The stone-cut sky rests on shoulders of geometric stone.
You never truly realize what anthropic means until you are standing on a flat square of marble at the bottom of a man-made hole, a wound etched on the mountainside by talons of steel and diamond thread.
The only diamonds left here are those glistening in the soft cover of snow. The few rays of sunlight that manage to peer through the upper shoulder of the cliff play with the white coat, making it sparkle.
I let out a breath and for once it comes out as a cloud.
I hold a deep love for snow. It is in moments like these that I feel how precious this love is becoming, year after year, decade after decade.
The abandoned quarry doesn’t seem like the best place where you can express love of any kind, though. The sheer walls of rock show the graffitiand stains of a hundred hands. On one of the largest walls, huge geometric letters make up the word Poetry? with the question mark dominating over the entire word.
This is a grave, one carved out of stone flesh, and it had been depredated of its treasures, any deep vein of marble now gone. Or no more economic to extract, whichever is worse.
And yet, with the rusted remnants of bolts and iron wheels stuck out of the walls and floor like perennial flowers, the forced echo rattling inside this man-made room, with the open sky as its only roof, there is a kind of wounded beauty here, the same fascination that comes from looking back onto your own sins and reflecting on them.
A habit, or perhaps your tongue sliding over the aching tooth, to check if it is still sensitive.
As I walk down towards this place’s best-kept secret, I find that tongue prodding right where the illness rests.
The Muse, on the other end, is beyond such petty worries. She rests on the leftover blocks cut from the meat of the mountain decades before. Ice cover nary every surface, so she has donned a white coat and soft fur hat that makes her dark skin stand out even more against the greys and white of the surrounding, while her blue eyes peer at the frozen surface of the square pond.
“I knew I would find you here,” I chuckle, sitting on a nearby block.
It is peaceful. A pause. In a sombre way.
“It’s a signature.”
I pick up a flat stone from the ground. It’s not easy to do so because it’s caught in the off-white grime that’s a mixture of soil and powdered marble. It’s toxic to anything more complex than an amoeba, and it is no wonder that right beneath the frozen surface of the pond I can only see green algae looking back. They spread in the anoxic water like an illness or a remembrance, and they cover each surface in their embrace.
This is stillborn water.
The entire place is venomous. The ground, the water; and I am not confident about air, either. I am still not sure, but some of the buildings still resting on the quarry’s backyard might sport some nice covers of tattered asbestos, the kind you do not easily forget.
On top of everything, the freezing temperature stings against my face, it prods beneath my coat and tries to get a hold of my bloodstream, turning it into crimson crystals for its own amusement. Winter is hostile, and it cares not for my love.
I go back to look at the stone I picked up. Quite light and flat. You can still see the sharp edges from where it was first cut.
Not even the smallest stones can forget the thread that cut them.
“Listen to this,” I say looking at the Muse, who quirks an inky eyebrow. Smirking, I throw the stone over the frozen pond. It crosses it over, making a sound that’s just like violin strings wobbling together. It’s both sharp in its higher notes and gurgling in its lowest tones. The echoes are eerie and ghostly, fading and wavering, caught in the labyrinth of the sheer stone walls.
It’s something you can only find here, in this abandoned quarry, excavated out of sheer rock by diamond threads that left mirror-like walls and a square pond that’s a cradle for toxic plants. Water puts on its coat of black ice and the echoes shiver in the frozen air, for a few days out of the entire year.
The Muse’s lips curl in a smile.
I like it. It is new, and it wasn’t there before.
“I knew you would have loved it.”
But she doesn’t reply. She turns her face the other way to hide it.
I think I’m starting to figure her out, after almost twelve months of following her words every day.
Or perhaps it is a new delusion, but I suppose I will find out either way.
I leave her sitting on the rock and I walk down to the frozen shore. Sheets of ice crawl over each other, forming still waves that crease all over the surface of the pond. I have seen them disappear when the temperature goes down quicker, as the ice does not have time to form and melt again, but it had been like this for a few days, and you can count the days of freezing like the rings in a cut tree.
I set my foot over the creaking ice and with a groan it stains cracks all over its surface.
A little more pressure.
The ice pops, echoing its demise like a cloudless thunder.
The echoes rattle against the walls and disappear in the open sky.
I have done my due this year as well.
I turn to look at the Muse and our eyes meet.
And in this toxic, man-made grave of forced beauty, I feel like I can understand her a little better.
“Here’s to a new year of partnership,” I shout, picking up a piece of ice and sliding it across the pond.
It shatters in dozen fragments, all of them skidding over the pond, all of them wailing their ghostly notes.
The Muse claps her gloved hands against each other, delighted.
I have seldom seen her so excited before, and I like to think it’s not just because of the place I showed her.
Poisonous and irresistible. She’s right at home here.
As for me, I think pulling up my scarf, I’m going to wear a facemask next time.
Author’s notes: I took a day off and went hiking. On my way, I passed by an abandoned quarry that’s one of my favorite places, and of course I found the Muse already there.
Thanks for listening.