by Melissa Mendelson

A red moon rose high against the black sky. White smoke drifted across debris. Shadows lingered against crumbling walls, and footsteps echoed along broken glass. The hands of the wind rolled garbage down hollow streets, pieces of a world no longer here, and a burnt picture of a moment in time curled up against the dark. And another shadow walked by.

Like the Mayans and Aztecs, a great civilization once flourished, and amazing accomplishments changed the course of history. But with every achievement, destruction followed, and difference cut the cord of peace. And war rocked the foundation of the future until the world fell to its knees, and those that survived simply disappeared. But where did they go?

"Don't go too far, Heron."

"This is a routine tour, Jerol," she thought back. "The treasure hunters were already here."

"Just log in what you find, and let's get off this rock." She sensed his tension. "There's nothing here."

"You mean there is nobody left." She knew she was right. "Where did the survivors go?"

"What does it matter?"

"There's no bodies, no skeletons."

"Maybe nobody survived." He took a step toward her. "They could have wiped themselves out completely."

"They survived." Her voice broke the void around them. "I feel it."

"Doesn't matter," he thought back. "Let's just get this done."

Heron's shadow fell against another broken wall. She knelt down and dug her fingers deep into a pile of black earth. Something hard met her hand, and she eagerly pulled it out of its hiding place. Her eyes glowed with anticipation, but then she saw that it was nothing but a child's marble.

Something out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. There was faded writing on a wall that was hardly broken. Her pale, white skin glowed under the moonlight as she brushed away the dust and debris set against it. And her small lips grew into a large smile as she scanned over what was written before her.

"We were here. This world was torn and twisted, and no more could it stand. And Death ran its black horse across our streets, and the sun disappeared from sight. And our end was fast approaching, but we never gave up. We stood together, no difference, and we waited. And then we were gone, but we were still here."

"Interesting," Jerol thought. "That is definitely worth recording." He held a small, metallic device toward it. "I would say that this was written, at least a hundred years ago." A red light enveloped the writing, and then the words were gone. "Amazing that it remained behind."

"They used some kind of ink that apparently could last a very long time." She sensed his annoyance. "Is this better?" She blinked at him. "This civilization thrived on words, communication, and it was how they achieved their great heights."

"And their destruction." He moved away from her. "Are we done?"

"Don't you want to cruise over to the next city?"

"What for? It's the same all over the world. Broken, desolate cities. Vacant streets. No signs of life, but I doubt that life existed here for a hundred years."

"Then, are we ready to begin?" He blinked at her. "Is it time?"

"Time for what?"

"To start again." Her black eyes rose up to the sky. "To bring the world back."

"Maybe, but not this moment. We need to clear the way first." She could feel the bitterness in his voice. "They'll be primitive."

"But we've seen their potential." She now hovered before him. "But we have also seen their rage."

"So, what would make things different next time?"

"They will be different. We've noticed with each cycle that these humans seem to evolve, and their history reflects that. And more that we do this, the more that they become."

"To what end do we do this?"

"Until we get it right." She tapped something thin strapped to her wrist. "We were close the last time around."

"But where did the survivors go?"

"Ask the Mayans and Aztecs that." Bright lights filled the sky above them. "If they remember."

A moment later, they were gone. Darkness rode through the desolate streets. The red moon slipped away. Pieces of a world gone tumbled head over heels, trying to return home, but that life was over. And it was now time to begin again, and somewhere nearby, another painted wall waited to be read.

"Our end was fast approaching, but we never gave up. We stood together, no difference, and we waited. And then we were gone, but we were still here."

BIO: Born in Portchester, NY in 1977, Melissa R. Mendelson began her writing career as a news reporter for Suffolk County’s Smithtown Messenger Newspaper (2002-2004).  She later freelanced for the Hudson Valley's Photo News and continues to write a variety of articles for Associated Content.  Her poetry was included in Names in a Jar: A Collection Of Poetry By 100 Contemporary American Poets, and her short stories and poetry continue to be published by numerous literary websites such as Provoke Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Memoirs of Meanness, Noble Row Magazine, the (Short) Fiction Collection, Pens on Fire, and Poets for Living Waters.