Friday, July 16, 2010

Ozymandias (Based on the Sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley)

My sand cruiser settled down at a port in a tiny oasis. There was nothing there but a little pub and gas station for desert travelers. I hated the desert. I thought its mystifying beauty would be enough to continue with my quest to find the Lost Oasis. It was a sunken city that was once the cradle of civilization. Now it was hidden under the hot sun and brutally coarse sand. I found sand in every crack and crevice of my body, my clothes, and even my books. Why did I think being a desert treasure hunter was a good idea? I know why, Lara Croft. I played the video game from when I was eleven until I was fifteen. She was hot! And she was adventurous going to extreme places like Egypt and Siberia. I thought if I did that too I would meet a woman like her. The only problem is that I'm not all that extreme. I hate heat. I hate cold. I hate doing much of anything, to be honest. But I like looking for lost things in order to find hot women like Lara Croft. Too bad I only meet other stinky men.

I walked into the desert bar while my guide topped the tank of our desert hover craft. He didn't speak any English and conversing with him was always perfectly ridiculous. I would raise my voice and gesture a lot with my hands saying things such as, “” While saying this I would gesture first at the hover craft, then to myself, then to the map. I had gathered that his name was Akbar and he had four sons, but most of our traveling was spent in uncomfortable silence. Uncomfortable mostly because of the heat and sand flying in our faces. I used to think aviator goggles were wicked, but now they leave imprints on my face that don't come off for hours.

The bar was more of a shack than anything back in London. It had a tiny fan, some dirty tables, and only a handful of patrons. I went up to the owner and gestured for water, but he gave me a bottle of whisky. I was so thirsty I didn't care. I took my whisky and a dirty shot glass to an empty table and poured myself a stiff drink. I had only sat there for a few minutes when a man in a full black dress came and sat opposite me. He was so covered in fabric, I could only make out two small, beady, black eyes. The stranger spoke in a strange accent I had never heard before, “Are you looking for the Lost Oasis?” He asked.

“Yes, as a matter of fact. How did you know?”

“Foreigners always stop here on their desperate search for the city. Most never make it back to this tavern, and those who do, are the worst for it. The desert is harsh and the way is hard, if you can even find the way. Most voyagers do not know even where to look.”

“Ahhh, but I have a map, you see.” I said proudly, puffing my chest.

The stranger shook is head, “No, no, no. Maps do not work out here. The desert does not carry a map. The sands are always shifting and turning. Borders are broken by the desert. The only way to find the Oasis is by the stars.”

Defeated, I asked hopefully, “Can you help me get there?”

The stranger nodded and leaned in close to me. I could smell the hookah on his clothes and wondered how he put the pipe under all the fabric. He began, “Follow the hunter until he meets with the dog.”

I knew he was speaking of Orion and Sirius.

The stranger continued, “In the desert there are two vast stones that stand without legs. Near them, in the heart of the desert stands the bust of a statue of the forgotten king. He stands staring out at the desert with a sneer and cold lifeless eyes. Under the head is the sculpter's words; he was the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. This is where you will find what you seek.”

Without another word the stranger got up and left. I sat at the table mulling over his words while I drank my bitter whisky. I would travel as soon as the stars came out.

I begged Akbar to drive me, even though he didn't trust the desert at night. The sands were too unpredictable and out of nowhere a dust-devil could appear. Finally, he relented when he saw how clear the sky was. A cresent moon shone over the desert making it an eerie blue color. We traveled in the direction of Orion's arrow until we saw the dog star. The way was hard, but I was persistant. There I did indeed see two large blocks of stone that seemed to extend far below the line of sand. I walked out into the middle of the desert where the stranger had told me and saw a large face that had been eroded by the sand and wind. This face was one of the harshest faces I had ever seen. His downturned mouth reminded me of how my grandfather looked when I would disappoint him. It was a powerful, selfish look that made the observer wonder exactly how much power he held.

After examining the head for a long period of time, I noticed a plack under the head that had the words of the sculpter, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings; Look on my works, ye Mighty, and dispair!”

I looked around the statue and the two stones, however, I could find nothing but sand. Sand that extended into the earth and out onto the horizon forever. This king was once the most powerful ruler the world had ever seen, but he was forgotten. His name had disappeared in the sand along with his city. Nothing remained of his legacy but a decayed sneer in a barren wasteland.

I realized then that there was nothing for me to find in the desert or in another extreme place like Siberia. I belonged in London, where the city was whole and not buried under a mountain of boundless loss. I ran back to Akbar and we sped across the desert, following the stars back to the oasis where we only stopped for gas and to see if the stranger was there. He was not.

I flew into Heathrow a few days later, still pouring sand out of my luggage. When my taxi arrived in the city, however, I saw only the same desolation I had seen in the desert. All around me were people and monuments that would be buried in history. Our powerful empire was no different than Ozymandias's. Buckingham palace would vanish, as would St. Paul's Cathedral, and Big Ben. All that would be left of our legacy would be a few coins with Elizabeth the Seconds face that say “God Save the Queen.”

God save us all.


  1. Hey! I reeeeeally like this one! Very powerful, esp. at the end. Nice descriptions, and the mysterious directions were awesomely cryptic! I like this one the best so far!