Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Falling City by Paul Bellora (Guest Writer)

Enter Al-Ductor, the falling city. Buildings warp and twist under constant acceleration as this doomed city plummets down a dark shaft. Service and upkeep have long ceased in this place that rockets toward destruction, and whatever functions these edifices once had are now abandoned in the face of certain ruin. No sane being would choose to live in this place; no sensible creature would willingly confine himself here—here where at any second it should all end in a single, cataclysmic shock. The largest, strongest building—the tallest, proudest tower—is frailer than your most frangible vase as it hurls to its death. In moments, it will all be smashed, obliterated by its own shear kinetic energy. This city is beyond fear; it is beyond help; it is beyond hope.

But life, it seems, is the epitome of persistence. Look there! Closely, under the crumbling shell of structures, there is movement. Down here, under the sagging mass of useless spires, there is a sort of crawling buzz of activity. There are beings that would not be dissuaded from living even here… You study their movements, their patterns. A system begins to humbly form before your eyes: an economy, a society. Finally, you grasp the true essence of the place: this—not the shell of crumbled, spurned towers—is the Falling City. Here life continues, unabated by the thought of inevitable destruction; in fact, it belongs to destruction—this is Life of the Fall. And so in the merest of moments before death, before being violently shattered upon the floor of the shaft, this hidden level hums with a buzz of content routine.

Of course, that of which a society grows under the gaze is fated to be a subject of intense study. These denizens would look to the fall as we would look upon the moon—seeking, always, to explain its purpose, its effect. A certain caste emerges—the Depthists—tasked solely with predicting the exact moment of impact. Ushering an enormous, highly budgeted project, this order seeks to gauge the precise depth of the fall—and thus, the remaining lifespan of the city. These efforts are neither made out of terror, nor anticipation; they are strictly business. There are those who could gain from such knowledge, who could better grasp various economies. Countless factors are considered, enormous lengths of data tabulated; entire libraries are filled with equations. Much is learned of the universe in this golden age. There is talk of an expedition, a project to send a man across the gulf of space and to the wall of the shaft, racing blindly past—not so that he might escape, of course, but so that some new knowledge could be gained, science furthered, benefits reaped. But science cannot benefit society without changing it… the Depthists can find no end to the shaft; with each advance in technology and improvement of instruments, estimates grow larger. Gradually it dawns: the shaft is bottomless. Destruction no longer looms; it is, in fact, impossible. The Falling City becomes the Infinite City.

How invincible something is when it is proud! Look as the structures form, the towers soar, metal and glass, out into the void. Endless development, total advancement! The Infinite City grows, reaches up into the shaft—waving with jutting spires to a world forever left behind. And it dives too—reaching down with its metal tendrils to embrace the anticipated. At the zenith of the city, there appear temples, ornately vitreous, reaching with eager antennas into the rushing abyss. These needles are the epitome of the city’s spirit: they dive eagerly into the fall, accepting it, believing it, demonstrating faith in its infinity. The fall is the subject of worship; its infinity is the source of the city’s power. Behold this incredible organism of Infinite City! It reaches out with its metal limbs; it would touch the sides of the shaft, touch the edge of the universe…

But infinity would be its own undoing, it seems. With infinite length, infinite time, there is also infinite room for error. The Depthists, long obsolete, failed to recognize the truth. The shaft is not bottomless. It has an end, which arrives shortly. Al-Ductor becomes the Fallen City.

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