This place used to be alive. I can feel it.
The walls of the cliffs ascend beyond sight,
and the shadows engulf me as I walk.
Overcome by foreboding, I move furtive
and quick, almost a darting nervous tic.
I stick unreasonably close to the cliff’s base,
as if I might fall if I strayed too far away.
Black, blank windows stare out from above.
A crumbling passageway penetrates the wall.
Many other feet have crossed this threshold;
the rough, stony lintel has been darkened
by their repeated passing, an accumulation
of grime, signs of bodies pressing, perhaps,
evidence of goings in and goings out, living,
being, doing business, eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage, as is said.
What became of these souls, silent now?
I pass inside, gingerly across the portal.
The legends say that, generations ago,
the ones who built within these towers,
who loved and bred and raised families,
simply vanished, ending their heathen ways.
I pass from room to room in the dim light.
Relics of daily life lie scattered on the floor.
Stories passed from mouth to halting mouth
speak of living sacrifices, superstitious minds
given to appeasing the supposed deities
who fashioned the surrounding ramparts
with lightning and thunderous renderings.
In obeisance they would approach the altar,
one by one on ebon night after ebon night,
and surrender—sacrifices entirely consumed.
Over the unnerving quiet, I imagine I hear
the voices of the gods rumbling in the vaults
above, speaking words I cannot understand.
I round a corner and stop cold in my tracks:
the myths rise before me in gray mound
of alien construction: dais, platform, levers,
dust-laden metals—the open maw of a shrine.
And on the central platter lies a fresh offering.
Oddly, it looks like peanut butter. I wonder…