Flesh and Bone

No one knew where she came from, but that she’d always been there. Sat, alone, atop the cliffs looking over the ocean. Never moving, never leaving, always staring out to sea, her eyes still on the horizon.

She saw ice ages come and go, carving great scars in the landscape as they split rock with their slow, beautiful power. The cliff face itself has moved miles without her ever noticing, the eroding winds and millennia passing in the blink of her eye. She saw the waters explode with life, from simple celled sludge to bright fish, plants, and reptiles. Then the land around, the rich green space, was suddenly full of animals, sniffing around her and taking her in. The reptiles became birds that filled the sky, giant creatures stalked the lands, small, speedy mammals bounced around her, and not before long tall bipeds began to walk the globe before her, conquering it’s four corners and claiming it as their own. And still she sat there, patiently waiting.

The bipeds formed tribes. The tribes formed together into nomadic clans. They settled down and built small farmsteads and villages. Those with the bigger farms made more food, more food lead to more power. These powerful villages attracted more and more people and grew into towns, the towns into cities with great walls and defences. The towns would fight against each other, throwing wave of men into battle, leaving dozens  dead. As the years flew past her, the towns grew bigger and so did the battles. The dead went from dozens to hundreds to thousands as wars were fought between towns, then counties, kingdoms and countries.

And still she sat, alone.

She started to garner attention from the people; amazed, horrified, curious by her presence. Queues of people started to form. Some were there to question her, poke her, take scientific reading and measurements, only to scuttle off and try and find some sort of logic from the results. Others came with garlands of flowers and tributes to lay at her feet, to treat her as a Goddess of a higher power, only to be met with silence. The rest came to announce their undying love; men, women, the young, the old, everyone from every background came to declare their boundless adoration and would leave in tears when she didn’t even move her eyes from the ocean to look at them. She’d just sit in silence, alone.

And so she stayed, silent, for almost all of time. And then one day she spoke.

There was no fanfare, no grand announcement. She didn’t even move to look at the one person within earshot, the one who would go off to tell the world of the development. Quietly, with a soft coo of a dove, it was a simple message.

“I’m worried it’s just something my soul needs.”

The man who heard it dropped his farming tools and ran. He ran through the nearest village, shouting the message to the heavens. He kept running, from town to town, carrying the message until he reached the seat of power and government. Presented to the heads of state, those with the most power, he recalled the tale with haste. After the routine scepticism had worn off, for these people had gone beyond the belief of magic and were now rational, the gathered themselves together along with the greatest scientists, doctors, philosophers, and scribes, a parade descended upon her position at the top of the cliff.

For years she repeated the sentence over and over again, as regular as clockwork. It was written down, the message analysed by top theologians, then the politicians, then the clergy. Everyone had their opinion on what it meant and why she was suddenly talking. Some said is was an ecological mantra, others decided it was a message from God, others built their own religion from it. But no one ever asked her.

One day, as is the way of these things, the World knew what she had been talking about. Reports came in that the woman on the cliff had stopped looking out to sea, and the cameras of the World raced to capture her new target. Night had fallen when the first lorries and reporters arrived and at first they saw nothing of any real difference. But as they got closer, sneaking through the crowds that had formed and passing under caution tape erected by the local forces, they trained their cameras on her. She was looking up at the stars, her eyes wide open, unblinking. And with the population of the planet watching she spoke fresh words for the first time in a century:

“I feel hurt and I feel shame. I am more than just these bones.”

And without saying another word, she stood. She’d never moved before, but it was executed with such grace and strength she looked like a ballerina limbering for a recital. She turned back to the baying crowd, smiled faintly, and fell forwards off the cliff edge.

There was no cry, no splash, no horror. Those watching felt a calmness fall over them, the weight of the world released from their shoulders. And everyone looked up as one, hoping to see her fly off into the night, triumphant. But nothing was there, just the darkness, stretching off into infinity.

People started to chatter and disperse, the cameras recorded their pieces and were packed away. The questions were asked, left unanswered and forgotten. But that wasn’t the end of her story. For those that stayed around, staring up to the skies and looking where she looked, something was happening. One by one, slowly and softly, the stars were slowly fading.

It started as a single, faint blur in the nights sky, just over the belt of Orion. But as the years ticked by the blur grew and became darker. And again, the greatest scientists, doctors, philosophers, and scribes all gave their theories and answers to those in charge, but this time their squabbling couldn’t help. They spent years forming committees, making plans and strategies, arguing over funding and fonts, contingency planning and emergency conferences, but they couldn’t stop the darkness.

And how we got here, my child. Sat alone in the darkness, freezing and dying. What did she want? No one still knows. Maybe she simply wanted to be loved, not idolised or worshipped, not fawned over and spoilt, but loved. Maybe she’s punishing us. She saw millions of years of this World as it grew, and it was only when she saw us did she ever cry out for help.

Whatever it was, we didn’t listen. And now we’re alone in the darkness, with you lying next to me. Just flesh and bone. Something my soul needs.

Based on Flesh and Bone by Keaton Henson.


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