I walk there every day. It's a reminder. It's a scourge. It's my punishment.
For my failure.
I look out upon the blasted site, the crisped and burned locale. The site is no longer pristine. Dust and trash and other detris of this dying world have contaminated the site. A baby doll's head. Wrappers from foods no longer consumed, no longer can be consumed, no longer made. It's still very recognizable as a crater though. How could it not be? Most of the ground is still glassed, if somewhat covered by the blown loess and topsoil. The only broken parts, by and large, were the ingress and egress paths I had made when I erected the altar. The tomb. The lines of where I walked in and out every day.
Others had respected it. Others had followed in and out in the same paths. I had never seen them. Perhaps they offered me reverence for my daily ritual. Perhaps they were terrified of the man who still had the strength to build something nearly megalithic on his own. Perhaps they were ashamed of what they did here.
The shrine had been defiled.
Several times I had found animals sacrificed on the shrine. The first time I was furious and replaced the stones that were stained: no rain would have washed away the blood: there were no rains here. Or rarely enough that I had not seen them in my residency and I could not abide the foulness.
Then it grew worse. The much worse as the slide into barbarism and despair continued. I found a human sacrifice. I raged. I lost my mind. I stood watch without sleeping for days after I cleansed the site, the stones, the monument.
I only left, no, let us be honest here, I fled, when I began to hallucinate my children were talking to me, were there with me, rather than buried after they had died of the toxins choking our home, our world, our Mother, our Earth. They spoke to me, rather than resided as moldering corpses within the monument. Then, terrified, I fled like a wild animal spooked at the site of my ultimate predator: madness.
After I slept, I returned to my vigil. My daily tending of the monument. My children's tomb. I knew soon I would be too weak to live. Despite my previously good health, stamina and strength, there was no surviving this. When my time was nigh, I would come and lay down at the monument and I would pass away. For eternity, I would be as close to my children as I could be. As close as this world would allow.
I knew I had lie with them. I knew I had to be at the point of my ultimate and final failure. My children had died because I had failed: I had failed to pass the test. Or rather I had, but due to a shortening of the schedule, I was cut. I was cut because I was not quite good enough to be taken if they had to reduce the number of survivors. I was just not smart enough, accomplished enough, good enough.
I was left behind. I, my children and my wife. We were left on Earth to die with the teaming mass of humanity. Not to alight to the new world of Salvation around another star with the best and brightest. I had been damned to this terrestrial hell and it had killed my children. It was killing me. It probably had killed my wife. I didn't know: she had disappeared when going to find food for the kids when they lay sick and dying.
I had built my children's tomb, this monument, this terrible wonder at the point where the last torchship, the one that would have taken us to the stars and life and freedom from the oncoming death, had lifted off from the Earth. The point where I had failed so greatly and so terribly. Where I...where we were left behind.
And this was why I could not tolerate the barbarism of the remaining few. This is why I could not allow my children's tomb, my monument to my shameful failure to be defiled. Not while I still drew breath, not while I still shakingly shuffled, not while I still while I could still raise an arm, I would not allow this monument to be defiled again.
I tenderly removed and cleaned and tended the stones. I cleared the detris of a dying world. I cleansed the stones of terrible dust of the damned. I wiped and cleaned. Shaking and tearful. I loved the lost. I wept for the dead. I loathed myself.
And I berated myself with the bitterest phrase of the english language: if only...