Last Chance – A Random Picture Prompt

Last Chance – A Random Picture Prompt

Earlier this year, I decided to base several random scenes on pictures I found while browsing stock photo sites. (Indie authors spend a lot of time browsing stock photo sites). This is only my second attempt. I’m not sure it turned out as well as the first one, but I am intrigued by the concept. (I’d love to hear what you think!)
. . .

She stared out the windows of her prison, her vision limited to arc in which she could shift her eyes. The water had been steadily rising for some time. Some might say it had taken only a decade to swallow the foundations of the ruins, but to her it seemed to have taken eons.

First she had watched the buildings crumble, the bright paint and decorative scrolls chipping to the ground like so much fallen snow. Wind had raked stone and marble, wearing sharp corners rounded and tearing mortar from its deep settings. Shorn free of their moorings, brick shifted and arches tumbled.

It hurt her heart to see the once great city dwindle, even more so because it had followed her fall from grace. In the beginning, its inhabitants had crowded at her feet, tearing their hair as they sobbed for salvation. But when she had been unable to answer, they had turned to her siblings for answers, abandoning her first in droves, then in solitude. It was the last few that wounded her deepest, those who  held on to the bitter end only to leave her to her fate as the rivers spilled their banks.

She would have given them all her glory, if she were able. But she couldn’t even turn her head to avoid viewing her imminent destruction.

Each day the water lapped higher against the walls. Already it had consumed several piles of rock rubble. Soon it would turn the highest towers into mere stepping stones. Her only hope was that a child might stumble from one someday and behold the great ruins that had been her temple city, where worshipers had come from every corner of the world to lay offerings at her feet.

First the waves settled around her waist. There they seemed content to stay, until one day she realized they graced her elbows. And now they were about to devour her shoulders with their cold, ruthless hunger. Any day now, it would be done. The last of her precious monuments would slip into the ocean, her memory would be lost to time, and there would be no way to undo the damage.

“This is your last chance, Sister.” The voice was solemn, but she could hear the mocking undertone. He was standing on what remained of the city wall, just within her field of vision. He wore flowing black robes of the finest silk, his face a mask of false concern as he watched from his high perch, not even willing to dampen the hem of his cloak to speak with her.

“I’ve convinced them all to listen,” he went on when she said nothing. “All you have to do is repent.”

He meant grovel, of course. She had done nothing wrong. But he, with his silver tongue, had convinced the highest of the gods that she had committed some foul crime. He would have her debase herself before the exalted simply to gain her freedom. And what would she have left afterward? Barely the power to rebuild. Barely the hope of attracting a meager shade of her old following. And no regard from any of those she had once loved and adored.

No; she would not do it. If the last thing left to her was her pride, she would not yield it.

“Come now, Sister, this is not the time to be stubborn. Can’t you see the flood waters closing in? Within days the statue they have made you will sink. Do you think that’s what I want?”

Entombing her consciousness in stone had paralyzed her completely. She couldn’t even close her eyes to shut him out. Oh, she could have spoken to him, could have sent tendrils of thought spinning in his direction. But she could think of nothing polite or pleasant to say, and she preferred her last words not be spoken in spite or anger.

He waited for what felt like hours for her to respond, his eyes occasionally flickering toward the distance, as if he could see some approaching wave she could not.

“Fine,” he spat at last, gathering his great cloak around him. “If this is the fate you desire, die in obscurity. See if I care.”

Within moments of his disappearance, she heard the rumble of the wave that would bury her forever beneath the water’s surface. As the rushing thunder grew closer, her only hope was that this would not be her end. Perhaps, when she had slept beneath the waves for millennia, some child of the next civilization would find her and revive her. In this way would she outlive those who had abandoned and rejected her. The waters of the ocean could preserve and protect just as they devoured and destroyed. One day, she would outshine them all.

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