A Monument to the Memory
The hydrant sat just a few feet off the road. Its color cracked, the edges of the bolts rusted. Its tall, reflective marker—once proudly upright—now lay limply on the ground, the spring withered, gone of passion and virility. The paint flaked off revealing deeper layers of the same, cracks and rust over dirt and corrosion. Twisting open the tap would grind off the corners of the bolt before any water came out making it now but a landmark. The last remaining artifact of what once was. Behind the hydrant was a vast desert of prairie grass. The faint outline of a cement foundation sat two hundred feet from the road, though, like the rest, would soon be covered completely as the wind swept the dirt into new formations. If not for the hydrant, this land would be lost to time as nothingness. A great vast nothingness.
The road was straight. A single line from horizon to horizon, east to west. In the distant north, the peaks of mountains broke from the earth and tainted the perfect line of sky. Everywhere else, it was unbroken, flat, two dimensional. Miles and miles to either end of the road sat towns where streams and rivers kept life alive. Here, mankind would only be a nuisance to the land's unrelenting attempt at barrenness. And so it was. The fire hydrant stood defiantly. It knew its purpose, the greatness to which it was once bestowed. Though, now, reduced to a bit of humbled iron, it refuses to succumb. Dispersed around all the rot, specks of a muddled gray poked through. The original shell. Its suit of armor from the factory line, finally taking breath after all these years.
Long ago, when the hydrant was bolted into place and the piping below snaked down into the underground river and off into a reserve tank, it was a pivotal addition to the town. A town which only existed because someone happened to tap water while looking for oil. The drills once scattered the land, though to retrieve the barrels was a long trek from the nearest town. At the discovery of water, the barons set up shop on the newly viable real estate. A smattering of homes and warehouses and finally a small town to suck the land of oil and water and anything else it could find. Wooden frames were thrown up quickly to lay claim to the land above the river.
Then, it all collapsed. With the weight of the new infrastructure, the ground gave way. The hollow earth through which the river ran filled quickly with rocks and debris leaving the town to dry out. New wells would have to be dug further up the stream though the process was tedious and the people were without water. The tap on the hydrant was opened in a spark of inspiration and a rationing of bottles and tubs were filled from the reserve tank while the new wells were dug and the town was rebuilt. The people lined up at the firehouse to receive their eucharist.
The night of July 14th sealed their fate. A spark caught the fumes, turning a drill into a volcano, spewing flames up into the sky and back down on the warehouses filled with barrels of oil. Within the hour, the town was on fire. The greed of haste left the wooden homes to burn in unison. Firemen scrambled to the hydrant, pumping desperately, though the few gallons left in the reserve were mocked by the inferno. Those who could, fled. Hours went by, the blaze taking its last licks of bush and charcoal.
Within the year, the drills were dismantled and sold for parts, the ash blown away, and the land began its reclaiming of whatever was left. Only the hydrant was left. A monument to the memory.