Preservation by Obstruction

by Dan Kanizar

Photograph by Joshua Mirenda

Chapter 2: The Barren City

Upon clearing the mist, a barren land lay before us. The sky dimmed grey and ground laden with black. I can't tell if it's ash or some other kind of substance. Below my soggy feet is black earth. Before I bend down to touch it, I look to Dustin as he's observing the sky. Touching the ground this black substance sticks to my wet hand. It's more of a dust than an ash. Lost in the serenity of this wasteland, I've forgotten about the door. Before I can think to turn around, I hear a loud clank.

“What was that,” Dustin asks. His long blonde hair, still soaked, keeps falling over his eyes. His skinny body is shivering as he tries to shake the cold.

“I don’t know. It sounds like the door slammed shut!” I run back to the door, hoping I’m wrong. But I’m not. There stands the door, shut. Dustin follows up behind me.

“Man there’s no wheel on this side! How the hell are we supposed to get back?”

This isn’t the Dustin I know. He’s normally so cool, calm, and reserved. I haven’t seen this side of him before. It’s making me worry. I always follow him. If he can’t lead us out, then we’re stuck on the other side for good. We try desperately to open the door, but it’s useless. Dustin sinks to his knees and hangs his head. No amount of hitting and prying bears fruit. I don’t see any other choice, and I’ve come up with only one suggestion.

“Maybe we should try to find some civilization?” Dustin jerks his head in my direction and gets back on his feet. He’s marching quickly in my direction, not stopping until I am face to face with him. His hand swipes his hair out of his eyes once again. I can see the grim look on his face.

“Are you mad, Baron?! We’re talking about a place that sent the rest of the world spiraling down into disaster. And you think they’re going to help us? What’s wrong with you?”

“I can’t think of anything else. If you have another idea, I’m all ears. Otherwise we should look for help,” I reply. Finally, Dustin backs away from my face, taking a deep breath and letting out a long sigh. His eyes look up and meet mine as he speaks.

“Alright then, we’ll try to find someone to help us. Just don’t get your hopes up. At this point, I'd call us doomed.”

I nod my head in acceptance. We leave the wall and walk through the mist. The further we walk from the wall, the thinner the mist becomes. We reach the end of a hillside and the fog finally clears. We behold an unholy sight.

What must have once been houses and buildings lay there in a time-frozen wasteland. Not a soul can be seen or a sound heard. The decay of time has taken its toll on this place. Everything looks like it’ll crumble to dust if we were to touch it. Neither of us has words for what we see. The decrepit structures are laden with dirt. Dustin and I wordlessly walk towards the city. Every step echoes and resonates with the surroundings. Not a single sound to be heard, but our own first steps. No chirping of birds or mutterings of natives as they observe foreigners. There are no trees or leaves to reveal the hidden breeze. The air is stale and smells untouched. The absolute absence of life is an eerie like no other.

Reaching the base of this forgotten city, we take note of a tower. It is built differently than the other buildings. It stands tall, taller than any other building present. Black and spike ridden, it looks related to the wall. This citadel might be able to give us answers. Although it appears just as lifeless, it has an allure at the very top. A dim blue light is fading off and on. As if the tower calls our names, we walk towards it. Dustin is observing all of his surroundings. He interrupts the tower’s trance on me.

“Have you noticed how lifeless it is here?” He asked.

“It’s eerie, huh? Not a single person in sight,” I reply.

“It’s not just that. I mean, look, there are no trees, animals or bugs. There’s not

even any grass growing.” Dustin is right. The ground is a stale black dust. There are no signs of any kind of life. “We might find some kind of answer in that tower,” he says.

“I think you’re right. If we’re lucky, we might find something alive in there. Hell, at this point, I’d feel better if we’d found a corpse.” In agreement, we continue our walk towards the tower.

Gloomy dust is kicked up as we cautiously approach the spiked infrastructure. We find ourselves in front of the tower. It is taller and more menacing up close. It’s foreign to us. Nothing looks like this back home. A large metal door stands before us. Dustin grabs the handle and gives it a tug. The door creeps open so loud you'd think it'd be heard for miles. We cautiously enter the tower since the door made it known that we are here. A few steps in and a blinding light shines, and the sound of motors and machinery activates rings in our ears. The gears can be heard mashing together. The clanking of metal echoes but becomes more stabilized. Our eyes adjust, and we can clearly see everything inside the tower. It is revealed that we are in a corridor.

This tower’s technology is clearly superior to our own. At the end of the corridor is another door. I push it open and discover a flight of stairs. I look to Dustin, and he nods back at me. We climb the spiral staircase.

“When do these stairs end?” Dustin huffs.

“Not much further. I can see the top,” I assure.

We arrive at the top and are faced with one more door. Again, I take the initiative

and open this door. As I pull it open, it lets out a loud creak. We enter a circular room. Square screens suddenly become lit and lights from above erase the darkness. Out of nowhere, a scratchy, broken, electronic voice speaks to us.

“Welcome to Buffalo tower ARC862. What is your inquiry?”

Dustin and I look at each other. I’m sure my face looks as stupidly confused as his.

Dustin begins to speak, “Umm… Where are we?”

The voice responds, “Current location is United States of America, State of New

York, city of Buffalo. Inside Tower ARC8-“

“Okay I get it!” Dustin pauses as he thinks of another question.

I instantly ask the question that I’ve asked my entire life. “Why is there a great

wall built around the entire American border?”

“United Front Barrier is built to withstand M.E.S. from P.F.R. and prevent global extinction event.”

America wasn’t trying to keep people out, but trying to lock something in. My next questions would reveal an answer to a mystery no other soul knows. I pause and consider the price of newfound knowledge. I will face the consequences I'm given.

“What is M.E.S. and P.F.R.? What happened to the Americans?”

Find out what happens to Dustin and Baron next time. The third installment will be posted
on October 10, 2012….