence from a cavernous shadow of uncertainty and lies: Nothing is a strange paradox. It may appear as a void. Then it will grow and seem like an inexhaustible titan. But after all its stories are told, it remains simply:
Nothing. Dark. No air. No children playing. No old men throwing curses at the ages. Nothing.

Justin Pickering