By Madison DeLellis (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)
The piles of destruction say it all. Through that rickety, dull door, vacant homes, broken-down cars, and ashes that were left of the crumbling buildings remain. Broken glass and empty promises scatter on the ground. The shards serve as a constant reminder of what once was.
There was a time when the sky was brighter. The leaves were greener. Laughter filled the air. There was a time when there was love. Connection. Eventually, everyone was accepted as a whole, no matter their size or gender or color. It did not matter if they desired men or women, or both. The structures they lived in were not just houses, but homes.
The people before us were educated and worked hard. Thousands of books and journals were found, recorded in a variety of languages and forms. The people were able to tell stories and learn from these printed words. The literature and poetry that filled the pages were shared as an emotional art.
They had different kinds of jobs, involving skills that individuals possessed on their own. Some wrote, and some criticized. Some acted, and others directed. Some sold, and some bought. Others were lawyers, doctors, construction workers, advertisers, or politicians. It was an arranged bouquet of careers.
Two days from their seven day week were for relaxation and entertainment. Electrifying live music made teenagers feel alive. Amusement parks and coloring books drew the attention of the children. They went to the movies, shopped, attended theater, and gathered to watch sports games. Everyone had something they loved, a passion that ran throughout the blood of every being.
Some people chose other ways to occupy their time. In the decaying city streets, syringes and burnt metal spoons were found. Crushed beer cans and liquor bottles piled in all areas of the site. Nicotine stained their teeth and fingers yellow. That was just the beginning of their downfall.
War corrupted the lives of many. Atomic bombs hurled from the sky, with explosions prompting inevitable death. Empty gun shells populated every country for the sake of their flag. Rifles and other deadly machinery were practically still smoking from the pain they caused. Crime fueled their world. Children were ripped from their mothers’ arms. Possessions were stolen. Rape and murder were a constant worry of every citizen. People sold lethal drugs, neverminding the impact if it meant receiving that green paper.
Oh, how that green paper dictated their lives. They never traveled anywhere without it. They suffered through blood, sweat, and tears to get it. They needed it to support their families and to waste on power-hungry industries that plowed nature to fill the fresh air with smoke. Animals and vast mountains perished from the previously thriving natural world. Now, the green paper flutters meaninglessly in the air.
Tiny, rectangular devices are attached to the hip of every corpse. Within them was the key to the species’s ruin. Millions of pieces of that green paper were spent on the electronics, and in just a matter of years, the circuits and wires dominated every last one of them. There was a sense of escaping from reality when the touchscreen glowed in their faces. The society refused to long for connection and unity, or ground-breaking novels, or concerts, or the very essence of what made life beautiful. Their sole purpose became the satisfaction of watching the number below their posts increase. Numbers were the reason they awoke every morning.
There is no singular concept that destroyed all of humanity. Perhaps it was the disastrous combination of war, crime, drugs, and selfishness. Perhaps the deterioration of nature and rise of social media was the convict. But we would never know; we only know the aftermath. The rotting people carpeted the planet, once living with a soul, once full of love and peace. As we walk back through the door, we return to reality, promising to learn from the dreadful past and downfall of the residents before.