Sunset Sands

A short-story inspired¬† by the song “ZBIGNIEW PREISNER Song for the unification of Europe”, suggested by S N Grid.

The slow fall of the sun has bathed the marble stones of our citadel in for a century, but it is coming to an end. Its shining walls have lost their lustre. Shadows lengthen, stretching their fingers out from the deserts before us, and the winds stain our once-white polished arches with orange sand. Those of us who remain no longer question this is the final sunset we shall ever see.
Our markets stand deserted. Shutters shroud empty homes. Lone figures scuttle through alleys, fearful of the things that come from the desert, darker than the shadows. No hands tend the bridges, hold the great old towers from crumbling. The songs of prosperity and brighter things are no longer fill our halls. The great walls remain, but gone are the people who dreamed they would ever shine with the sun’s glory, and ever turn aside the dunes. The city is bathed in deeper orange day-by-day, and the murmers of its townsfolk grow still.
Through the silence a cry of trumpets and clash of cymbals rings out. The jewel in our crown, our arena, stands still, as do its sentinels. Rank upon rank of our soldiers line its tiers, their armour and spears shining still. They stand tall and proud as our general strides up stairs to the podium, and as his roar rings out over the serried ranks. With fire and fury he spurs them on, bidding them claim glory by blade and bloody spear. They will not lie down, nor fade and disappear. They will meet the desert, will charge on, cut bloody swathe through the nightmare shades. Charge on, chase down the setting sun, and claim a land still bathed in its radiance.
Cries of the men fill the still air with mighty thunder, and the tramping of their boots seems to shake the earth below. They march for the gates sparing not a contemptuous glance at the scum who stand aside, or who furtively cower in doorways and alleys.
The great gates are thrown open and two columns march out to cross the arid sands. Straight and true they advance, throats ringing with the songs of war. There they march, the proudest, fiercest, finest folly of our final days.
I watch them go. From our highest tower still standing I watch the last men leave. The open gate bids welcome to the desert’s creatures, and I feel the wind slow, see our faded flag sink on its pole, its last stirrings of life departing. I hope the desert will not swallow them, but I cannot join them. I must stay, stay and remember the city and its people, the faces and bustle, the joys and long sorrow of our white jewel, before it is claimed by twilight and sand.