Marching Through Time – Short Story

My story starts before the metal carriages roamed our streets. The world was much quieter then. I sit in the corner of the park. A huge metal structure with water flowing through me. Back when they first put me here, families used to come up and sit beside me. Children respecting their parents. All of them used to talk to each other, something that I rarely see now. For the last ten years, the only thing people are interested in is the little glowing boxes in their hands.

One year after I was put in the park I remember seeing many men marching towards the docks. There were great processions of men, as far as the eye could see. They carried their belongings on their back and metal rods over their shoulders. Their faces looked so full of promise and hope. Others from the town would come and watch them walk past me. As they walked past there was cheering for this crocodile of men. It was quieter for a while after that. Women would still bring their children to see me. There was an anxiety about them, a preoccupation in their eyes. The parade never happened when they came back. The few men who returned to walk past me had a lost, haunted look in their eyes. Women who visited me after that spent time staring at me with tears in their eyes lost in a different time.

I don’t remember much about the next 20 years. Many of the buildings around me were torn down and new, smaller houses built. I remember seeing excited families moving into their new homes. Then the procession of men started again towards the docks. This time the men appeared lighter on their feet. The metal sticks they carried seemed bigger. Even fewer people visited me after these processions. Then the rocks fell from the sky. I remember listening to them fall and feeling the ground shake as they hit. The thing that will always live with me, will be the sounds of the screams. These came from all ages as their houses fell down around them. People would rush to help and try to pull them from their wrecked homes. The bodies were always laid out, near me, wrapped in sheets. Sometimes it would be one of two. Sometimes when the rocks had come quick and fast the bodies stretched all around me in rows of two or three. Again, fewer men returned than went. This time though, some who returned were walking with sticks or being carried by others.

The time settled again over the next ten years no more rocks rained from the sky. I watched the men marching off in one’s or two’s towards bigger buildings that sprayed black smoke across the sky. The women sometimes came to me with their children. By mid-afternoon, they were all scurrying home dragging their children behind them. The black streams in the sky then started from the house roof. Sometimes it was hard to even see the blue of the sky through the streams of black.

Soon the black streams became mini-streams of clear smoke that everyone seemed to hold. Some smelt of burnt wood and others smelt sweeter. The faces and clothes all around me appeared to be brighter and there was a happiness in the air. The noise coming from the houses changed from shouting to a beautiful lively melody. Some of the people even brought the music with them. The noise flowed as they twirled each other in front of me. These were good years where many of the faces could be seen smiling. The things people had on changed as well. For the first time, I saw that women had legs like the men.

The next years were also filled with bright colours. This was about the time the women stopped visiting me so much. Some of them even went marching off to buildings of their own during the day. The beautiful noise continued but this time they used to bring it with them. The noise started coming out of tiny boxes that they placed near me when they sat around me. There also seemed to be less young children around. There was also more marching but this time rather than heading to the docks the men went to the big buildings. They then seemed to stand around outside waving bits of card at each other. At the end of the day, they would return home with their cards.

Over the years the noise from the boxes became very different. It also appeared that the women had grown in size especially on their top half. They seemed to have got much wider. The men seemed to stop marching to the factory and many of them headed in the other direction in their Sunday best. The marching was back but, this time they carried their cards towards the city. Not just men this time but, all members of the family seemed to be shouting and waving the boards around.

The rest of my life seems to have gone too quick. I remember one night when everyone came to me, drinking and singing. When it was dark they let bright lights off into the sky. They made a noise like the rocks but, were full of bright lights and no houses fell down. I now see fewer people than I have ever seen. Most go into their houses and stay there. No young ones come and kick a sack around near me. When they do turn up they are too busy looking at the tiny light boxes in their hands. They never seem to notice me or each other anymore.

Last month, there was the man who was looking at his lightbox and fell straight into me. He moved about for a bit before someone actually put their lightbox down and pulled him out. Now, there are many men around me with loud things in their hands. They are taking me away, part by part, I don’t know why. I get all my words from listening to people around me, these men have taught me a few new words, Health and Safety.

Microfiction by Sam H Arnold

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