“It’s not cheating,” I said to myself. “I came out here for digital detox, and I’m doing that. I just need a video camera, that’s all.”

More towers of rocks had appeared overnight on the beach, but the high winds had scoured away any footprints in the loose sand and they would have been lost in all the prints I’d left knocking them down in any event. The gate was still locked, and I couldn’t see any tire tracks.

A little video was all I needed to prove my suspicion that some local good ‘ole boys were having some cheaper-than-basic-cable fun with me.

Setting up my laptop just right and getting the recording settings for its built-in webcam took some time, and I found myself moving in a haze of wandering focus. I could have used my cell phone, I suppose, but that would have required improvising a stand and scaring up an extension cord. When I looked up at the kitchen clock, I’d spent longer on the thing than I had thought. But it would be worth it for my peace of mind, to finally know that the “mystery” of the stacked rocks that Oscar had warned me not to concern myself with.

The webcam ran perfectly, and I’d set it to change to a special low-light mode at dusk. Satisfied, I turned back to the kitchen to gab a snack. Instead, I instinctively backed against the opposite wall in a panic.

Drawers had been emptied, cupboards ransacked, and the resulting detritus piled throughout the kitchen. Piled just like the rocks, as much as different shape and texture would allow. Deeply engrossed in my digital cheating, I hadn’t heard a thing.

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This post is part of the September 2012 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s prompt is “the number seven”.

1. The Colossus
“Well,” said Chares of Lindia, looking at his gigantic statue snapped at the knees after a massive earthquake, “maybe Helios wasn’t so crazy about the monument we built for him.”

2. The Gardens
“Our ancestors planted these rooftop gardens for a queen that was homesick for a place with plants instead of just a lot of sand,” said Arsaces II, King of Parthia. “I wonder if she was also nostalgic for the giant earthquakes of home. If so, we’ve just done her proud.”

3. The Temple
Respa, Veduc and Thuruar, leaders of the Goth raiders, roasted meat on spits over the temple they’d just set on fire after plundering. “The last time someone burned this place down, he did it so everyone would remember him despite being a nobody,” they said. “Wonder if that’ll work for us, too?”

4. The Statue
“In retrospect,” said Zonaras and Cedrenus, watching the flames, “maybe it wasn’t the best idea to disassemble all the greatest works of art from the Roman world and put them all together in one wooden palace.”

5. The Mausoleum
“What a coincidence,” said Sir Ronald of the Knights of St John of Rhodes. “Here this giant such-and-such has weakened and partly knocked over by centuries of earthquakes, and we just happen to need stone in a hurry to castle the place up.”

6. The Lighthouse

“The two greatest enemies of big stone things around here are earthquakes and people with castles to build,” said Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qaitbay, Sultan of Egypt. “But it’s not like anyone had lit the thing in the last thousand years or so, and my cannons need a safe place to blast the Turks.

7. The Pyramid

“So,” said one Egyptian farmer-laborer in 2550 BC, “how long do you think this ‘Khufu’s Horizon’ tomb we’re building will last?”

“Sure, it might be the tallest thing in the world now, but how long will that last? Plus there’s earthquakes, fire, hostile people on our borders who don’t much care for us,” said his friend. “I give it fifty years, tops, before someone else decides they want to use all this stone for something else.”

The Wonders
Colossus of Rhodes – Toppled in an earthquake, 226 BC (only 64 years after construction)

Hanging Gardens of Babylon – Destroyed by earthquakes ca. 1st century BC

Statue of Zeus at Olympia – Disassembled and moved to Constantinople; destroyed by fire ca. 5th century AD

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus – Burned by Herostratus in 356 BC, plundered and burned again and more thoroughly by the Goths in 262 AD

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus – Heavily damaged or destroyed by earthquakes before 1494 AD; used to build castles afterwards

Lighthouse of Alexandria – Heavily damaged by earthquakes, 1303–1480 AD; used to build castles afterwards

Great Pyramid of Giza – Still in existence; first wonder built, last to survive, tallest building in the world for 3800 years

Ralph Pines

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