Friday, 6 February 2015

Watching a Cold Continent

This was a winning submission for a writing competition at my old school. The theme was simply the year 1912. 

“Come look at this.”
The voice came from somewhere south to where I was, viewing a people of the East establish a “Republic.” They seemed happy enough. I used the thermals and upheaving winds filling my wings; the muscles in my back contracted and relaxed fluently, like a wave. The voice was Uriel, crouched among the cloud, his wings folded and his knees bunched. He gestured me closer, caressing the thick cloud aside, heavy with ice.
            Down beneath in the green world, four men stood solemn at a flag in a mound of snow. I’d never seen men on this part yet. I itched to leave, I could see out the corner of my eye some sort of horseless-chariot race commencing on a farther continent, smoke like the velvet of night bulging and pulsing out, with cities rising and men falling; sinning. I liked cities.

            The man had made promises and broken them; he promised to leave the lick of the sea aside and become a doctor, but his mother was long dead, and the promise with it.
            Inspired by men breaking themselves to see what man has never seen, the greed to be first, out of an entire species, to claim for a nation what is rightfully theirs.
            A boat froze in Canadian ice, but his country’s King rose from Swedish grasp. Cold numb fingers wrote a letter of praise, the paper invisible when held near snow; the man felt blind. Puffy eyed people thick in fur taught him how to survive amongst the ice; how to live where life was unliveable.
            He stared at the flag erect atop the tent; the South Pole. He looked at the sky. The bed of cold had been pierced by the heart of man. He smiled.

            “Just look. Look at them! They think they’ve discovered it! You tell me when that was not there!” I could not; often on my travels the great ice sheet would unroll beneath me, and my eyes would be entranced by the individual glistening of ice, yet the whole tumbling tundra; the pure.
The flag fluttered. The men seemed happy enough. Why did it matter? There were dogs too. I supposed I liked dogs. Too obedient, though. The men seemed as cold and motor-like as the eternal winter around them; they were organised and purposeful.  Why should I be interested in this spread of ice and cold, no matter how beautiful, with its bare handful of men, some dogs, and topless amounts of god forsaken penguins?
            “Don’t you understand? To them, it was like it was never there. Now it is. Where isn’t there man, Metatron?” I turned to glance over the world doubtfully; there was place for all creatures. I left Uriel with a smirk, and returned slightly shocked.
            There were men that seemed happy, but oh so much pain. Russia reeled in a whirlpool of political agony; cigars blazed in industrial jaws; on just a small island, a speck, a small war was waged for the freedom of black people on Cuba and was snuffed, people dragged out of homes, beaten, and shot. A great vessel doubts natures cold grasp and is pulled to a drowning hell. The horror of the cavernous canyon between being happy and seeming happy becomes a true death drop; where was the unity of Sandalphon’s arms, the reality of Samael’s sword, the severity within Camael’s sharp punishing? Michael would weep at the onslaught on nature, and Israfil will wait, cleaning and tuning his glorious instrument, waiting to sound it when judgement is to come to hand.
            “We’re nought as angels, now, Metatron. Put your pen down.” I closed the book; the last event recorded four men looking at a flag, the year inked atop each page for this volume; 1912. I wondered who would read it now.
Uriel and I watched the cold continent be discovered, by a species that would ravish and forget. Breed and destroy. Some time passed before a bedraggled group arrived, and fell to their knees before the flag. They were exhausted, cold, and too human for this place; they surely would not survive. They had been humiliatingly beaten.
Uriel and I laughed.

Inspired by the discovery of Antarctica by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen, on the 14th December 1911, during his South Pole expedition 1910-1912, just 33-34 days before the Briton Robert F. Scott’s group arrived.

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