Friday, July 21, 2006

And the Little Rocking Horses Came...

little rocking horse
...all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it... And the war came.

—Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address
The porch door creaked, the rusty door spring groaned, as the hot summer wind caught the unfastened porch door again and again. Creeeeeeak, grrrrrrrrooan. Creeeeeeeak, grrrrroan. A stronger gust of wind caught the door and blew it out a ways on its hinges: crrreeeeeeeeeeeeeak, grrrrrrrrroooan, slam!

The porch door stayed unfastened day and night, summer and winter, because there was no one left to fasten it.

On the back porch floor several dozen little tiny rocking horses sat, soaking up the sunlight which shone in through the glass of the porch windows. Little tiny rocking horses, each no larger than a housefly. Little tiny insect-sized rocking horses, equipped with wings. And equipped with tiny hair-thin rockers on their legs. Rocking horses. Little rocking horses, like houseflies, like horseflies, lazily sunning on the back porch.

It was dead silent out on the porch, except for the occasional creak and groan of the porch door. Then, bzzzzz, bzzzzzzz, one of the little rocking horses sprung, sprung, sprung on its flexible little rockers, as it beat its wings and took to flight.

The little rocking horse flew buzzing through the air. It flew across the back porch, and into the house. Into the kitchen. Bzzzzzzzzz, its wings beating like a little tiny ornithopter. The little rocking horse buzzed across the silent kitchen until it came to rest again in a patch of sunlight on the kitchen counter.

Several other rocking horses were already sunning themselves there on the kitchen counter. The little rocking horse which had just alighted spread its wings toward the sun. It rested, still and unmoving in the afternoon sunlight.

The kitchen was bare. There was not a crumb of food in it. Any food which had once sat in this kitchen had long since been eaten, devoured to the last speck by little rocking horses.

Silent. A silent kitchen, a silent house. In the doorway between the kitchen and the living room lay a human skeleton sprawled on the floor. Another skeleton lay on the floor in the middle of the living room. Their bones were coated with years of dust and grit. The skeletons had long years since been picked clean of any trace of flesh or soft tissue, picked clean by the microscopic mandibles of ravenous little tiny rocking horses.

Summer sunlight shone in through the living room windows, shone on the hardwood floors. Once there had been curtains on the windows, but the rocking horses ate the curtains. Once there had been carpeting on the floor, but the rocking horses ate the carpeting. Round about the living room stood the hardwood frames and metal tubing and metal springs of what had once been household furniture.

The rocking horses could not eat hardwood, anything but soft pinewood was too hard for their little mandibles. They could not eat metal. But the little rocking horses could and did devour any trace of fabric or cushions. They had stripped the walls clean of wallpaper. The house had stood empty like this now, silent and empty, for years.

Out in the yard there was a low buzzing. For out in the yard thousands of little rocking horses covered the ground almost like a carpet. A horde of little rocking horses, rocking gently on their tiny rockers, their wings spread toward the sun to collect and store solar energy.

Store the sun's energy. For there was virtually no food left in these parts, no food for the little rocking horses to eat. Not a blade of grass. Not a leaf or soft twig on tree or bush: the trees and bushes had long since died. Not an animal lurking in den or dell: the rocking horses had long since swarmed on any animal they could find, swarmed and devoured and picked the bones clean. There was not a blade of grass left anywhere within a hundred miles of this house.

And so the yard was hard packed dirt, gullies washed through it here and there by years of rain. The high hill up beyond the house was clean rock and dirt, ochre gashes of erosion washed down hillside by years of rain and not a plant left.

The little rocking horses sunned themselves on the bare dirt of the yard by the house, sunned themselves in the hot sunlight of a summer afternoon. Soaking up solar energy with their wings. Without food, the rocking horses could not reproduce. But with solar energy they could go on and survive almost indefinitely. The little rocking horses were not like the organic life which had once walked and crept and flown over the earth; they were an improved model.

Only far off by the seacoasts nowadays did little rocking horses still breed and reproduce. Only by the seacoasts, or perhaps by an inland creekbed which ran dry. For only along the coasts did sea life wash up on shore, where little rocking horses could descend upon it in a buzzing cloud, descend upon it and devour it. Then the little rocking horses would breed, or bud and divide, or code up copies of themselves directly from template. The little rocking horses could reproduce indifferently according to any of several different modes of reproduction; for they were an improved model.

In the depths of the sea, unlike on land, organic life still survived. Survived unless it was washed up on a beach, or picked off by scavenging rocking horses skimming above the surface of the ocean waves. The little rocking horses had not yet managed to mutate and evolve so as to survive in the depths of the ocean. Not yet. Not yet.

Now the thousands and tens of thousands of little rocking horses spread their wings, sunning themselves, in the yard beside the house. A close inspection would reveal that the rocking horses came in several colors. White, red, black, and pale green. Pestilence, war, famine, and death. The four little rocking horses of the apocalypse. Once upon a time, someone in a laboratory had had a sense of humor. Someone in the laboratory where the little rocking horses had been coded up from template.

A stronger wind came up, and now with a low buzzing roar like a horde of locusts many of the little rocking horses arose from the bare dirt of the yard. They arose into the air, and a cloud of dust followed after them. The little rocking horses could sense a windstorm coming. Violent windstorms these days, howling simoon duststorms across the bare Midwest, now that there was no longer any plant life to anchor the soil.

The little rocking horses took refuge in a rock cleft on the leeward side of the hill. They dug in, they linked together with the tiny little rockers on their legs. Now the wind came, and the dust which obscured the sun. Howling, roaring, winds up to eighty miles an hour. But the little rocking horses rested secure in their rock cleft, where they could outlast the storm for hours, days, weeks, even months. A little rocking horse could go into hibernation for years, and emerge again unscathed when the gentle touch of solar rays lit on its wings. For the little rocking horses were an improved model.

In the roaring wind the porch door went snap, slam! Snap, slam! Snap, slam! The groaning of the rusty door spring could not be heard above the howling of the wind. A wind like this might tear a door right off its hinges; and if it did, there would never again be anyone in the world to fix the door or put it back on its hinges. That era had come to an end. Now there was only the sunlight, and the rain, and the wind, and the little rocking horses.

(Tenniel pic from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, courtesy of Lenny's Alice in Wonderland site)

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3 Comments:

Blogger The Tetrast said...

All thoughts are not directed to such futures, anxiously or otherwise.

At least, not yet.

I like the rocking-horse image. A big toy. And makes me think of "hobby horse," our hobbies & obsessions gone out of control.

You should have been on peirce-l a few years ago when I sent my massive approaching-doom post.

Friday, July 21, 2006 8:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Janelle said...

I really enjoyed reading that Paul and need to stop by more.

Thank you,
Janelle

Friday, July 21, 2006 11:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is in my mind a good arguement from the facts the Singulatarians claim that we are dooooomed.

The fact that we havent' been zapped so far makes me think the Singulatarians are fantasizing--the Rapture of the Geeks and so forth. Basically, they want things to be horrible because that makes them important.

But less ranting..on to the story... the four rocking horses of the apocalypse.....thats going to stay with me for a while.

Good job on imagery, and repetive strains, and on choosing your pov.

Eric

Monday, August 07, 2006 2:33:00 PM  

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