The stories about a place that used to exist but has been wiped out often become more important, more real than the place was or ever could have been had it endured. Depending on the kind of person you are, you either find this fact magical or banal.
It had been a bath house.
It could be that its existence in a desert was interesting enough without adornment.
But that’s not how stories work.
It burned to the ground. The stones were incinerated. The water that used to course through it caught fire, steaming into dust. If you climb the neighboring buildings, the occupants of which charge visitors for the view, you can peer down into the hole and see the scorched sides, so dry they make the air crackle.
Nobody can think of any sort of fire that could burn stone or water.
There are many stories about why this happened some of them even address how. If you’re curious you can sit in any of the nearby tea shops or drinking holes and listen. Wet the right throat and you can listen until you wish they’d shut up. Talking, like fire, tends to build momentum when exposed to oxygen.
Devils bathed here in ash and a holy man sent them away, standing and gibbering amid oblivious bathers unattuned to the forces of evil. When he banished them the shockwave hit the furnaces that heated the water. Bathers, holy man and building burned. The demons would have loved it had they still been there, the place was always a touch cold for them. A jilted man cursed his lover and in the style of men his rage powered the curse past moderation. A child crept in one night and drowned, its ghost was powerful and pyrotechnic. A woman whose mind could move the world, though she didn’t know it, became suddenly afraid of water. She had a dream of salvation, of the end of water, and the bathhouse paid the price. The physics of the ground have been so brutalized that they’ve passed partially out of the world. Anything built on the black earth sinks and disappears under the cover of darkness, vanishing from both memory and gossip.
The place where the bath house used to be will only allow one sort of tale to be told.
That appears to be the only thing true and constant.
Either that or all the stories are true and constant.
As a traveler I prefer it that way.