From dailyprompt: ‘I will return to Shangri-La,’ with a side order of “elation and heartbreak.”
“I will return to Shangri-La.”
It is said that the last settler to leave the ruined alien city declared that as he left, staring back in defiance at the desolation that had destroyed so many of them. It became a war cry of sorts, Talbot’s Promise. Tal’s Cry. “I will return.” We will survive; we will rebuild.
They found places on the blasted planet that were, at the very least, less inhospitable, places where the ground itself did not try to destroy them, cities that had been abandoned for longer, or with less gruesome reminders, at least, than those in the city they had named Shangri-La. Nowhere did they find a place free of the hand of the former residents, but there were places more bearable.
A generation built, planted, harvested, married and bore and buried, saying to each other, with every elation and every heartbreak, that they would return to Shangri-La. They would get theirs back on the city that had so very nearly destroyed them. This place would do, for now. But they would return. They spoke of Talbot’s Promise – and plotted.
Their children made the alien settlement their own, reshaping the buildings to fit their bodies, working the earth until it gave up fruit that was both edible and palatable. They married and celebrated, mourned and moved on, and their numbers grew.
They explored, just a little out at first, and then further, learning as they did that, not only were they not the first sentient species on this planet, it was unlikely they were even the tenth or twentieth. Those who had studied the science their parents could remember postulated that the planet was the interstellar version of an island on a trade route (concepts learned from their parents as well, as this place had neither). Those who were merely poets suggested that it was a bear trap (the planet did, however, have something that could pass muster as a bear). Astronomy flourished, and the engineering that would be needed to build a return ship, should they ever manage the infrastructure.
They spoke of Talbot’s Promise, the children born here. They would return to Shangri-La. They would defeat the city that had killed nine-tenths of their number. They would win, and then they would leave this place. They spoke of Talbot’s Cry – and they built their own city taller.
Their children, in turn, grew up thinking of the spaceways as a fairy tale, and Shangri-La a long-forgotten place. They expanded, and grew, married and danced and gave birth, and stretched the land out further, learning more and more about those who had been here before. Xeno-archeology flourished, and botany, and crisis architecture, for the planet still had its share of ways to fight them.
They looked to the north, sometimes, where they had been told their grandparents came from, and thought of Talbot’s Cry as a sort of metaphor. “I will return to Shangri-La,” their poets said, told the story of mankind’s fall from grace, and their determination to succeed. They spoke of Talbot’s Myth, and they lived.
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