The Temple of Velocity

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High above the settlement of New Town stand the remains of an ancient temple, looking down across the valley from its craggy mountainside perch, accessible only with decided effort – and risk. Though not terribly far from the town geographically, and despite its impressive situation visible from almost everywhere, visitors are exceptionally rare – not because the ascent is too hazardous or some other obvious reason – it’s just that nobody seems to ever go there or even have it on their mental horizon. Inquire about it to a local person in the village square and they will most likely stare vacantly back with a cigarette attached to their bottom lip, as though they could not hear you, or that the words did not make any sense. Politely, they walk away. Politely, so do you.

Besides, the temple is only accessible by a mountain trail unfit for any vehicle, and is in such poor condition that any journey feels like it would probably take all day, and for certain nobody would want to have to find their way back after dark, especially given how vague the trail can seem at times. Numerous people, including recently a headstrong Swiss walking tour group, have in fact set off for the temple never to return. They say it takes forever to come back, and they might not be lying. But those are just stories told by the hunters, who spend long, careful weeks – months even – high on the mountain plateaux, isolated from anybody but themselves and their kill, carefully removing the rabbit’s foot from the snare which has sheared a tendon, where it has waited all this time for the hunter to return.

Untouched for many centuries, The Temple of Velocity stands on an oblique chunk of unclaimed territory, its crumbling grandeur enshrouded by thickets and brambles which scroll about the once handsome structure, blocking all but the most determined visitor. This protective boundary occasionally spews up some artefact from the temple’s’ secretive past, and a small collection of such examples exists in the Town Hall. These previously undocumented cult practises suggest a use related to the movement of Time, particularly the arrow of Time – the inevitable ‘way of things’. But the dismal collection lacks altogether any effort at cohesion or comprehension of the artefacts at all, as though the curator was perhaps him or herself baffled as to the existence of these curiosities and quietly laid them at the back of the cabinet, hoping nobody might never notice them.

An entry from an official guidebook obtained at the Town Hall states:

“The temple was probably used for something or other. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been built, would it? Probably people worshipped some god in there – after all, it is a temple – and prayed to overcome death and decay and the suffering of existence? Prayed for Time to stop? Savage lunatics. Anyway, that’s what everyone thinks around here.”

Howsoever much this narrative about the Temple of Velocity is tacitly accepted amongst the villagers, a rival theory has been causing a stir amongst certain local intellectuals in the high part of town above the ridge, who postulate that worshippers at the Temple prayed not for time to stop, but instead for more speed; to accelerate things, to go faster. Whether that means the type of ‘speed’ fetishized by the Futurist, whose ecstasy for greater velocity is an end in itself, or whether it means some curious desire to reach death more quickly, is however unknown. Perhaps a worshipper from those ancient times, during the tedious walk up the mountain ravine, stopped to look down at her dusty sandals and noticed some ants at her feet – felt curious, curiously envious of the ant, its short life-cycle. Perhaps she thought the best thing in life was to die quickly? Perhaps.

All we do know for certain is that these ritual practices ceased a considerably long time ago. Though there is always an outside possibility, it is highly unlikely that any enclaves of worshipers persist until today, even way up in the very high country, way beyond anything down here, and thus the meaning of the temple is lost to everyone, given back to The Wilderness to be swallowed-up. And still the Council makes no effort to cut back the forest of weeds, to clean-up and repair the pillars, sculpted from the local blood-red granite, and it would seem the Temple of Velocity is doomed to remain only an obscure fact in the construction of New Town.

By Jim Broadband

March 30-th, 2017

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