The Golden City
A man named WAS woke up in a flash, his eyes open before he realized what had happened. He had been roused from sleep by a loud noise, and an intense
brightnening of the space around him that appeared to emanate from globes of light strategically placed around the tiny room. After his eyes opened,
he lay in bed for a few breaths and gazed at the ceiling, paralyzed by mental readjustment.
Then his body moved, having a memory of its own, and his mind was, out of habit, along for the ride. He got out of bed, already dressed, and walked
three steps to the bathroom.
As he stepped into the dull white shower fully clothed and shut his eyes in preparation for the morning sanitation ritual, his mind was a blank, a
great yawning zero. Dozens of small steam jets spritzed his hair and steam-pressed his cornflower blue shirt with the passionless precision of a car
wash. Then air replaced the steam, drying WAS and his clothes. He still felt dirty underneath his pristine servant's uniform, so he resolved to go to
the bath house for a while; after work, in the evening, he thought. There might be time then. Stepping out of the Dry Shower, he ran one manicured
hand through his hair and tried to remember what he looked like.
He couldn't conjur the details, or even the character of his features, past the very tip of his nose which he couldn't help but see. He touched his
hand to the name tag on the left breast of his suit: WAS. (Am I this damned man?) He was forty three years old, a White Anathema Servant, he
remembered the words but their meaning escaped him.
Suddenly, a red light above his door blinked twice to the shrill twittering of a buzzer. Time to go to work, (lock the door behind you). WAS left with
that thought, and when he went to lock the door from the outside, just like every other morning, remembered that there were no locks on the doors, and
he had no keys. He shook his head, marvelling at his own stupidity, to forget a thing like that, for as long as it had been. How long had it been?
A buzzer went off midway down the hall, highlighted by a glowing green arrow directing residents to the approaching elevator, so he dropped his
thoughts and picked up the pace.
The walk to the elevator at the end of his hall took him past 19 doors that looked just like his, save the small apartment number printed in black on
the grey metal below the peepholes, which curiously worked both ways. One of the doors opened and another WAS stepped out. He wore the same blue
shirt, his name tag above the left breast pocket, that was the standard. The man turned away before WAS could see his face.
The other man, walking brisquely, reached the elevator first. WAS caught up, joined the half dozen other people inside. All of them had their backs
turned to him, each stared out on the city through the transparent walls of the sizable elevator. WAS took several steps to the back and joined the
others in looking out onto the city from the dizzying height of several hundred feet. The view was marvelous.
In the shadow of enormous buildings, the street writhed like a carpet of dark ants, so many people WAS couldn't begin to make out the individuals.
The streets looked like that for miles in every direction, and all along the sidewalks, titanic residence dormitories stood shoulder to shoulder and
ejected thousands of souls per hour into the city to feed its gears. Buses, like beetles with their shiny black carapaces, scuttled around the fringes
of the crowd.
The elevator began the 70 story descent to street level, and WAS became captivated by several beams of sunlight that, because they were filtered by
spotty clouds, appeared to roam like stage lights over the street. Sunrays illuminated the dust that swam in the air, reflected brilliantly from the
irridescent wings of carefree copper colored pigeons that whirled in the sky, and generaly made the whole of the city more beautiful than it had any
right to be.
WAS looked away from the view for a moment with an audible sigh, to see that the elevator had gotten more crowded. He turned back to the scene outside
and felt just the tinyest bit sorry for himself. He knew none of the faceless strangers who pressed their bodies into him, rigid with discomfort and
sweating from a lack of ventilation. There simply was no time, for anyone. There was only time for work, and worship. WAS noticed with some surprise
that he had been watching the outside world, but had seen nothing, lost as he was in his own thought. They were at the bottom.
The elevator lurched down and then up to a stop at the ground floor. The passengers spilled out into the sparsely appointed concrete lobby, flowed up
a ramp where they merged with the streams of similar persons who exited seperate elevators. The many lines became one as they passed beneath an
enormous stone archway; from which they spilled onto the sidewalk.
A bus coasted along, between WAS's vantage point and the swarming street. The thing was alluring. No on could get on in the city, but if you happened
to catch one in the suburbs, you could go anywhere in the city. He wondered if you could ride them all day, on through the outskirts and back out into
WAS had never been to the suburbs, but he knew plenty about them. There were nice big houses, green lawns, happy, smiling neighbors who were always
quick to offer an invitation to a barbecue or a birthday party. How long had it been since WAS went to a birthday party, or a barbecue; where the
smell of steak on the fire drifting through the air was enough to make you drool. He became acutely aware of his hunger. It gnawed at him from inside,
the sensation was one of being eaten alive by tiny mouths concealed in his intestines. It was not incredibly painful, but rather disturbed him, and he
chastised himself for having not eaten breakfast.
WAS watched a bus that bobbed past just in front of him, it carried a skyline shot of the Golden City, spires and angles, buildings both tall and
stupendously tall, all shining beneath a brilliant sun. The bus stopped to spit out a well dressed man, and then another remarkably like the first,
and another, and another, until there was a string of brown suits and slick black hair walking down the street - A procession of briefcases wiggling
at the ends of hands, which were connected to their owners by identical shining gold watches that were dazzling in the sun when swung to the rhythm of
confident steps. When a dozen or so men had stepped down from the bus, the doors closed and the engine wheezed to life, then the bus lifted a few feet
off the ground and slowly gained forward momentum that took it away from WAS.
The central walkway was clogged with bodies in motion; some faced downtown, others uptown. A claustrophobic’s nightmare. WAS very nearly chased
after the bus and made a spectacle out of himself, but before his mind could come to an agreement with his body, he was gripped by a sudden,
inexplicable terror. It was as though an invisible miasma had risen from the ground to choke him. He shuddered, suddenly cold and conscious of his
inability to breath. His head turned involuntarily away from the bus, drawn away by a call that was neither audible nor visible, it felt more like
magnetism. He watched as the shapes of the people who walked beside and all around him grew more faint; like smoke their forms dissiapated. The head
of one of the men next to him turned and stared without any face at all, until he grinned, wide, and then WAS could see his gaping mouth, and his
misshapen grey teeth. The man didn’t breathe, but his breath would have been death. He looked like solid smoke slowly melting. The bodies were all
around him, and he had nowhere to run, so WAS just swallowed hard, tried to stop his eyes from widening, and stared back at the man who quickly turned
away and faded into the crowd. The people didn’t so much walk as float, in a thick, syrupy stream of gas, like plasma and ash.
WAS felt like one leg on a fat, undulating centipede, churning, churning and bumping into other legs, always bumping into something. Neighboring
sections of carapace, the bobbing, anxious heads of the walkers, surged forward, then back, swaying side to side.
"Big day today," a voice from the crowd said, perhaps it was directed at WAS, perhaps at someone else. The sound drew WAS away, returned him to the
"Sure is," WAS mumbled to nobody in particular as he returned his stare to the back of the head of the man in front of him. He had no idea why one
day would be any different than another.
The Residence buildings around them were so tall that the crowds walked perpetually in shadow, imprisoned on every side by a bustling carpet of human
flesh and made miniscule by the towers they had built.
WAS, suddenly unnerved by the grand scale his perception sometimes took (it was as though he had seen the whole city from above for just an instant),
returned his thoughts purposefuly to the commute. He counted steps, watched the emotionless grey sky, anything to keep his mind occupied with thoughts
of the present.
Another tantalizing bus glided by on the fringes, close enough for WAS to reach out and touch it, but he was jostled and pushed and the moment was
gone. WAS saw a dozen faces, featureless and blurred by the bus's frosted plexiglass windows, staring complacently out at nothing as they breezed
away from him.
After the bus passed, he stepped into the bus lane, feeling drained and ready to bawl like a child. The crowd watched him with suspicion and envy as
they marched past, but none were brave enough to join him. WAS stood and stared across the street to where a group of workmen perched on thirty-story
ladders were trying to raise a large banner across an intersection. Unable to read it on account of the severe angle from which he perceived it, WAS
watched with curiosity. They had it nearly level when one of the cables binding it snapped and the banner fell flapping to the ground. The workmen
dutifully began to climb down from their tall ladders to commence raising it again. (I’ve seen that before.)
"Deja Vu," he thought out loud, and then turned his head down out of the emerging sun, looked at his feet and thought, "I have no idea what that
The workmen had made an impression, and the twinge WAS felt could best be likened to the pinch an oyster recognizes as the grain of sand destined to
become a pearl first lodges in its tender flesh. WAS struggled to maintain his balance as he rejoined the hazardously shifting human sea and continued
down the street. Unable to get the scene of the workmen out of his mind, and sure he had seen it before, he wondered “Did I see them yesterday?”.
The seconds eroded his memory like grains of sand dribbling from an hourglass, but he was mercifully unaware of it.
WAS crossed the strictly enforced boundary between the Residence District and Sin City, the buildings changed character completely. The identical
monolith apartment towers of his neighborhood gave way to three and four story victorian houses that stood side by side. They were as gaudy as the
whores they housed, red and purple, pastel pink and seabreeze green, shining paint concealed a contagious rot. From a myriad of prominent balconies
ladies in black leather whistled, while others in white lace blew kisses. Thousands of women of every description cooed and fluttered above the throng
that walked below. Every woman in the city lived there, WAS had seen one nowhere else.
Down the street, sidetracked as always, and again the nagging, meaningless words Deja Vu flared up and went out, another WAS stood, hips thrust out,
the dickprint in his work pants becoming more evident by the second as he ground up against the wooden support post of one of the porches. His hands
stretched as far as they were able, above him, in the direction of the ladies who leaned down towards him. He couldn’t quite reach.
The other WAS looked around with undisguised lust, his tongue frequently wetted his lips. He grabbed the erection that marred the front of his slacks
and tipped his head in a nod to a red haired woman who leaned over the ballistrade of one of the balconies and massaged her saran-wrapped breasts with
yellow gloved hands. He probably planned to return there after work but before mass, just like he did every day.
Our WAS, however, was not a ladies man. He tried not to catch their eyes, but some demanded his attention like a street fight or a car wreck. One
woman had no limbs at all, only stumps which she wiggled like a baby turtle flexing its flippers. She was naked and suspended by elastic bands in a
cage that could accomodate a full grown man. The opening of her sex, which to WAS resembled a raw wound shaved for surgery, quivered and winked at
him. WAS shuddered and quickened his pace.
Another woman drunkenly waved a purple silk hankerchief in the air and called to him with the voice of a man. "Come on baby, I'll do you right."
WAS ignored them as best he could while others adored them, all kept pace with the flow of human traffic headed towards the Office Towers that rose in
the distance. They were taller than the Residence Towers, visible from most places in the enormous city, however there were fewer of them, seven in
total rose like splinters of gold from the earth up into the sky.
Just as the city was divided into sectors, so were the offices -- all in the name of efficiency. The Citizens Legal Council, on which WAS sat, was
located in Tower 3, closest to the river. He remembered that. Every morning. The fact that said memory was delivered by a voice other than his own
would have bothered him immensely, if he could ever remember what his own mind’s voice sounded like.
WAS felt a palpable sense of relief wash over him when he could no longer hear the women calling out to passers by. On his way to the office towers he
passed the church, which was a welcome sight to one WAS in particular because it heralded the end of Sin City, but to the WAS collective it
represented far more. It's neon sign jutted from the building's outer wall, above the overhang that loomed like a guardian over the recessed wooden
door of the church. At night it would light up and crowds from miles around would come to join in the rapture. A cult of epic proportions.