The Wake

(Having attended yet another ‘visitation’, an American version of a funeral wake, the following came to mind.)

Tang Li, Director of the Academy of Ancient Empires To the Demes of Ch‘n,

Life and Health! Citizens! Our initial survey of the Great Dead Land is complete. At great expense and sacrifice we have examined artifacts and topography to reach useful conclusions. This is a Summary Report. The full report with pictorial disks is available to any citizen at request.

1. Our first conclusion is one of joy. The scholar Dong Luc, of the Demes of N’m, long ago exhausted himself searching for remnants and collecting small fragments of music originating from the Great Dead Land. At the end of his illustrious life, he concluded that this land had not always been dry and dead, but likely rich in natural and human resources. Indeed he postulated that more than one empire may have risen and fallen in this ancient land. While his contemporaries scoffed, we salute him!  His predictions have been proved true. We found burial sites of more than one era, more than a single empire. We base our conclusions on the Last Empire, but many among us in the Academy suspect that earlier empires here shared similarities.

2. The Last Empire was a culture of death. Vast sums of credits must have been expended to entomb the dead. The dead were chemically preserved, much as in more ancient Egypt. They were richly dressed and encased in containers of precious metal. Vast stretches of once apparently arable land seem to have been appropriated for housing the dead. Generation upon generation was buried in these stretches, called ‘cemeteries‘ in their still not quite understood complex and incomprehensible language.

3. From the signs and grave inscriptions as well as symbols entombed with the dead, we conclude that these people worshipped a) a crucified beggar, b) a winged hermaphrodite, c) a warrior. We continue frankly to debate this matter among ourselves, Citizens, as some would hold that all three such were worshipped simultaneously and some hold that the honored god was selected by the dead. In this irrational matter certainty escapes us.

4. The people of the Last Empire of the Dead Land built huge nests. These were constructed of metal, glass, stone and materials made from a carbon based substance they called Petrol Eum. These nests were likely barely habitable at the best of times, lacking all the natural amenities we take for granted. Structures were built close upon one another, often it seems with multiple stories as in children’s blocks.  Few if any open spaces, no running streams of water, no obvious spaces devoted to raising their own food, no place for children, no quiet retreats for the elderly. Their sick and injured they apparently warehoused as disposable. Such nests surely consumed the resources of outlying areas and then widened the areas of their consumption simply to survive. (See pictorial disk 4-zed for descriptions of what we take to have been aqueduct structures to bring water from great distances rather than simply moving people to the water.)The demise and eventual collapse of such nests was surely predictable. (One small example will serve to illustrate the impossibility of such nests. Rather than natural water flowing freely through their nests for drinking and sewage, the people of these nests consumed potable water and other liquids in disposable bottles!)

5. The people were not simply death oriented, crowded into untenable and unmanageable nests, but they also were status mad. Aside from the obviously massive credits they threw at their dead, they also seemed to accumulate large, wheeled vehicles, the sole or primary purpose of which was status. Ram To, the eminent scholar of the Demes of Br’z’l argues that such vehicles must also have been means of transportation as they were wheeled and contained some artifice for propulsion. Unfortunately, this is a moot point, as 10,000 years of wind and frost have obliterated any evidence of a system of roads or paths for transporting anything. Ram To persists in his argument. Har Ri of the Demes of N’Z’l’d postulates that these great status symbols were acquired as well for their mana, their ability to project power as well as status. His hypothesis rests on infrequent finds of symbols attached to these vehicles. The three symbols on which he places most emphasis are ‘MERIC’N,’ ‘F150’, and ‘JE’P’.  While there is yet no consensus, Har Ri’s logical conclusion merits further consideration.

6. We uncovered several great middens which revealed their contents to an amazed group of academicians. (See pictorial disks 7, 8 and 9 complete.) It seems clear that products from all over the known world found their way to the Last Empire, and that these products were held in such contempt that they were considered disposable! That empire must have expanded and reached out to gather in more and more resources for itself, squandering them on a scale unknowable to us.

7. We agree with the General Assemblies of Demes that the Great Dead Land is toxic and should remain exempt from human settlement. Indeed it is impossible to imagine human settlement there now. Ancient river beds are dry.  Great lakes are sand and rock and salt. Mineral resources are nonexistent. The brave scavengers who seek metal are deluded, as little remains after these thousands of years. And what use have we for large broken slabs of concrete? The last people of the Last Empire consumed their resources and then themselves. We believe, admittedly on scanty evidence, that as their food and water resources dwindled, they must surely have turned to cannibalism as they sought to enrich their dead and accumulate status among the survivors. Such a people has nothing of value to teach us, having left us nothing of value.

To the Citizens of the Demes of Ch’n. Life and Health!Tang Li

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