The City of Globetown

Below is a rambling which turned into a weird story and is still going. One day I’ll focus on something long enough to finish it. Although, my finished novel isn’t wowing the literary world yet, so maybe my brand of distracted shit should be what I focus on, or not focus on. Whatever makes me lots of money. Enjoy

 

Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.

There is, of course, the third possibility, that we are not alone in the Universe but no one wants to talk to us. This is less terrifying, but certainly underwhelming. There is also the possibility that our universe is little more than a bubble in a giant cosmic cola bottle, filled with hundreds of other universe bubbles. One day, the lid will be removed, and every universe will rush up to the top and spray out across someone’s desk. We can’t ever know this for certain, which is just as well. If we did, we’d have the fear of ‘The Great Opening’ hanging over us at all times. What’s more, this realisation would lead to further questions. If our universe and the universe of many others are mere bubbles in a carbonated beverage, what is the universe in which that drink was made? Would that be The Universe? Or would that be just a larger bubble, forming the fizz of yet a larger drink?  Would this go on infinitely?

Of course, the notion of infinity is one the conscious mind can think of, but only in loose terms. We can think of it as a vastness without end, but what that would actually look like is inconceivable. The mind works by comparison. It’s good that the world is as varied as it is, because if there was only one thing, then consciousness would not be much good to anyone. We know a mountain is a mountain because it is not a hill. The concept of height only came about because some things stand higher than others. The infinite is difficult to grasp because it has no comparison point.

It would be wrong to say ‘something really big’ as it’s bigger than big. It’s without end. It’s infinite. Therefore, it has no size, big or otherwise.

Trying to imagine the unfathomable infinite can leave people feeling uneasy and is, therefore, not recommended. When imagining the great expanse of space that exists beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, people are often struck by a sense of insignificance. In fact, just take one person and put them in the middle of a great ocean and they are often hit by the same feelings. The oceans are not infinite. Big yes. Vast even. But they have an end. There is a quantifiable volume to them, and yet, they can still inspire insignificance.

This sense of perspective is an odd one. Does knowing there is a world beyond your door make your home less important? Does the idea of an infinite universe lurking beyond our modest globe make our planet less significant? Why does an ocean make an individual feel insignificant? Take away one drop, billions will remain. Take away one part of you… what will be left in your stead?

The Universe may be infinite. There is definitely only one you.

Even if there are infinite universes, containing infinite yous, there is still only one you that is you. The less of something there is, the greater value it has. The universe is unfathomably infinite.

Now that is insignificant.

***

Timing plays a huge role in everyone’s life. Timing is everything to everything. What happens is often not as important as when it happens.  The true can be said about a story. A story that ends with a ‘and he woke up and it was all a dream’ is terrible, it means everything that came before simply doesn’t matter and what comes after is none of our business. Now a story that starts with ‘and he woke up and it was all a dream’ is far more interesting.

Steven lived a life. A whole life. He learned to walk and learned to talk. He learned and continued to learn until his back was stooped with knowledge. He lived, he laughed and he loved. He lost, he felt pain, he felt joy, he felt remorse. He felt guilt, fear, arousal, mirth, confusion, anger and everything else that makes up a lifetime of experience. At the age of seventy-nine his body, as bodies often do, gave up. His wife had passed on three years prior. Steve died in a hospital bed late at night. Alone.

That was when he woke up.

To find he was a spider.

That life he lived as a human was a mere dream. Yet it felt so real. Every experience. Every feeling. Sat on his web in the tangles of a thorny bush, he began to contemplate the true ramifications of this. The meaningless of all those experiences that felt so powerful at the time yet never happened, the idea that all things may have a complex consciousness and that uncaringly swatting a fly may well be destroying a life as rich your own. A lion devouring an antelope may consciously be destroying another consciousness. As he contemplated all of this, he was eaten by a bird. It was a robin.

What happened to him after that, is anyone’s guess.

This all happened in a small park, around the corner from a decrepit looking, grey office block. Alex sat in darkness. She had sat in light but had sat there until it got dark and had yet to turn on the lights. Every so often, when she took a deep drag, the tip of her cigarette would light up her slender, if not a bit stubby fingers.

Through the gloom, she could see the blank page set in place in her typewriter. For the third week running, she had nothing to say. Which is not good for a weekly publication. The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth had still yet to print its first edition.

She was beginning to think leaving the Room of History and Current Affairs at City Hall was a mistake. It may have been pushing her towards the edge of insanity, but at least she got paid. Here… she was just going insane.

The news published in city hall was complex. It encompassed stories from the past, the present and future. Some stories were true, others were not and some didn’t even make any sense. It was all rather clever. The public couldn’t complain that they didn’t know what was going on, for it was all printed in black and white. They both knew what was going on and didn’t know what was going on. They lived in a state of knowledge and ignorance.

The editor in chief always said “The people just want news. They don’t care if it’s accurate or not.”

Not that Alex worked much on the news. Her remit was history. Though it was largely the same thing. She was one of many who oversaw the city archives, editing, filing, discarding and even publishing stories from the murky depths of the past. The Mayor’s office adopted the same technique here. Some dutifully wrote and published articles containing what for argument’s sake be called the truth. Others concerned themselves with pure fabrications. These stories would then be swapped. They’d be scrutinised, meticulously proofread and perhaps even edited. Then they’d be swapped again. By the time anything was published, no one knew what was true and what was nonsense and more importantly, nobody knew what nonsense was true.

There was one thing. One story that kept coming up again and again. The small details might differ, but the general crux ran the same. That was how the Mayor and the City Council gained power.

Years ago, the people of the city grew tired of the numerous laws being passed. They were sick of being told what to do. They were tired of being trampled over by “The Man”. They felt they were rapidly having their freedoms stripped away. The city rulers were carving at their liberty with carving knife like prosciutto, which is a simile the people felt they couldn’t quite comprehend, being unable to afford such luxury meats.

The city rulers felt this was an unfair depiction of the balance of power, as many felt they were working tirelessly towards the betterment of all and yes, whilst it could be said they had access to better quality meats, their hours were unsociable, and no one ever once said thank you. No matter how much time and effort they invested into fixing the roads, people would still tut and complain about the price of public transport and how everything’s “gone to the dogs.”

As is usually the case when the people eventually rise up, the people got their way. The city council disbanded. The Mayor at the time, Francis Lyons gave one last address.

“Throughout history, people have fought for freedom. You, the good people of this city, have done the same. We thought we served you well, but alas it seems not. You demand more freedom. You shall have it. The City is yours.’

There was much rejoicing. For weeks, people partied in the streets, revelling in their new-found liberty. They were in charge of their own destinies. Their lives were no longer in the hand of the bureaucrat. They were free to make their own choices. They were in control of The City.

If any structured narrative was to be believed, this would be where it ended. The people had won. Liberty was granted to all. Ever after, should have been happy.

Alas, time has other ideas about how the world works. Most importantly: it goes on.

And as time went on, people began to grow uncomfortable with this sense of freedom. Control over The City came with a sense of responsibility. People found running the place involved far less fancy meat and more budgeting… more resource management. There were lengthy discussions to be had. Hard choices to make.

After a few years, as the City rapidly fell into general disrepair, the people gathered in the old, long abandoned City Hall. Whilst everyone had their own opinion, they all agreed on one thing. It was much easier when the general disrepair was the Council’s problem and all the people had to do was grumble and mutter about how running a City shouldn’t be that difficult. It was also agreed that as no one had volunteered to take charge of the sewage system, something needed to be done quickly.

That day (nobody knows quite what day it was. Let’s say it was Thursday) the people, freely and of their own volition, came together and collectively agreed that it was best for everyone to elect a ruling council and immediately surrender ultimate power to them.

Alex rubbed at her tired eyes, feeling that burning itch that came with staring at nothing for a lengthy period. She clenched her jaw to keep her teeth from chattering, sighed a sigh that didn’t quite know why it was there and stood up. She donned her large, dull green duffle coat which sported deep and bulging pockets. She also pulled an orange and white knitted hat over her short black hair. It was knitted by her nan. It was supposed to resemble a fox’s head, which it did if said fox had been partially melted. It pushed her curving fringe over one eye, forcing her to tuck it under the warm curls of her nan’s double crochet.

Her feet crunched on the snow outside. It looked almost a pale blue colour under the multitude of streetlamps as she stomped awkwardly through the carpark. It was a less than reputable part of town, and thus the rent was cheap. She saw a slim black sports car parked nearby. She had seen it that morning and remembered running her eyes over the sloppily attached spoiler that pushed down unnecessarily on the back of it. It had the appearance of a metallic tumour.

Slapped across the window was the small translucent sticker. It featured a large breasted stick woman, leaning on the hood of a similarly ridiculous looking car, or at least the cartoonish outline of such. Behind her, a man was taking great pleasure from her. Underneath read ‘Gas or Ass; there are no free rides.’

Alex rolled her eyes at it, partially sickened that such blatant (and somewhat sinister) sexism was so commonplace that it inspired little more than a bored eye-roll. Judging by both the car and the sticker, she very much doubted the owner had much sex. If he (presumably it was a he, unless the sticker was an attempt at irony – or a bitter acceptance of the woeful nature of the City in that there are ‘no free rides’ in life) did, there was no justice in the world.

Which, unfortunately, is certainly the case.

Not far from Alex’s office. A man lay dying in the snow.

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