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The charred, pitted remains of metal lay twisted on the ground, contorted by the incredible power of the bomb that had been released five years ago and turned this once proud city into a mass of deformed metal, still sizzling with deadly radioactivity. No movement was visible in the hulking metal shards that had once made up buildings that reached to the sky. There was only stillness and an empty wasteland.
When the explorers crested the hill, this was the sight they were greeted with. The city that had once held millions upon millions of people was lifeless, dead. They trudged forward through the dreary ash and metal landscape.
At first, they only saw entrances to basements and housing foundations, laid bare as the houses that had once stood above them were annihilated in the blast. Later, they came upon isolated remnants of walls, two or three bricks stacked atop each other remainders of what had been before the world collapsed around them. As they moved closer to the center of the city, and the radiation grew stronger, they encountered what had been parks, now empty fields of charred ground. Buildings were no more, reduced to metal shards that tangled around each other like jungle gyms created by demons. Utter destruction surrounded them.
And then they found it. Sitting alone, untouched among all the destruction, was a single park bench. A small shield of green grass sat around it, glowing like an aura in the blackened landscape. On it was inscribed a message, much of it covered in dust. It read
P t a.
Five years and two days before the explorers happened upon the bench, it was in the center of a sprawling metropolis. People swirled around in a constantly changing mass of emotions, thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams. Businessmen walked briskly along to meetings, lawyers with their briefcases considered cases in their heads, hot dog venders cried out for people to buy their wares. Pet owners sat and stood near the bench as their dogs ran after tennis balls thrown onto the large grassy field.
“So anyway, we got the refinance on the mortgage and we’re going to save so much money we’re going to take a vacation somewhere,” said the man with the German Shepherd. “Where do you all think we should go?”
“You could visit Australia and New Zealand, then go there and have a nice relaxing week sitting on the beach.” The man with the twin Daschunds advised.
“Have you ever gone to Europe? My favorite vacation I ever took was during college when I spent a month trekking around from Portugal to Greece with a friend of mine. There’s so much history there to see. I really wish I’d gotten to go back, but I’ve just never had the time.” The woman holding her puppy Border Collie suggested.
“The wife was thinking of going to Rio. I said no, what with all the crime there and everything, but she really wants to go. I like Tahiti---sort of like Rio, but less problems. You think I could convince her?” asked the German Shepherd man.
“The problem with Tahiti is that they speak French there. I think she wants to use her Spanish.”
“If I’m not mistaken, Brazil speaks Portuguese. Argentina or Uruguay might be good for you though.” The man with the Rottweiler intoned.
“You know what, that sounds great. I’ll suggest it to her as soon as I get back.”
The men and women happily talked as the dogs joyfully ran around under the bright blue sky with the morning autumn air being lightly carried on the breeze around them.
Twelve years before the explorers reached the bench, a concert was going on in the big grassy square. Thousands of young fans had flocked to the park to see one of the most popular local bands playing, and those on the bench had front-row seats.
“Thank you everyone!” Yelled the lead singer after the song finished. “Because you guys are such a great audience, we wanna do something special for ya. You all are gonna be the first in the world to hear some songs off our newest album that’s coming out in a coupla months! How’d ya like that?”
The audience responded with an even louder cheer, and the band launched into their next song. Teenagers happily milled around on this late summer afternoon, enjoying the warm breeze blowing through the streets of the city.
17 years before the explorers came, evening again settled on the bench. Two old men played chess on the bench as the June night slowly closed around them, bringing with it a gentle breeze. They slowly thought and moved their pieces in the coming darkness, and eventually the black pieces won.
24 years before the bench was found, a man sat on the bench. It was late and the only illumination for the bench came from a nearby lamppost. But the city still hummed with vibrancy and the raw energy of life. He sat there feeling the spring breeze, looking at the buildings that loomed all around him, taking in the sight of the city skyline, still brightly lit in the dark of the night.
25 Years before the explorers saw the bench, a ceremony was going on. The mayor of the city gave a speech and ceremonially cut the ribbon. He dedicated the park to those who had fallen in the quest, and dignitaries poured onto the grassy park. A symbolic statue watched them as the April breeze wafted through the trees.
One of the explorers lifted a gloved hand and slowly brushed the dust off of the Bench. Now they could read it in full. And surrounded by the twisted metal skeletons of humanity’s accomplishments, they read.
Dedicated at the
Opening of the