A pitted pillar of stone rises like a hull, through a blanket of mist. It stands on a forgotten cliff top, overlooking a turbulent sea. To an indifferent observer it is a moss-covered pile of rock, ravaged by the ages, drifting on a bank of memory, yet the runes carved on the base set it apart. It has seen the lives of the centuries, but now it stands alone, its people long gone. Lost to the future. To the pockmarked grey stone firmly rooted in the earth, clings an image of past majesty, of white robed figures, gathered around its base, tall and proud. The stone, whole and unbroken.
In actuality, the stone is crumbled and cracking. The grass has long claimed the pieces that have fallen and shattered. The tip is coated with bird waste slowly eating away at the rock in its acidity. But the stone is unconscious of this indignity, as it guards the quiet and empty hilltop.
With the lifting of the mist comes a strong wind, in some places it may be described as a gale. The wind gusts through the crevices, it flows over the cruel gash running the length of the monolith; what caused it is impossible to tell. A wound long healed. The sea beneath the pillar lashes at the cliff and the long grass is whipped against the scarred stone of the monument. Yet the stone stands firm, the world changes, yet the stone stands firm. Caught in time, the eternal observer, forever watching, forever waiting.
A linguist could read the twisting runes inscribed upon the base. But only the façade of the letters will be read. The well-meaning scholar can spout convictions about this veneer. They can be written down in a book on ancient culture, chapters on the runes’ significance to the long dead. But no matter the length or the depth of the exploration, the nobility and the power of the simple inscriptions can never be fully understood, in this disbelieving cynical age. The mystery and symbolism of the monolith, to its creators, is lost in the dark.
Yet one small memorial remains, the curved smooth stone at the centre of the monument. Most assume it was carved smooth, others blame it on the weather, they feel that perhaps the wind blew a bit stronger there. It is discounted and dismissed.
But slight indentations mar the polished surface. The hands of centuries of villagers have stroked it, and left the mark of fingers about the edge. They rubbed the centre for luck, birth and death. To pass through the veiled darkness, to give meaning to the unknown. Yet now the weather is blamed for this, the greatest of the monolith’s scars. The smoothness an eternal monument to the monolith’s past and people is eroding. The last piece of its significance is being lost. What hands created, moulded, the wind is reclaiming.
The lives wished to this monument, the lives given into its care, are far-gone. No living memory can even recall the ancients telling them of the stone in their infancy. The grey rock is crumbling as the last of the memories fade. Soon it will stand no longer. It will return to the earth following the already lost pieces to be reclaimed by the grass. It cannot survive forgotten, and unmourned; the weather will triumph, in the end.
For now though, as the wind screams through, taking another layer, as the moss gradually claims the monument’s entirety, the stone continues to guard. It carries on protecting the long forgotten people, to stand for a faith corrupted, changed and then finally lost.
The lone sentinel.
the way time wears at identity