So for the last week, yes, an entire week, there has been a housefly in my truck. I’ve entertained the idea that it’s not the same one and maybe it isn’t but there isn’t a housefly DNA testing kit available right now so I just have to guess. I’ve opened my window to shoo him out and I’ve drove at seventy miles an hour with both windows open, but the critter keep reappearing at odd times as I’m going down the road. So today I named him. Icarus. Sooner or later, if he doesn’t accept my invite to depart the sun is going to cook him.
Of course, Icarus is a name that’s going to get me thinking about all sorts of things and all sorts of things have brought the name Icarus to me but something is bugging me, no pun intended. I think we’re older than we think. There’s a couple of digs in Turkey and there’s the way things in Peru were built, and there’s the Antikythera mechanism, and really, Microsoft, “Antikythera” is a word you should know, isn’t it? But doesn’t it just seem a little unlikely that we can trace back to the beginning of civilization, back in Babylon, Ur, Sumer, and Ugarit, and think we didn’t fail totally before those city/states were formed? I ask Icarus about this and he stops buzzing around long enough to sit for a spell, and listen.
Of course, there’s China and Southeast Asia to consider in all this, and a couple of continents here and there where humans happened to be at the same time. There’s Atlantis and the Sea People, and we may never know if they were one in the same or if Atlantis was always fictional. But it’s like having a small stone in a shoe. I can’t help but think this is actually Us VER 2.0, and whatever happened before, however long Before happens to be, was a bitch, and it was global. Icarus, I assume by his silence, agrees with my theory and I am encouraged by this.
Of course, global is a point of view. I have no idea how advanced anyone was Before, but I’m pretty sure there were some good starts, at least, in Asia Minor. Of course, the scientist in me says aloud, and that startles Icarus, “Where is your evidence?” and, of course, I have none. This is pure fiction but I like pure fiction.
Whatever was here Before, didn’t leave a surfeit of artifacts behind to guide us. But assured in our knowledge that we already know what the past looks like, would we be able to make that intellectual leap and realize that sitting in a pile of pottery was the story of how we can to almost be? Is there something out there we’ve assigned to this part of the past that belong deeper in the well? Icarus takes off and lands closer to me, captivated by my ability to destroy centuries of careful study with nothing more than a conversation with a flying insect.
But I’ve already formed a storyline. Before there was a civilization and it was populated by the people who would once define Turkey and Syria and Greece. But there was some event, naturally occurring, that crumbled buildings and scattered the people. They dug in, at first, but realized they had to go, and there were too few metal tools and no way to preserve the writings. Another couple of thousand years would pass before we would or even could try again, and by that time, spoken word legends and myths, and a few dwellings carved into solid rock, were all that were left of our cousins’ attempts at becoming us.
Icarus is delighted with the story. He sits and cocks his head to one side, and he asks what happened to the people, where did they go, and why. I have to think about this. Maybe, and I’m just talking to a housefly here, no offense, Icarus, (none taken, continue) Before happened to a certain region. We know that humans more or less came Out Of African, but suppose they settled in Asia Minor, but After they began to migrate? Or maybe some of them migrated before the event which is why we would have places like Angkor Wat way before anything happened in places much closer to Africa. But then again, what happened to that city? A million people could have lived there but no one knows how.
Icarus mildly suggests that I brush up on my archeology and I have to admit that I have more questions and ignorance than I do knowledge and answers. Maybe, I suggest aloud, fiction writers are merely failed scholars. Icarus nods in agreement.
Yet even today, in our most enlightened form yet, (that’s pretty good sarcasm, Icarus notes) we have religious zealots destroying artifacts from the past. Who is to say that some culture took what was left of Before and razed it to the ground or simply took the pieces away to build pig pens and goat fences, like some people in Egypt did with stones taken from the Pyramids? We have never been kind to the past for very long.
The earth Herself has never cared for the past either. The jungle devours civilizations much more quickly than we have built there. The sands of the deserts erode carved stone one grain of sand at a time and time is something the desert has as much of as sand. Anything built near the sea will be enveloped by it. Mountains shake and the plains quake. Rivers leave their banks and become tourists in places where humans have made a desperate stand for permanence. As forests are downed by our kind for homes those very homes are prone to fire and decay.
Icarus reminds me that he’s spent most of his life in my truck and a good portion of it speaking to me today. I open the windows once again but I cannot tell if he’s hiding in the back somewhere or if he’s finally free. I let the windows up and I know Icarus will not survive the sun.