I am alone in a deep ravine, standing before a towering wall of layered stone. Before me is recorded Time – Rock-Time. Geologic time. At my back, the End-of-Time: an ink-black sky where far-off stars flare, then fall through deep space, leaving behind a comet’s-tail of debris – a smear of light.
Like a blind man reading his world, I put out my hands to the great wall, fingering what lies before me, trying to discern what each remnant, each layer, signifies.
I move my fingers farther up the ledge: Here was fire, and here was water, a great flood; here, a tectonic shift.
But where, in geologic time, did we exist?
Here, I say to no one, is where dinosaurs lived and the mammoth and mastadon. Over here, I move my fingertips to trace a faint ledge, was a great flood; here a tectonic shift.
But where was Man?
I search higher on the rock and see, mid-wall, a thin chalk-white smear: all that remains now of the great cities, libraries, monuments, kindergartens and their noisy playgrounds; the greater and lesser works of philosophy, literature, art; the landfills and landmines; great deserts and polar ice-caps. Thus goes also the lush savanna with all its beasts; also all the sundials, clocks, metronomes; likewise, the cracked mug and china teacup; the weed and rose, timothy grass and lily pad.
This thin white rim is all that is left to mark our place in Time. The chalk comes off on my fingertips. I put it to my tongue, to test it, the way an infant brings the world first to its tongue, learning the world one mouthful at a time.
It tastes like the world once tasted to me: bitter and sweet. Like milkweed. Like fog. Like promise and betrayal. A little bittersweet, like love. The salt of remorse; the sugar of redemption.
Like some last Kilroy, I dip my finger again into the chalky crevice and write on the wall's stone face with my finger: We were here.
Then I turn and enter the End-of-Time. Not-time, and all its stars.