She was a lonely woman who lived on the highest mountain above the village. Very few saw her, or spoke with her. Some nights there were stories which men told at the tavern of seeing a figure standing out on the crumbling structures of metal and concrete, the form illuminated by the moon. Her flowing gray hair, whipped by the breeze covered her ancient face, hiding the details of her wisdom. Many thought she was just a myth, a tale told by firelight, but she was real, and the men would attest to her existence.
They called her “the historian.” No one knew her by anything different. Her name was forgotten, just like that of technology and money, and the ways of the old earth. Only brave men sought her out, asking questions about artifacts they found in their fields during harvest. She was the only one who knew the materials and shapes, the only one who remembered the things of a world before the comet. For some she was a monster, and they were afraid of her. The woman was an unknown element in their small piece of life, their sanctuary and safe abode. How old was she? None knew. Her age seemed to be endless, and that was okay too. They needed her, whether they wanted to admit it or not, and they had to have her with all their being, so that a connection could be found to humans before their time. For without that bridge, they would have been like lost children unsure of who they were and why they were there.
It was this way for one man, this want for a connection. He was an outcast, shunned by his parents and the villagers, because of a subtle difference that no one really wanted to acknowledge, but they understood it enveloped him with magic. It was magic to them, this difference, because none of them could ever work the mechanisms, buttons and wires. To them it was only a possession. It was evil and its knowledge didn’t belong with them. They wanted to know a connection but they were afraid. They wanted him to go away, so that their fear wouldn’t be disturbed from its slumber deep within them. They sent him away to live among the crumbing concrete and metal frames which penetrated the jumble of trees and undergrowth. Perhaps, they thought to themselves, perhaps the woman would want him.
It didn’t take long for the man to see her. In the light of the full moon he saw her form glide from one place to another, her white shape shining like a ghostly apparition among the dark skeletal remains of a world long since past. He stood quietly in the evening air, watching her getting closer. He wasn’t afraid, no not frightened at all. In fact, he thought to himself, as she passed through the underbrush on a path headed directly for him, he welcomed her. He knew he found his conduit.
The Historian paused in front of him; her wild, gray hair lay about her shoulders in long waves of curls, bound with white ribbon in some places. In her right hand she carried a long staff made of smooth wood, bound at the top with red leather, a feather, knotted in a cord, hung from the material. It danced in the chilly night wind, flipping in chaotic frenzy beside her face. A talisman hung from another aqua leather cord around her neck. He smiled when he saw it. It was an object he had seen numerous times when he went digging alone in the ancient places.
“Why are you here?” she finally asked in a low whisper. “Aren’t you afraid I’ll eat you or turn you into some foul rodent?”
The man smiled wider. “I’m not frightened. Not at all.” His hand reached into a pocket on his cotton coat. He pulled out a object, similar to that which the old woman wore around her neck.
“Aww, a kindred soul,” she smiled. “Come with me. Let’s see where this journey takes us in this new realm.”
Following the glowing white figure in front of him, the two made their way back into the jungle of nature and man-made monuments. The moon had only traveled a short distance in the sky when they crossed out of the cover of quiet solitude and into open air again. Before them stood a large stone house, three stories tall, its outer walls covered in ivy and flowers. He stood for a moment, mesmerized by the structure. It was different, much different than the sod and thatched homes of the village.
“Come inside,” she motioned with her left hand as she pushed on a metal lever releasing the latch. He followed her into the doorway.
For without her, his world would not have the knowledge or love he needed.
Image by City Ruins Artist: Jona Jakobsson @geekscapes