Doomed Cities

I am a man with many macabre interests. This shocks no one. Among my predispositions toward imagination is the romance of the doomed city. Yes, romance. Is it so hard to imagine?

To think, close your eyes and drift away. Would the air smell sweet, with the gathering smoke of a distant smoulder? Incense of a different kind. Would the skies shine blue above the tumult, the Great Goddess engorged on mortal offerings, crippling in Her indifference? Our penultimate struggles in the cosmic order would be stripped, naked, with sumptuous vulnerability. Our pretences, gone away, the absolute state of nature revealed.

Would the foreboding be orgasmic? Would the city itself pulse like the womb, ready to clamp down at the right moment and pull you in, full of trepidation and longing. What would the fruit of longing be? Drawn into conflagration as the penetration of despair kindled repressed satisfaction? Would the city burn? Crumble? A flood, a deluge of mythic proportion? Or would the great quakes of the satisfied Earth open wide to receive them whole, gone to Tartarus, tumbling?

What would the little deathbed look like? The prayers of the pious, would they sing like ushers from noble lips, or come as curses from the damned? Mountains crumble, cities wallow. They seem eternal, to who live in their shadow, but nothing is forever. The sublime transience of this mortal coil attends this truth, entropy, like a greedy Goddess, will swallow all.

But to have this truth condensed in an ineffable end, the surmount of censored longing – for the end – or dread of it. Those who hated the city would fear the end, remembering themselves – their value, perhaps. And they should find there their value released, the bargain struck anew. They never had a contract with life.

What were the death knells of Persepolis? What was the swansong of Carthage? Rome died with a whine, like a cancer patient eaten away, an unpenitant hedonist paying the toll. Doom of another kind, but perhaps sickly sweet. When Vesuvius burst with uncontained violence, spread his deathly seed over field and valley, the living ghosts mourned. It is a fascinating thought. A primitive meditation. The mori to memento is never so clean cut, but aren’t we all attracted to extremes? The freeing simplicity of them, the polarising extranymity. A surfeit of extravagance to deaden the ego and release the soul from moral purgatory – a taste of life as a animal of raw power, not this brooding mutant our moral souls have made of us. Not weak little philosophers debating ethics in a martini glass, like painted trollops pretending their dignity was not yet spent. Or the one outside the spectrum, wild and free. Extremism.

Don’t lie. You know we are. There is nothing truly timid about our world. Oh, sure, she powders her face and dolls up the innocence, but our tastes betray us. The shadow rules, and Jung titters in the grave. Wotan lurks beneath the skin like a prowling wolf. Varg Ut Veum! What is moribund, compels, in spades it draws us into bed having woven indefatigable seductions. And we die. We crave power. And what has more power than death? A kind of eros in inevitability. No wonder then, the sickly sweet appeal. No, no, no – sic semper extremis!

In those moments, would the officers of the lie maintain order? Gatekeepers to the final descent? Dutiful to the last? And would the populace obey, or would their craven insanity consume at last the fragile pretence of society? How firmly has Pavlov trained his pups, that they should sit meek and idle as the flames kissed their delicates, exploring the innermost regions of their every hidden agenda? How firm the hand of the master that sight unseen holds back the mouth that bites?

But the doomed city on the hill, about to burn. How she might shudder with anticipation, her insides roiling with confliction. What energy would there have been to reap. The burst of pheromones released, hormones betrayed, as bodies exploded with epinephrine, DMT and all the like. Would there have been mass hallucinations? A new canon of religious thought immediately swallowed by the burgeoning aether of Kali, flicking tongue and licking lips, smothering a world? Would there have been the triumphant few, staring defiantly into the beckoning abyss, tracing the outlines of the ghastly fingers holding open the mouth to eternity – the final gateway to be swallowed into the paunch of the Earth? Would their defiance matter? Does it impress?

Could we be so stalwart, to look oblivion in the eye? Might some of us laugh? Might the years of repression and respectability unhinge itself from the psyche and leave us shrieking like mad dogs? Would that sweet, succulent pulse of blood and sputum drive us on like beasts into the twilight? When the Gjallarhorn called would we hear the gospel of the Valkyries with serenity and grace to respect our discipline, or riven Maenads fucking in Elysian fields? Shrieking, galling, tearing, ripping – an orgiastic frenzy of despair and brutal honesty? Might we like voyeurs, observe with fickle joy, as the piper took his dues? After all, it falls to Paul to pay Peter – and who hasn’t wanted to crack the cornerstone and watch foundations crumble?

Would you come to the city as a fallen angel, eyes decked with detached mystery? A crawling, weeping saint fed on faux-piety, mourning the loss with a putrid, saccharine dignity? An angry God full of enviable dominance? Or just a man, tired of games, desperate for release from the burthensome echo chamber of the puerile lemmings?

It was never about Carthage, Darling.

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