After the Color’s Gone
He made his decision after the last park in the waterfront was razed. The final grove of trees was ripped out at the roots, the last acres of grass torn up, the last final green patch for miles around finally consumed by the implacable industrial development. By the end of the day the foundation for the building scheduled to replace it had already been poured.
He’d never thought much about the park before. It was an alien thing, an unknowable quantity in a world otherwise composed of concrete and steel. And yet the moment it was done, he was overcome with such a profound sense of loss that he wept, right there in the control cab of the great mechanized crane.
He wondered if this was how the perpetrators of genocide felt, afterwards.
Already the mountains to the east were being hewn up for the minerals contained within, the southern deserts melted for glass, the great ice floes to the north tapped for water and coolant. Even the oceans were being industrialized, plans drawn up for aquatic tenements and factories.
This was no way for human beings to exist, he thought, again and again. They needed green, growing things, not endless expanding city sprawls.
The world he’d help make, diligently but thoughtlessly, was one humans should not live in, and for his deeds he could live in it no longer.
The morning of, he went about his day like usual. He put in a full shift on the crane, lifting and hauling great bundles of steel rods for this construction or that one. He maintained the gruff, easy camaraderie with his coworkers, letting no one know what he had planned.
Towards the end of his shift he raised the crane to its highest elevation, then stepped out of the cab, walking along the great raised arm carefully, clinging to the support struts. It would not do to be careless now, to slip and fall when he didn’t mean to. He’d angled the crane out over the harbor, slung over the deepest shipping channels. He had no desire to obligate anyone to deal with the ruined mess of his pulped body. Better the current just swept him away.
The crosswinds were fierce, and the going difficult. It was only when he reached the farthest extremity that he raised his head up, looking to get one last view of the world before he left it.
It was dusk, the sun just beginning to set.
If he’d ever simply watched the sunset before, the memory escaped him. His entire life had been strictly terrestrial, surrounded by the perpetual city, eyes raised only to take in whatever new edifice had sprung into being, or whichever ruin need to be demolished and replaced.
It was like a lit match touched to a sheet of paper, the entire horizon burning in layered hues of crimson and cerulean. The great glowing wash of color filled the horizon and beyond, dwarfing the metropolis below. The hulking steel vessels plying the harbor below looked like children’s toys.
He wanted to see more.
Maybe I’ll wait here for a while, he thought, and see how I feel when it’s over.