On a hot muggy day, when the air around us shimmered with midges and collective sweat, we followed the canal off the path, into the woods. Ohio woods are mild. They break into open meadows and lazy river bends whenever they can. They are sweet and young, because once their ancestors were flattened, hacked, burned into industry, but they don't yet know this history. Ohio woods only know how to grow green and pleasant. But insistently still. Pervasively. Overwhelmingly. Youth is intense.
We came across the corpse of a Great Beast the men had abandoned. Once, the Beast had been their favorite weapon. Chained in a dark warehouse, fed only scraps and prisoners, they kept it keen and hungry. When war threatened, they would lead it in the night to the enemy camps, tight on a leash until suddenly it wasn't, and with it's creeping silent whirring and grinding, it slid across the landscape with glacial mentality, to eat and eat and eat some more, to move and move and keep moving some more.
The prize Beast. The feared Beast. The loathsome Beast. The efficient Beast. The industrious Beast. The insatiable Beast. The invisible Beast. The deadly Beast. Scary Beast, the nightmare of grown men Beast, respected and abused Beast. Best kept out of sight until needed Beast.
But empires crumble, it's like the only thing they do well. The men went away, and the Beast was left in the dungeon, until the dungeon walls fell away, and it was left in open ruins. Then it ate the ruins, and it was left in weeds. It tried to eat the weeds, but they grew faster than it could manage to chew them. It slouched slowly around the river bed, finally settling on a bare foundation, tired from the effort, starving, until the elements took it's will to live away.
Poor Beast. It was only doing what the universe had made it for. It had only ever been loyal to purpose. We touched it's rust and murmured, wishing too late we had brought some oil for it's frozen heart. Unfair then, to be abandoned here. Unloved.
We saw the spine in the background, and followed the tracks till we came upon it's rotting vertebrae. The woods were enthusiastic to have us, eagerly leading us deeper and deeper, flaunting it's colors like a drunk cheerleader at a pep rally. Come over here, the trees pushed, come over here and see what this is!
This is ours, the trees bragged, we found it!
This is mine, the river gloated, finders keepers!
More photos here.