“Who is first amongst equals?” Socrates asked.
“I am!” stomped Earth. “Without me, there is no ground for arguments to stand on.”
“Boooo!!” howled Wind. “Did you lift that bit from Water? Or did you get mud in your ears?”
“Stop blowing smoke!!!” roared Water. “No, I mean… stop with the nonsense.”
“Hahahaha” cracked Fire. “Water, I thought you’d be the most fluid. Never knew you’d rather be air-dried cough cough 😊”
Socrates rolled his eyes and sighed “I’m appointing Aether as first. Rest of you… get a planet.”
“What hubris!” the four exclaimed.
The fountain of knowledge spewed forgotten secrets and lost understandings. If a boy drank its waters, he would gain the wisdom of old men. If an old man drank its waters, he would regain the alacrity of his youth. A fool once took a sip of its waters. The fountain was never to be found again.
In a proto-marketplace, the four elements debated over the future currency.
“Fire releases energy in all things. We should all trade in units of heat exchanged”, exclaimed Fire in a heated voice.
Water, who held a prior grudge against fire responded, “Nonsense! All you do with that energy is feed yourself. Try turning that into work for a change.”
“I’d like to see how Water, who always takes the path of least resistance, gets any real work done”, retorted Fire, who started to fume.
Earth, with its grounded voice then spoke, “Now now gentlemen. No need to blow hot steam. We all know that currency should neither dissipate nor sit idly. It must be parceled into measurable pieces and conveniently distributed. Air can do my deliveries.”
Air who overheard her name chimed in, “I would if Earth didn’t flake at the slightest wind of uncertainty. Besides, why should there even be a currency. Can’t we all just share that which is plainly around us all?”
The three other elements groaned in unison and the debate continued until a man showed up. Eyeing each element, he took a handful of Earth and washed away the dirt with Water to leave behind some ore. Placing the ores into Fire, the pieces smelted, leaving behind precious metals. The metals were then molded into discs and engraved with a signature as they slowly cooled in open Air. Thus, coinage was borne.
Water! I’ll give you anything in my land for a sip of water cried the thirsty King who was at his wit’s end. The desert merchant, pitying the king’s predicament, gave him his water pouch free of charge. Heading West, the King encounters a beggar dying of thirst. My King! Spare me a sip of your water and I will guide you out of the desert. Nonsense! Retorted the King. My kingdom is just over the other side of that canyon… Traveling between the high ridges, a flash-flood sweeps through the valley and the King drowns.
Grey. The fury of a winter’s storm stifles every movement forward. I hardly see the ground some two paces from where I stand, enduring the mountain’s wrath. Yet, I still sense my companion a few meters in front radiating with a burning passion that casts all doubts aside. He was going to scale the mountain with or without help.
Red. Blood boils in defiance of death. Such was the color and mood of the sky when I reached the summit the next evening. I found his frozen body, stiff like the mountain, yet unyielding to its will. His was not alone for many others just like him also stood, encased in icy opposition against fate. Their spirits continue to fight, torching the clouds and staving off night. Blood burns the brightest when drawn to Death’s peak I thought.
Heaven falls. The spirals of new Babel that pierce the God’s realm began to buckle. My companion and I race down the tower, rappelling off the million-step coil that strangled the tower. Above us, the descending storm eviscerated man’s creation but not his hubris. The way forward was barred but not lost. Let us build Paradise on Earth to match the heavens then.
Hell rises. A wave of sand chokes new Atlantis, the city of the Sea. Now desert nomads, we huddle in sand pits as dust storms rage amidst the ocean’s carcass. Electrolyzing the sea-water was certainly a mistake after the atmospheric breach. A price we must all pay when we toyed with climate controllers. Is it man’s nature to transgress its bounds my companion mused? When man believes itself God, who is left to check him I replied?
Upstream. A young woman saunters down the banks of the river Lethe, distraught over her lover who drank from its waters and lost his memories. Torn between severing her own memories, she leans over to the water’s edge and casts her reflection on the amnesic currents. Despair prevails and she throws herself into oblivion.
Downstream. A young man saunters up the banks of the river Lethe, disoriented from having imbibed its waters. He witnesses a young woman struggling against the river’s currents, desperate to remain afloat. Out of instinct, he dives into the watery rapids and rescues her.
Parts 1, 2, 3