Somewhere in the city a faceless clock acknowledges the passing of another minute, and machinery whirls into motion with a speed that is unburdened by the many decades spent abandoned in the dark, cold environment it calls home. It is lonely here. The last beating heart to pass through these walls did so over a century ago. Here the silence is that of the absence of life, the silence of stale air and a dead atmosphere. Like years of sedimentary buildup, hardening and forming layer upon layer, the quiet has become so thick and overbearing that even if it were to be disturbed now the feeling would remain.
The only noises are those of the machines, and while they are loud and harsh they do nothing to break the mood, for they are lifeless and hollow. Their purpose is one of extreme importance, the magnitude of their significance rivalled only by the complexity of their systems. The ones who created these machines are all dead now, have been buried and forgotten decades ago. Only their legacy remains, the legacy of their mechanical children. And what a legacy it is.
Data are exchanged, variables considered, calculations completed, triggering action in the other machines. On the eastern wall several hundred miles away, microscopic pixels are activated. Each one is so small that on their own they are virtually invisible to the naked eye, inconsequential and indistinguishable from the dark screen. But as more and more of the pixels are activated, their matching pigments bringing them together while their differences in shade and colour shape the masses and give it structure, the screen comes to life.
Thousands upon thousands of miles wide, this testament to something thought lost long ago stands before an empty city filled with empty people who are blind to the sheer significance of the marvel that screams down over them. Their eyes have been plucked out, have washed down deep beneath the earth where the artificial sunlight cannot penetrate through the cracks in the ground. They have been washed down to the sewers, where they feed the only things that live down there. The crows, the crows who flit between shadows and conceal themselves behind cloaks of oily feathers darker than the night itself. The crows, who believe that what they consume gives them a clarity. But what they do not realize is that they are victim to a different kind of blindness, one that stems from seeing the wrong thing rather than seeing nothing at all.
And high up above the filthy sewers where the crows converge, higher still than the blind who scamper from ruin to ruin searching for their next meal, higher than all the rest there are those who would claim the city for their own. They are searching for something, for the room where the faceless clock ticks.
But there will be time enough to speak of them. Look, now, the sun is rising. Crawling across the screen at a pace matching that of its original, a thousand weary heads turning towards it, feeling the warmth on their faces, their dark, empty eye sockets echoing with tears long spent. To them the sun is a symbol, a symbol of another night survived, another day ahead.
It does not bring relief.
Instead it brings a surge of exhaustion, a feeling of inevitability, a fearful longing for the end they try so hard to avoid, day after day, minute after minute, second after second. It is not a love of life that keeps these people going. It is sheer habit, one which they cannot shake no matter the consequences. It is the will of billions upon billions of years of evolution enforcing the necessity of survival, biological incentive which has never heard the old saying “quit while you’re ahead”, or its lesser-known yet in this case far more apt derivation, “quit before things get worse”. It is all of these things and more, but what drives the damned to carry on living far more than any other reason is exactly the opposite of a love of life. It is a fear of death.
Pixels change and adjust to mark the sun’s ascension, the progress it makes invisible until the moment you turn away, the moment you stop looking. Thousands of eye sockets, all basking in the sight of a thing they have never seen, will in all likelihood never see at all. All they have is this replica, a replica they will never know the authenticity of, never be able to appreciate.
As light floods the city and the dark things scamper back to the shadows, a different kind of evil pours out into the city streets. What, didn’t they ever tell you? There is no solace to find in the sunlight; only a blind faith, an illusion of safety that comes from our ability to see and the belief which we derive from this fact, a belief that nothing evil can harm us in the light. But this belief is wrong, as wrong as the things these day-walkers would do to you if ever they got the chance, and no amount of being able to see them as they come for you will save you from that. In fact, sometimes it’s the ones that walk in broad daylight that are the most dangerous. Because shame is often the last shred of humanity these creatures have left, and when that too succumbs to the evil inside, you had better make sure you’re tucked away somewhere nice and dark when that thing steps out into the light.