Bare boughs

Sometimes it’s nice to write something which has absolutely nothing behind it… though it looks like it should have. (Er, wait: I have done this before!)

* * *

This is what Herodotus said of the places where Atlantis survives. This is what he said; but into his book he put this not, for he was afraid.

In east, beyond Bactria, rise mountains, maybe the greatest and most terrible mountains in all of the world, too high for gods to climb, too high for men to breathe on; and within these mountains live worms that remember Atlantis. The oldest of them, it is said, dwelt there once, and saw it sink.

Beyond icy seas beyond the Gates of Heracles there is an island where summer never comes, a place that fish as big as islands guard, a place where bears and other beasts are invisible, and constantly ravenous for human flesh; there Atlantean warriors sleep. It is said they sleep, for they saw something which no man can see, and sanely stay awake; some say that was the fall of Atlantis.

In the deserts beyond Egypt, beyond Babylon, in the endless empty sands out of which no camel nor nomad comes, there is a tomb where mute guards watch over an embalmed Atlantean general, undone not by arms, but by love. It is said those mute guards wait, but their wait shall not end, not unless Atlantis rises again.

Beyond the Axeinian Sea, and beyond the Scythian steppe and the lands of the wild Amazons, there is a land where the sun never rises, and where forests of bare boughs wave and whisper, alive for there is no man nor woman nor child there to live, so the trees must: and it is said that beyond that land is a village where sunken-eyed, milk-skinned and red-handed live the last men of Atlantis; but this is a rumor.

This say I, Alchemedes, in commentary to what Feydantes the Egyptian thus recorded of the daily speech of Herodotus: Firstly, what Feydantes so records is a lie in attribution, for it is well known that at the time of Herodotus there still were heirs of Atlantis much closer, and in the days of the Historian’s life even Athens was besieged by them; and it is discourteous of the Egyptian to assume we Atticans would forget, or so confuse our names that we would not remember the dark cities of Atla Thebes, one in Boeotia, the other in Egypt, that the exiles of Atlantis founded, thereby seeding much grief. What Feydantes records may be true, but his attribution is lazy and lackadaisical, no doubt seeking to elevate his rumors by ascribing them to the highest authority he knew.

Now in the time when I write of the greater shadow of Atlantis only these lesser shadows the Egyptian recorded remain, if even they still do; for the main part of the shadow of Atlantis after Atlantis was banished by the dawning of Alexander. That immortal Macedonian wished his empire to be a second Atlantis, peerless in might, and thus persecuted the remainders of the first; and when he was struck down by the Sea-People’s poison, he had destroyed that remnant which had weathered the wreck of Atlantis and the dark Arcadian wars; and Atlantis was no more.

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