They have been many days in the forest walking and not getting anywhere, always in the same gloom, a shifting curtain of shadows sometimes shot through with arrows of golden buzzing light revealing spots of dappled green ahead of them like stained copper, above them, the dark closed green of the high heads of tall pines.
They walk always in the same direction even when they turn around. They’ve been here so long they no longer know how many they are–one or two, so long they no longer know if they are thinking or speaking aloud the things they think, so long that when one of them says something, they don’t know which one of them is saying it or if they have already said it a moment ago or a week ago or a month or yesterday.
Suddenly the forest opens up. They are not looking for a temple, but they find one, though it has been mostly gutted by the latest round of haphazard malice, wrecked but not destroyed. Past the relief of finally just arriving somewhere, one is astonished then relieved to be in a holy place that like most holy places seems always to have been there, awaiting finding and supplication or gratitude. Even here among the cracked columns and crushed idols, one is seized with the wonder of belief.
The sacred pool, mostly dry and muddy now, embellished with the empty bottles and candy wrappers and condoms of the wrecking crew–he is standing at the far edge of it, looking out over the valley that shades off into the city in the distance. He turns to you and says, every time we get to this part, I think the same thing and say the same thing, but I never can remember what it is. Oh, you say, I remember–you say, ah, the end of empire, documentation and storage and then just victims and middens from here on out.