The Traveler

A stranger in a world ravaged long ago

by Maria DeSimone / Garnet & Black

The traveler stood in the rubble, looking onward with unseeing eyes. All around him lay the ruins of an alien world. He saw mysterious structures from a forgotten era, infected with life as the vegetation strangled the surroundings. Towers that touched the heavens, now lying along the ground as nature reclaimed what it had lost. He walked along, noticing the statues of the now extinct builders, and he wondered where everything had gone wrong. It seemed to him that they had built monuments that they believed would last forever, testaments to their greatness and skill. But now that they were gone, they only served as testaments of their failure, a monument to disaster. What a strange people, unknowing of their fragile mortality yet boasting of life and power. The traveler found it rather odd.

The traveler stared at the strange device. He found it in one of the structures, a strange machine loaded with an even stranger message. He watched it over and over, trying to understand what it meant. Their lives seemed so much different than what he imagined. Their buildings looked different, livelier, expressions of art and color that had washed away long ago. The creatures, they spoke some language he could not even begin to decipher. And they walked and talked with the strangest mannerisms, their movements so fluid but stiff, so graceful but clumsy, so purposeful yet so random. And yet, despite all of that, he found himself gravitating towards the tape. The noises they made, those of distress and anger, of love and happiness, was something that spoke to him more clearly than anything else. They lived with such intensity, such passion, that he found himself captivated by their lives. Eventually he pulled himself away, leaving the message alone. He needed time to rest.

The traveler stared at the beast before him. It was many times larger than he was, its rustling fur shimmering in the night. It stood on its hind legs, staring at the traveler with eyes that sparkled with curiosity. The traveler stared back, noticing the long, thin claws and the harsh teeth. But the creature didn't bother him. It simply watched him with eyes that told a million stories that he could not understand. The traveler stared back, locking eyes as thoughts ran wild through his mind. The inhabitants of this world left it long ago, yet the rest of the world moves on as if they didn't exist. Nature moves forward, never remembering what once was. Only looking ahead, never back. The beast turned and left, but the traveler still remained. He wondered about his own mortality, if the world, if anyone, would remember him, if there would be anything left of him to be remembered.

The traveler heard a noise. It came from another device, much like the last one he found. But this device had no picture, only a strange, melodic sound. And as the traveler listened, he felt emotions he could not quite understand. He knew not the words that were said, how the sounds flowed together, or the meaning put into it, but he felt pain in the sound, found joy, found wonder. He had never heard anything like it. He wanted to laugh, he wanted to dance, but most of all, he wanted to cry. These creatures were long dead. He would never get to know them, never learn their mysteries. All he had was their relics of a forgotten time and a forgotten place, known to him and him alone. The traveler steeled himself. They had their time, and they lost it. They made their mistakes, and they paid for them. But as the traveler sat there, listening to the sounds of the dead, he felt that maybe, just maybe, they deserved better.

The radiation was staggering. The traveler walked through the ruins of a once great city, his metallic bones creaking as he surveyed the landscape. The buildings stared back, their soulless eyes a shell of their former splendor. He stared back at their creations, giant towers of once shimmering splendor, now overrun and overgrown with life that cared not what came before it. Nature reclaiming what it once had. The traveler felt a twinge of sadness course throughout his programming. Their ability to create was astounding. The drive, the passion, the fuel to create greater and greater things was admirable. But the humans, in their folly, created the means with which to destroy themselves. Bombs with the power to annihilate all that they had worked so hard to create. But maybe they weren’t all like that. Some of them lived their lives in wonder and awe, admiring the world and all it had. And while their brothers created to destroy, they created simply to create, simply to make. Surely, they didn’t deserve the same fate. No, they couldn't have. He simply couldn't understand it, no matter how much he tried.

The traveler was alone. No one to talk to. No one to share his joys with, no one to share his sorrows with. The traveler lived in an empty world, filled with nothing but the wild brutality of nature and the endless expanse of his thoughts. It was a miserable existence, being surrounded by life and yet so frighteningly alone. But maybe he could learn something from the humans, who, whether for good or bad, created. They made something more of the life that they had been given, and even now, thousands of years later, the traveler still walks through the memories of their inventions. He is a memory of their inventions, himself one of their creations.

And so the traveler walked through the ruins, learning to live, learning to love, learning to create. And eventually, existence wasn’t so miserable anymore. And maybe, when he too returns to be reclaimed by nature, when his body fails and his end arrives, he might be remembered for what he had created. And even in death, he knew that would make him happy.