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|Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008 11:41 pm Post subject: Utopia
The sun had risen, spilling its virgin rays across the City. The shadows descended, reduced to nothing. A new day was born. Poets of the old had always given major significance to this event, no matter how ridiculous it would seem to a modern-day spectator. How can such a prosaic and repetitive occurrence cause any kind disturbance within the serene mind, let alone the notable “inspiration”? We may never know…
At this point, the rays have already passed through The Shield, where they were treated and purified to remove all the nasty-nasty UV radiation, and bleached to a fine monochromatic white, which was absolutely pleasant to a staggering 57.8% of the populace (according to the latest research). They have spread all across the Circles, shining through the translucent binds crisscrossing and keeping together the vast and complex hives and walkways of the upper towers. Not that the world noticed any of its passing presence. The City was dictated by its own rhythm, and in an urban hyper-metropolis such as this one, morning was merely a nuisance, a change in scenery at best. As it was foreseen in the great minds of the Founders: “Wild men and animals stare at the sky because they have no drive nor force to lead them; a Citizen needs no such thing, as he can truly rely on himself, and on the State!” Oh, the beauty of such righteous wisdom!
Simple sunlight bares no heed to fine words, and guided by the ever-present and just laws of nature, with no intent of causing cosmic irony at all, landed through a window of a cubicle W2348, level 3, subsection 7, and right into the eyes of an honest sleeping workman, the (unfortunate) hero of our story.
Jonathan firmly believed in mornings; he also very firmly believed in this particular morning, and in the way he should spend it – soundly asleep. So when the early sunlight washed over his face, he promptly ignored it, and burrowed his face into the anesthetic pillow. The brief moment of consciousness was more than enough to let the alarm clock shove its way into his attention span. Johnny groaned, turning in his slumber, confined by the cramped up interior of his sleeper tube. As always, he attempted to return to the world of his dreams, only to find that the near silent automatic beeping has yet again found a way to shatter them. Instead, he tried to focus on the reality he had been so uncourteously dumped into. He pushed the button on the pod doors, and watched silently as it lifted upwards in the same unnervingly slow manner as it always did, finally bringing itself to a halt with a series of clanks. The silent wailing of the alarm was now replaced with an even more noiseless blinking of a red diode. It was discomforting in a way, to find yourself and your dreams ruled by automations and blinking lights. The door unlocked itself with a clank. It was time for Johnny 35 to enter the new day, and all its troublesome certainties.
The pods were aligned in a perfect row, all neatly aligned and stretched along the wall of Corridor 23. This was an innovative solution to the ever increasing lack of habitable city space. Each Unit provided the necessary space for its occupant’s nighttime activities, as well as acclimatization, Screen and Standard port. The best of all, its usage was supposed to be free. As long as, of course, you disregarded your safety. Johnny was pretty sure that without the usual fees he paid to the night shift crew, he would most certainly wake up the next morning at the bottom of a jar somewhere. Or worse. The flesh dealers are certainly getting creative. Not that it was corruption, perish the thought! “Corruption is a sign of the fall!”
He moved down the Corridor, not bothering to check out with his “neighbors” The Podhouses were the sinkhole of the whole sector. Not that it attracted the local criminals, hustlers and crooks, as they were people with an initiative, and were most likely constant employees of one or two major corporations. Instead, they housed vagrant lowlifes who were threading on the brink of existence, people without hope or chance. People like him – a mere error in the system, mistake that is bound to be corrected someday…
He continued his walk, wearing his usual gray-orange jumpsuit he had to spend the night in. Damn thing itched like hell. The odd part was that the jumpsuit itself was clean, as the pod automatically disinfected it every night, in his sleep. Maybe he was just sick of wearing the same damn thing over and over again. It could be an allergy, too. Strangely, those things tended to pop up in clean places like this. Indeed, the entire Corridor was almost anesthetic in appearance, without any sharp angles or troublesome details, just the never-ending line of pods – ominous in a way. The whole graveyardish note was enhanced by the omnipresent and pristine silence. Ironical isn’t it? A shelter built for hundreds of people, and yet so utterly devoided of life. Not that it bothered him much; he never gave much priority to his sociable needs. And the people here were too damn downhearted to care.
Not long after he reached his exit, labeled 93. The passage was manned by an aged gentleman of what seemed to be Japanese origin, dressed in a white labor coat. The fellow even nodded courteously while signing him out, and Johnny waved back. He tried to force out a smile, but quickly aborted it, unimpressed with what came out the other end, and scampered down the hall. He never really got the man’s name, for crying out loud.
Taking a right turn, pass the administration offices and the laundries, Johnny finally reached the personal holding area. He was nervously checking his wrist embedded benefit chip, while trying to swat off a persistent local marketing floater. The thing just wandered in one day, obviously lost. It must have come form the Night boulevards uptown, and it was pretty banged up. No wonder, floaters were not exactly popular. Probably because of the bothersome fact that they tended to sell outdated and non-existing products at outrageous prices, often following the prospective buyer for hours, constantly nagging him, even zapping on occasion with a low-volt blaster. The worst part was the actual durability of their frame. Some of the models could stand up to high caliber gunfire, even a small nuclear blast. That and self-sustaining power led to the fact that many marketing outlets simply tossed their precious models down into the Axis, hoping they would somehow get smashed on their way down. Nice way to avoid dismantling tax, too. The government was, however, not very pressed by that particular concern, and if the government is not concerned, you better stop being concerned. Fast.
The floater finally lost interest in giving Johnny the offer of the (last) century, and proceeded to promptly smash itself into the wall in regular intervals. No one ever said that floaters were intelligent. Then again, intelligence was hardly a virtue in Gray Port City. Finally ridden from the troublesome vexer, Johnny proceeded to the changing rooms that were actually adapted from old photo booths. When he first came to the Podhouse, he was very much amazed with this antiquity. Later, he realized that it was indeed fitting. The whole building was a washed up junkyard, a kind of human disposal, place where they would stick those who had nowhere else to go. Nowhere but out that is…
He shrugged at the thought. Outside was a taboo, even in thinking.
The machine recognized an approaching user, and readily opened its oculus. Johnny waved his wrist chip in front of it, and the cabin No. 7 lit up. A small metallic voice immediately notified that 1.4 Benefits were taken from his account. He gritted his teeth, and entered the booth. The machines tested his nerves. Never could he bring himself to like them. A human subject would always smile, trying to show you that he was enjoying your loss and frustration. He would mock you, and you would hate him for that. Machines were different. They didn’t care, and you could only blame yourself. Accommodating himself inside the personal space, he entered his user name and password, and proceeded to stare at the traditional “please wait” screen while the computer searched the database. The whole procedure was short of a nuisance, since nobody ever came to liberate the sleeper’s belongings, and even if they did, a password prompt would serve as little protection. At least he enjoyed his well paid privacy.
There was a small mirror, replacing the old camera and the lens. He looked at a reflection of his face. His hair was a dark auburn shade, almost maroon, and well kept. Johnny took great pride in it, believing that it was his most striking feature. He took a small comb from a side compartment, plucked off the random lingering strands of hair and proceeded to groom his hair, pushing it upwards as much as he could. Not that he was much of a womanizer; the ladies nowadays were searching for more prospective values. Still, he could not bear to keep his hair unkept. It was a sign of weakness, he reasoned; you can bring a man down, but you can’t bring down his hair. It wasn’t much of a motto; most of the good ones were already copyrighted. After finishing his hair-raising ritual, Johnny once again scanned his mirror image. It looked back at him with mousy brown eyes. They always lacked that strong, piercing, executive look. Not that he liked executives, or their looks. In fact, the very thought of them made his skin crawl. In complete contrast with his weak eyes, his nose seemed to stick out from his face. It was not exceptionally big, but there was a note of prominence in it shape. Somehow it managed to embed itself firmly into every last bit of trouble Johnny stumbled into.
He dressed into his daily wear, black and red, jacket, trousers and shirt. He liked that color; it gave him confidence, power in a way. In a city ruled by fear, strength was all that mattered. Without it, one could just as well gently walk into the Turbines. There were always others waiting for that precious little spot in the hierarchy, no matter how low and pathetic it may be. It may be lonesome and shaky at the top, but at least you didn’t have to swim through all the sewage. All the smelly little peoples, nobodies, lowlifes, weaklings, fools… Pathetic creatures struggling for existence, not caring for anything, not reaching out for better things. They were unworthy of living, even down here, in the shitters. The worst thing was the fact that they mixed him with the rest, how cruelly unfair! For he knew that he was different, outstandingly unique, a man apart. The crowds have lost their goal, besides to enjoy their self imposed imprisonment and failiure. Johnny laughed at them, for Johnny knew there was more than just being, just flesh and bone, heartbeat after heartbeat, straight to an untimely grave. More than the spit and dirt, the City and Law, more then fear, more than rule. More than anyone of the fuckers could ever imagine! This whole game of life, of rituals and tears is just a masquerade, the essence is metaphysical and it came from without, like a wave, like a dream. It was his own escape, xanadu and heaven. And it was three days late…
“Is that it, you miserable fuck! Is that the only thing you can think about?”, Johnny screamed, punching the side of the cabin. Instantly, waves of fear rushed over him. It was an awful truth, but beyond all the knowledge and breeding, there was always a beast of emotion, and when it was hungry, it had to have what it was do. Johnny wanted to scream, to flay himself alive for his weakness, so deadly and overwhelming. But he could only stand, slightly shivering in rage, as he calmed himself down. He knew that tomorrow, the urge will kick up again, but there was little he could do. His “leisure time” had already run out, he was late…
He took the Pill. He didn’t care. He took another one, just in case. When the time comes, he’ll know. They call, they always do. There is no need to worry. And in those thoughts, he left the concrete hall, completely assured in his sanity. At least, for the rest of the day…
Below him, the City mists awaited.
* * *
High above the clouds rose the many towers of the City. In the dwindling morning light their bases vanished in the thick fog that shrouded the lower Circles. They seemed unreal and beautiful, almost themselves made from mist and shine. And each of them symbolized something, something you could not see looking from below. There was a message inscribed in their whirling shapes and elegant contours. Only on a morning such as this, with a mind pure of thoughts, and heart open for beauty, one could truly understand the genius of their creation. It was beyond mere sensual trickery. It was perfection.
Numacel knew that. On moment such as this one, when he would lose his internal resolve on which so much depended, he always came to this window. There was order, beyond the layer of glass, predictability, strength. An act of defiance against instinctual entropy. The need to destroy has claimed too much already…
“Your excellence, I come with a message…” came the voice from the other side of the spacious room.
He felt it, immediately. It came from the roots, from the marrow and muscle, rising like a slow tide, rushing into his head. The primitive feeling was coming to him again. This was not the time! His image was already compromised by circumstances beyond his control, and Numacel could not risk more degradation. He gripped the handrail, forcing the charge to vent out, hoping that, since he already faced the window, the untimely courier would not notice the slightly imperfect stance and the tension in his shoulders. How did this feeling come to be, a force beyond reason, compromising all the rules and postulates? It fed into itself, as if it needed no other source of existence. It grew strong, but when one would reach for its support, it would perish quickly, and leave nothing but dangerous confusion in its wake. And yet, this disorderly and brutish force was tolerated, simply because it was “natural”. How barbaric…
However, that was all inconsequential. One of the basic human weaknesses was the misplacing of priorities. Many a wise man was marginalized that way, simply because they believed they alone could dictate the way of events to their own liking. Circumstances must be used as a foothold for further advancment. “In a society where man is his own element, there is no solution impossible!” Numacel often mused in the new revisions of the Codex. He was, after all, doing an instrumental part of its constant remaking. And indeed, the solution would always present itself, a new path toward shining goal in the future. The plan had existed for ages now, way older than the grasp of his little hegemony in the past few decades. The City, with all its splendor of technology and policy, was only a backdrop for its ultimate completion. The recent uncalculated events have only led to a mere slowdown in the timetable, a small rearrangement at best. He allowed himself a smirk. Now was the time for words. The true games were about to begin, soon…
“Don't finish what you just said!” - he sliced with his voice, like a rapier
In the silence that followed, he turned and faced the confused individual, summoning him to the window stand with a leisurely gesture. He approached, confused, though obedient. They both stood near the glass display, staring at the dizzying heights of the tower of Astronomy, and the cascades of balconies below, as the sun ascended into the monochrome sky. It was a sight both overwhelming as it was pointless, like so much contemporary art. Numacel was satisfied. He knew that the unwelcome messenger had to be confused – he made himself very famous by many intriguely profound ways of delivering a point. He would not let him speak, that was sure. He was of lower hierarchy, and intruder amongst the sky and the clouds, and the wait was to take him back to his place, before even speaking.
The young man's face was empty – it had been tailored as such. There were always fashions in the industry, but one thing never changed amongst the prestiged – the ability to nullify emotion on facial expression. It was a remarkable talent, and the young man held well, even though he couldn't win. For a small bead of flesh escaped the roof of his forehead, slowly descending down the man's cheek, like a single teardrop of defeat. His body had yielded - it was a sign.
“You have been privileged enough to be allowed, yet you denied.” - Numacel said readily, shaping his voice into remorse.”The City: as we built it, we both become. As we watch, we remember – not to start over, not to... fall back. My duties, they are to observe, and to learn. To correct when necessary. That is who I am. In this room you stand, so you must be different. And you still simply... stare? Like the rest?” He served him an understanding look of a disappointed parent, served with a slightly mocking smile – masterful...
The messenger's face was slowly shifting with repressed emotion that had been carefully implanted. He was ready to respond.
“...” he drew his breath to speak. Numacel was ready.
“Do not waste your words. I've read it through you. Tell your masters that I'm also... angry. Tho my reasons are justifiable. Tell him that he must cease his unfavorable activities, or else – 'no deal', he said? Then you should persuade him, perhaps?”
“But, but... I'm a mere messenger! I have no influence in the matter!” his voice broke at that sentence.
Numacel observed the entrant like an overturned beetle. He was so sure of himself, carried on a hot wind of his own emotion of supremacy. The face could not hide it so easily, not against old experienced pray. Now he was begging him to spare judgment, clinging foolishly to the same obtuse concept – like a trapped creature that bashes itself against the door of it's prison, hoping instead of doing, instead of thinking. It was quite a disgusting sight.
“Adapt, then. Represent. Do as I do, but thread carefully, for I will hold you responsible” - Numacel finished the conversation sinisterly. He pointed to the pneumatic doors wit the same leisurely movement that he used to guide him in. The entrant hurried out, raging with emotion and fear, a desperate man. The metamorphosis may not have been flashy, but it was quite astonishing.
Numacel almost sighed as the doors silently closed behind him. To a different one, this was a mastered success, domination at it's finest, food for the ego. But it bored him to constantly deal with half-wits and helpless. It was hardly pleasure – it was labor. And he was weary, even before breakfast...
To be continued...
Last edited by Z-mann on Mon Jul 14, 2008 9:34 am; edited 1 time in total