The Old Gods

by Elyse Yost

This city is ruled by statues; ancient things that wander the streets and narrow avenues, lingering in the city squares at night. The sound of scraping stone can be heard echoing around corners even without their gray, glazed eyes within sight. They work alongside the looming cathedrals and form councils amongst themselves. When peaceful, their voices exist in a range too low to be heard by the modern human. When angered, their voices are the rare thunder that comes quickly in autumn. The unlucky ones, lost in battle, holy war, or oblivion, lie below the street. They reach their fingers up to the pavement, perhaps to be found and worshiped once more. On a cloudless summer day, the lucky may find themselves surrounded by thousands, gathered to grant their offerings. Travelers know these gods and cross land and water to see them. Meanwhile, the residents take on a silent form of worship. They construct their railways and roadways carefully, so as not to interfere with the statues and their homes. They share lunch with them and go about their day loving what is ancient.

Just over a month after I arrived in the city, I was on my way across town to catch dinner with friends. I had just gotten off the tram and decided to walk the rest of my way. Dusk was starting to fall over the bustling bodies and orange buildings, and this site was meant to be viewed from the street. In the center of the plaza, there was a pair of statues caught in battle. A pair of military men stood to the side, guns hung on straps on their shoulders. I was not quite sure whether they were trained to protect the gods from the people or the people from the gods. The passersby moved through the plaza, circling the pedestal in which the statues stood. As I looked closer, I saw the path altered by an old couple on the sidewalk. Below the statues, the two softly slow-danced to music coming from a nearby restaurant. The woman rested her aged hand on her husband’s shoulder and they swayed in the midst of the bustling pedestrians, seemingly moving in slow motion. I couldn’t help but slow my pace and stretch my head to watch them as I passed. I could imagine how the scene would have looked decades ago, even centuries. The lovers were painted so young in the shadow of the old gods.