This week, I entered a competition to win a place at this year’s Iceland Writer’s Retreat. The task was to write something less than 500 words based on this image of the Harpa concert hall and conference centre in Reykjavik:
Of course, I didn’t win, but things like this are a good reminder to create every now and again. Anyway, here’s my entry.
Blink, blink, blink. The lights winked out in every major city of the world. ‘Knowledge is power’ they used to say, but he lived by the mantra ‘energy is power’. And this was his cathedral. While other civilisations faded and failed, he kept Reykjavik going by playing his harp. His harp, this building, reverberated with the energy of nature. Interlocking hexagons of jumbled dimensions captured the Sun, cuts in the building harnessed the waves, and grooves in the roof drew the wind from the whole reach of Atlantic, south of the island.
At least, that’s how everyone thought the city was powered. His fingers, resting on the table, trembled a little. He looked down at them. Blue veins had started to rise through the still pinkish flesh. Not so old yet. He raised his tremulous hand to his forehead, shrewd eyes tracking its progress. Ah, that’s where the lines are. All my work has been done in here, he thought, behind these frowns. His mind was old but his body was still young, still too young to go this way.
Sure, Iceland had plenty of wind and waves and, at least for six months of the year, sun, but what it really excelled in was heat. The burning heart of the Earth was closer to the surface here. It reached up to him, and who was he to resist such a call. He reached down to it.
Drilling further and further into the Earth had uncovered more energy than he had imagined. He’d never considered himself a megalomaniac, only a young, ambitious engineer trying to keep the world going. Alright, he had to admit that the fact it worked so well had given him an ego. It had given them all an ego. The old folks on the project had started off preaching about respect for the Earth and not to meddle in things we didn’t understand, but as the world got darker, the glowing tunnel they had punctured through the crust got brighter.
The day before Vesuvius erupted, Pompeii and the surrounding towns celebrated the festival of Vulcanalia. Designed to appease the fire god Vulcan, locals built huge bonfires and stoked them with live fish. The Icelanders would have liked that, he thought, using the sea to douse the mountains of fire. But as the population of Pompeii had learned, Vulcan cannot be so easily appeased.
The trembling radiated out from where he sat, splintering the floorboards, snapping the windows, and drawing a groan from the girders. Energy is power, he repeated to himself, over and over. Energy is power. The shaking increased. Glass began raining down like a dry, biting sleet. Iron bent. His chair was swiped from underneath him and his knees cracked against the buckling floor. Heat began to fill the air.
Energy is power.
In the blink of an eye, the engineer and his harp winked out of existence.