Sliver of Eternity

      I placed my arms onto the warm sphere, feeling the rays of setting sun slowly warming my bare skin. To my left and right, many more identical rocky balls lined the edge of the plaza, forming a perfect circle. The laughs of my friends resounded from behind me, as they partook in an activity that only faintly reached my ears. Just a moment ago I was laughing and playing along with them, but it felt like the atmosphere had changed, though I couldn’t exactly place why. There wasn’t anything in particular that drew me to that plaza. But my body had moved before my mind had figured out a reason, and I found myself using up my precious free time to lie on a warm ball of rock. I didn’t mind it, for some reason.

       Spreading my body out above the surface of the sphere, my eyes naturally drifted towards the only thing in my direct line of sight: the brown walls of a circular structure. A Tulou, or “earthen building”. The surface of the building was a pleasant brown color, and with its smooth edges that lacked even a single vertice, once I looked up at it once I couldn’t bring myself to look away. Simple yet solid-looking, the blackened ceramic lining the roof cast a dark shadow that reached just short of my sphere, allowing me to bask in the orange rays for a little while longer.

      Even though it stood in its rightful place, rural China, the ancient building still seemed a little out of place, especially as it was juxtaposed against the more modern features of the little park behind me. I had passed this particular Tulou once before, on our initial walk here, and I noticed at that time that it had been renovated into a museum of sorts. But I was facing away from the state-of-the-art architecture of the park, and the entrance of the museum, with its vivid yellow-and-red banners advertising its attractions and fees, was angled in a way that I couldn’t see it from where I lay. The whole plaza was eerily quiet and gave off a strange feeling, something that made me feel like I was completely alone. From my view, perched upon that warm rocky sphere, it felt like I was standing within a fragment of the past.

       No, not the past, I realized. It more closely resembled the future, a future where all of human civilization had waxed and waned many thousands of years ago. An eternity had passed by, where this building was the only human structure to stand the test of time, and I was the sole observer. The great Human Empire had long since faded away into obscurity, and the worn dirt walls of this Tulou would be my Coliseum.

       In an unconscious movement, my leg brushed against my backpack that I had set onto the ground, and I heard liquid faintly splash and it swirled around in a plastic container. Bottled green tea, tinged with honey, bought from a kind old man in a sunhat for five Chinese dollars. This thought temporarily detached me from my illusion of eternity, and I shook my head, squeezing my eyes tightly shut. I didn’t want to leave, not yet.

       When I opened my eyes once more, I was granted a view of comforting scenery: rugged dark mountains, wispy white clouds, a blue sky gradually shifting to orange; all laid out like a watercolor painting behind the foreground of the Tulou. Easing back into my illusion, I relaxed my tensed muscles, sliding back down the surface of the rock in satisfaction.

      In the back of my mind, I knew it was futile. The trip supervisors had only given us ten minutes of free time before we would trek back to our motel, and they may have already started calling my name. I knew I was just clinging on to a delusion, one that wouldn’t last. But, just for a second, I wanted to believe. Believe that I wouldn’t hear those voices calling out for me a second time, that once I looked back behind me I wouldn’t see a park but a weathered dirt plain instead, that the sun was setting on a world where an eternity has truly passed.

      Because, otherwise… I would be forced to face reality. This school trip, an oasis of enjoyment that I could share with my closest friends, would have to come to an end. I would have to return to my normal, everyday life. A world of worksheets, classes and homework, where I would have to go through the same mechanical routines over and over again, day in and day out. I had just gained my respite through this trip, and it was already going to end?

      But, no. If I could just capture this moment, this beautiful scene where I basked in the warmth of the sunset, and make it last forever, I wouldn’t have to worry about any of that. None of that would matter in a world where an incalculable number of years had passed, in my very own second of infinity. Just me, the warm rock, the sunset, and the Tulou. At that moment, that was what I truly believed. That this scene would never end, that I would be able to stay like this forever. And there was nothing to convince me otherwise. From what I could see from my rock, that was the truth.

       Then one of the advisors called my name again, this time a little louder, and my thin veil of eternity was shattered for good, in the same fashion that a soapy bubble bursts.

       “Coming!” Pushing myself off the grey sphere, I turned away from the Tulou and began heading towards my friends in the distance, taking a quick sip of lukewarm green tea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *