The Street of the Dead
Oh let the black birds kiss me!
The Street of the Dead / Unlocated
There is a place in the City where I always end up. I never mean to.
I will be wandering the streets and, when I realize I reached this place again, it is too late.
Sometimes there are hints. Things that make me wonder if I am there again. The dry yellow stones, the ancient robust wall. The sand, the dust of the quarry. And when I start asking myself if this is the place, if I once again ended up there, the answer is always yes.
Then comes the smell, as a final confirmation that my feet took me there again. The warm nauseating smell of flesh finishing to harden under the sun, sticking to the bones. The grease of the bodies, evaporating. The shrinking of tissues. The dead faces turning into masks, revealing teeth and tendons.
It is a single street, coming from another time. An old gate leads to it. Opened like a mouth into a place none alive should enter. The gate is a medieval structure, part of the massive wall separating the street from the rest of the city. Some rare silhouettes stand atop of it, under the sun, watching the occasional passerby. Immobile. I have never seen this place at night. Only under the oppressing sunshine and the bright blue sky.
The other edge of the street is bordered by an open-sky quarry. A maze dug in the ground. This is where the stones of the wall come from. Pale yellow sandy stones. And white bones. Clean skulls left all over, among the rocks that were never used. Empty chalices abandoned by the souls they once contained.
The street’s floor is paved with the same stones.
I always proceed. Not once did I turn around to avoid the place.
Each time I find myself at the gate, I know I must go through. Like there is a reason. Like I have to walk it, again.
I try not to breathe too much. The smell of rot and death is oppressing. I wonder how the adjacent neighborhoods can avoid the stench. Maybe the nose gets used to it. But I ended up here by so many different ways, by so many different paths, that I couldn’t identify the neighborhoods around. When I am here, the only beacon of a stable reality seems to be the street itself.
This is where the dead are left. Some of the dead. Not all of them.
Some have been here for centuries, and some have just arrived.
They are left in the quarry or on the beds of grass between the cobblestone and the wall. Left there to rot, to smell, to juice-off under the sun.
I try not to look at them as I walk toward the end of the street, far ahead of me. But I always do. The movement of the black birds picking at empty sockets attracts my eyes. Sometime it is the cries of a loved one who came here for a visit, holding a spongy corpse in their arms, rocking back and forth and staring at the sun in despair.
Nothing bad ever happens to me in this street. The City just seems to lead me here when she wants to. As a way to remind me that one day I will be lying in the fertile grass, under the burning sun. Before I am ancient, forgotten, and polished enough to be rolled down to the quarry, among the dry pale stones.
And I keep walking toward the end of the street.
There is a garden there, full of very tall grass and beds of many flowers, and bees, where kids play. And a small canal flows. So small I could jump over it to get on the other side.
A man on a wooden boat takes a donation to help me and the few wanderers cross the river. This donation is the price to get back to the City, to the normal life and the busy streets.
I always have a penny in my pocket for this specific purpose. To pay for the way back. And I find myself dreading the day I will walk the sunny street with my fingers searching my pockets for a coin I don’t have.