Trading cities 4, Ersilia
Viewpoint: A man trapped by the strings
I am tied down like a puppet on strings – controlled and dependent on something so much weaker, yet strong enough to destroy everything my life has been. My senses have numbed – yet I know that only a ruined city awaits me outside – a chaos of sand and dust and a million other things that don’t mean anything to me. And here I stand, beneath a layer of strings – some old, some new – trapped. They feel rough on my skin, but that does not matter. Long and sinuous, like worms, but that does not matter. My house is gone, my life is gone, my people have gone. How can anything matter when one is breaking down piece by piece, from the inside? When everyone you have known has torn down their end of the string and the string is dying, and so are you – because you chose to stay? The supports stand, like memories of an unforgotten past, holding me down with these threads, these relations. The threads seem fragile, but I know I can’t break them, because they have the power to break me. They cut me with unusual sharpness. I can see beads of blood trickle down to the white hot sand. The world around me is made up with strands of black and white and grey, in sharp contrast to the bright yellow of the sand and the sun. I am alive, but just barely. They won’t let me die, they won’t let me live. The supports are falling now, just a tiny little give away that something is changing. The foundations have weakened, and so has my hope. They won’t be back now. Fear is filling my mind, like a tsunami flooding a city within moments, like a wave of loneliness after watching couples in the park. I know I won’t survive. The strings are loosening and crashing down on me one after the other. They hurt like cuts on your wrist – painful, yet addictive. And suddenly my mind is clear. This is what I want and this is what I have always wanted. I close my eyes. Every moment seems like a million years. I can imagine the houses that were once attached to these strings, I can imagine my house, which broke down before I did, like the body of a soul after death. I can imagine myself lying down in the middle of a desert, buried underneath strings, with my eyes closed and my body spread-eagled and vulnerable. I can imagine my city building up somewhere far away, with the elders chattering and the rhythmic hammering of wood and nails by the young men setting up their new homes and the women setting up their cupboards and children playing and infants gargling. I have never felt more alone. There are noises everywhere, chaotic, distracting. I want to scream. I want to run. But that is not an option. I wanted this, I remind myself. My body stills. My pulse is throbbing in my head, matching the ticking of a time-bomb that is about to explode. The strings and supports are breaking apart. I can hear a tiny rip as each one goes down. They have gone. They have gone. The words echo in my head, and I wish I could refuse. I stayed back for the strings. I stayed back for the supports. But it is they who are now killing me. One more support is left. I try to reach out, it has to stay. My heart is beating fast, and I felt more alive than ever before. The sun and the sand is in my eyes, burning bright and the anarchy around me is glimmering as light shines upon it. The fallen supports, the torn strings, stone-like, pinning me down and I know I can’t survive anymore. The last crutch plummets to the ground. There is one single moment of insanity – where the world is twisting and dark, and everything around me is broken and cruel and the silence deafens my ears and my mind and the voices in my head are loud enough to drown out the universe. And then I am free
Trading cities 4, Ersilia
Viewpoint: A man trapped by the strings
The city stood tall in its chaos before its inevitable unravelling, like a queen that awaits her death at the prime of her youth and pride and dignity. I walked forward, my hand brushing against the walls, feeling their rough, grainy texture. Each one was the same, and yet so different at the same time. The walls folded, giving way to strings, long and sinuous, forming the veins through which this city bled, drop by drop. Each house was a different experience. The semi-circular, brightly coloured concrete with wooden windows at its entrance reminded me of a tiny old woman who sat in her armchair by the fireplace, knitting needles in hand and dozing lightly, like a warm home after the cold evening rain that always has a cosy corner to curl up in. The more subtle brick-layered houses with their sloping roofs and a layer of red-mud tiles provided a violent contrast to the intensity of the coloured mounds. Mosaic boxes made of tiles and rubble and piled one on top of the other, complete with windows and doors that one could never reach, reflected a sense of undefined madness that ravaged the heart of the city, festering curiosity. And yet, this very chaos gave it its beauty. It evicted a sense of long-lost fun that was slowly breaking down, like a fungus gnawing into a wooden log, sapping out the freshness with its poisonous barbs. The delicate wire trees with rounded ends grew around the city in plenty, bringing with them a bittersweet nostalgia of cool, breezy evenings and deserted swings in a park that were once the city’s centre. Each brick, every wall, every texture and every string had its own life and its own anarchy that came together, adding new layers to a city made of people who were awaiting its destruction, ready to leave, like a predator anticipating its next prey. Each detail assaulted me with a new memory, each colour brought forth unknown spirits. This beautiful potion of materials and houses and trees and lonely swings, shattering to pieces as my people ripped apart everything except the supports and dust and torn down connections. I couldn’t bring myself to follow. I couldn’t place my hands on my house that was now just a set of walls and on the strings that interwove me and the city and its residents and pull it down like it meant nothing. They pleaded with me, fought with me. They lost. I stood in my place as the sun rose beyond the mountains and the sand, casting gold upon the ruins, as the clouds rose into the sky, coloured an ominous grey to signal the oncoming end, as the walls tore down around me and the last of the strings fell to the cold ground, and there was nothing that could tempt me to leave, not a new city, not new memories, not even a new life.