The streetlights, it seems, are serving no purpose. At one point they fulfilled their design of illuminating the road for late night travelers, but now the artificial glow serves only to light itself. This is Jacksonville, post Apocalypse. Like part of a fractal image, the deserted neighborhoods and vacant highways iterate themselves out on larger and larger magnification the world over. Taken as a whole, the image is daunting in the abandonment it proclaims. Though still oozing of loneliness, zooming into the street level brings the post-apocalyptic world into eerie focus.
An automated system keeps the dusk to dawn street light system working, but just until the parts fail or another disaster annihilates the whole grid. The yellow tinted glow of the industrial bulbs gives no comfort to the empty night. But perhaps “empty” isn’t the best word. There’s no way to tell what kind of life still exists, simply because there is no one left to search for it. But empty certainly cannot be the right word, if only because the space itself isn’t empty. The debris of civilization wage battle against nature’s encroaching growth, though the outcome of the war has already been decided. For the street, it is a losing fight; for it has lost any chance of reinforcement. The departure of man has meant the absence of development or maintenance. Nature has no such setbacks; it is free now to spread its arms throughout the planet as the controlling force. The earth has once again become its own supreme authority.
Rewind the scene but briefly, and a completely different scenario plays out. The intersection of I-295, 95, and 9A in Jacksonville’s Southside has boasted some of the most congested traffic in the city. Over 800,000 people resided in the city, and a significant portion of them funneled through this point of interstate during regular commute. The construction that began in the 1960s anticipated frequent usage, never predicting that the highway would become obsolete in such a short span of time. Intended to unite Jacksonville with the rest of Florida, the concrete structure is now a towering reminder of a world that fell apart.
To alleviate the space restrictions of the surface plane, the various interstates have built themselves into the sky. Concrete ribbons twine themselves into the air as the highways diverge and converge within their concrete bounds. Each foot forward is another partial sum, limiting at the constraints installed by the engineers.
Construction like this screams of humanity; miles of manufactured passageway which become a background to the lives of everyone. An aberration of the original landscape going unnoticed by nearly all who traverse it. But now that the characters that populated this section of the world’s drama have departed, the highway absorbs attention as an unprecedented fracture of the planet surface. The lines of the construction are weirdly fluid, giving the impression of movement where only static presence exists. The fluidity used to encourage the motion of traffic, and lent a solid grace to the eighty mile an hour rampage across the asphalt. But now all movement is a mockery, an eerie reminder of those whose exeunt has come.
Forget what “apocalypse” means for the human race. For the world, this is what it is. The constructs of society caging the planet with sprawling ribbons of highway and knots of structure. An era in decay, with none to watch. The new infrastructure of the environment, forever in the image of its departed creator.
It has been raining for quite a while now. The streets have become a mirror that darkness blends into a single piece with the horizon. Black asphalt steals the glow of the street lights and refracts it into luminous towers of golden light a thousand miles deep. The curving shadows wind amongst the glowing pillars as a set of looping drapery, creating an entrance hall for the departed. The cavernous illusions of light and water transport the interstate into a multidimensional reality. It’s the kind of place where you can imagine the human race still residing. Walking through and in and around the levels of luminescence, maintaining inhabitance of the world in some ethereal way. This intersection plays the part of effigy to the dead and window to the damned. Nights like these increase its role in the second aspect, the reflective darkness beckoning the underworld.
Humankind may no longer traverse this pavement, but every foot of asphalt contains their memory. What was once a vital passageway for the inhabitants of Jacksonville is now a concrete epitaph. Abandoned by the ones it was built to serve, this intersection of interstate is the phantom of humanity. The last essence of their existence found in the remnants of their creation.