This has to be the worst day of my life. “Your great-grandfather wants you to go hiking with him,” Dad said. So now I’m following the old man on something of a walking torture, having to endure his rambling stories about “the world before.”
Yeah, I’ve heard the stories before, probably a million times. We all have. For as long as I can remember, Grandpa has been telling us about the environmental disaster and warning us, lest it happen again. I’m not sure I believe any of it.
Man, where does he get his energy? We’re tracking along something that barely qualifies as a game trail, and he hasn’t once stopped for a breather. The sun wasn’t even up when we left, and now it’s well on its way to setting. We even ate lunch while walking.
C’mon, Grandpa; slow down a little, will you? You’re gonna drop dead up here if you keep up this pace, and then everyone will think I killed you or something. As tempting as it is to shut you up by any means possible, I won’t go that far. You may be a crazy old geezer, but you’re still Dad’s grandfather.
Oh; here it comes. “Huge cities filled with people – all gone now.” The way he describes these places, they were almost too big to imagine, so why is there no trace of them now? I can’t picture that many people in the whole world, let alone all crowded together in one small area called a “city.” It doesn’t make sense, either, that they could have brought that kind of disaster on themselves. Our whole clan working together can’t manage to manipulate the weather for one nice day over another, let alone change the climate of the entire Earth.
“They wouldn’t listen,” he’s saying. “I tried to tell them how to save themselves, but they just thought I was a crazy old man.” Well, I guess that’s one thing that hasn’t changed from the world before, though if it was as long ago as he said, he should have been a crazy young man. Then again, I think Grandpa has always been old.
“Just a little farther, and you’ll see,” he says. See what, Grandpa? More mountain? Another meadow, or maybe a few million more trees? After the first thousand, they all look alike, you know.
He scrambles ahead, using his hiking staff and some rocks like a natural stairway, and disappears over the top of the slope. I hurry to catch up, mostly because I’m not sure I could find my way back if we get separated.
I make the crest and come out of the trees beside him, and stop. Grandpa may be crazy, but he’s led me to the biggest human construct I think I’ve ever seen. The wooden structure is immense, and I can think of only one way it could have gotten to this mountaintop. “Is that - ?” I ask.
“Come and see,” he tells me, and guides me towards it. I’m afraid; I’m not sure I want to get any closer to it, but he’s pushing me. He’s incredibly strong for such an old guy. I thought it was big from the distance, but the nearer we get, the larger it seems.
He takes me up beside it, and points to a door partway up the side. “See those marks? Those are scratch marks, where people clawed at the side trying to get in when it was too late.”
Standing here, I can hear their screams and cries and pleading. I would’ve been one of them, because I thought he was a crazy old man. This is what he’s talked about, all these years. It’s real. There really was a world before, and he’s been trying to improve the world after.
We walk around and ascend a large ramp. It’s old and dirty inside, but the floor is solid beneath our feet. “This is how we survived,” he says. “This is how everything alive today survived. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, Grandpa; I understand.”
“We’ll camp here tonight, and go back tomorrow. You need to warn those that come after us, so that this never happens again.”
“I will. I’ll make sure they know about you, Grandfather Noah.” I can see it now. Someday, I’m going to be the crazy old man, but it’s okay.
There really was a world before, and God ended it.
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