Fair Harborside (4)

Read Fair Harborside (1), Fair Harborside (2), and Fair Harborside (3)

Frank abruptly walked headlong into a grimy wall. His mind wishing for the beautiful side of the city had tried to take a right turn, but he was on a rounded road. He tapped his pocket again, for comfort, to remind himself of his dreams, to remind himself what the city had promised him, what the city had baited him with. He pulled the postcard out of his pocket. It was lined and greasy, the creases were chipped, he could barely make out the beauty he had once found so heart achingly perfect. He was too late. His toes had hit the steps of a factory.

Amelia slowly stepped out of the elevator. The sounds of the crowds reached her first, then the bright flashes of cameras. Her new world was set to be bright. She was designed for the city. The city was designed for her. She stepped out the doors, the cameras followed her, she turned to the monoliths, she understood: Harborside knew the world and the world knew Harborside, within Harborside was the world. She turned to the sea, there laid the cradle of life, status, money; it flooded into her the meaning of value, the true meaning: money.

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As she walked the city doors opened to her. She was Amelia, the city was hers. She would never be lost to the crowd, the city would never bowl over her, time would not forget her, Frank was already fading.

She wandered the city all day, the crowd only grew around her, but as she strayed closer and closer to the borders of her postcard the crowds grew restless. Space seemed to shift. Where she walked she owned, the postcard was empty space with blank people, but where she walked new hope, new futures sprang up like daisies in her wake. But as she neared the last corner, the last wide boulevard, her daisies seemed to fight for sunlight. Her unique ownership was being pushed back by the ownership of the many, the workers no longer singular but one full moving entity, lost to the mindless grind of the crowd, the fingers became a hand.

She had reached the end of the immunization ring, the end of the filigree border on the postcard of Harborside and standing on the other side of the glass was Frank.

Before Amelia, who was the crux of the city, eyes of the future, was Frank, whose hands bled from his first shifts in the factories, who was beginning to smudge around the edges.

Before Frank, the disenchanted dreamer, a man of ideals and cities past, was Amelia, a small mechanical girl with holographic eyes and the entire modern world and future in her circuit board chest.

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Fair Harborside (3)

Read Fair Harborside (1) and Fair Harborside (2)

Amelia was city-made and city-grown. From where she lived the city was just a writhing mass, gridded like a chessboard, and full of monotony. Her circuits were overstimulated. She was surrounded by wires, cords, and progress. She was living modernity and on clear days she could almost feel like a part of the masses, she could almost feel like she interacted with them. Almost.

Frank wandered the city, cataloguing every face and type like a child seeing the world for the first time, walking a new language, but the people seemed to pass by him – no, look through him, like he didn’t matter. In truth, he began to think, do they really matter to me? But as he took another sharp corner, his mind clipped the edge of the building and then lodging was on his mind. He was in the right district given the signs hanging above doors and out from awnings, but he soon found he barely had enough money to stay the week out. How strange that what had had so much value previously in his life was so empty and useless in exchange here in Harborside.

Amelia was coming down from the clouds about to face the world for the first time, naive and one of the richest and rarest people in the city, but equally mysterious. Her mind had yet to grasp value; everything to her was bought and categorized away into an advanced filing system of uses. 

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The sky filtered into her windows, if she reached out, the clouds almost reached back, but who cared about clouds when she was going down to the ground.

From Amelia’s window far above Harborside its postcard appearance was breathtaking, heart-stopping from the aerial view, perfectly aligned like an OCD wet dream – but beyond the picture perfect Harborside was its dark truth, its fingers, its slums. Where the roads wended their way around makeshift homes, bodies being consumed by the cobbles of the city. The roads staggered like a drunk artist’s footsteps. The slums belied truth, the reality of the city for the majority. The true artists, the ultimate image of life, a slow burn out. The truth was, the city moved too quickly for anyone – even the top Moguls and Traders – to live contentedly, too fast for them to not eventually blend into the tapestry of time, of the city.

But while Amelia’s elevator sunk level by level, Frank’s feet were dragging him from job to job, ebbing closer and closer to that blight, the narrow streets, the moss, the dark sky, the forgotten, the true heart of the city. The cost of living had drained Frank, his week was up. Once a private person, he now broadcasted all he could, he needed all the help he could get. He dreamed of the past. When he was well off in the country, people tipped their hat to him, they knew his name, they cared. He dreamed of a city long past, just emerging from the harbor, crawling onto land like a new life form, full of opportunity and riches. His feet were carrying him further from the monoliths of global life. From the masses that thrived on standing out from the crowd, from the masses who had found what they sought, or at least the veneer of what they dreamed.

Fair Harborside (1)

It was dingy as hell, not recognizable as the city everyone saw in the postcards: moss and algae crept down the walls; the side streets were lined with open sewers; the factories ran all hours of the day, belching out waste and haze. Soot streaked down the faces of the workers whose hands were cracked and brown with exposure. What little they had they called home, whether roof or coat, they took what they could. They struggled through narrow congested streets, seemingly stuck in the past — a bygone era, that had long since been passed by the rest of the city — an open sore without medicine.

On these congested streets lived all manner of discard: tech no longer current, factory waste, dreams of fame and fortune, the relics of the country people once left, heirlooms of cultures long swallowed. But as the streets turned oceanside they widened and lightened, the haze of smog dropping away the closer one moved to the harbor, the mecca of trade, the jewel of the city, the picture perfect postcard. Harborside was a world of glass and gold that rose high enough that those with bloodshot eyes and wasted dreams believed that maybe it reached heaven.

The city of Harborside was rich, modern, urban, cultured, and only surface deep. Every man, woman, and child that lived in the skyward reaching world was a dreamer, a planner, a story. Their streets were lined with rare plants and their roads paved with exotic shell. Every home was its own, sitting pretty at the height of progress. They would want for nothing and everything.

Such severance was there in the city of Harborside that it was as if a blight, a disease, had been stretching out from the landward outskirts of the city but had abruptly hit a vaccine three quarters of the way toward the harbor. It was as if an immunization had been injected into the sea and had spread to the seafront but had been content to protect the few.

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Life was bobbing at a sea-sickening rate as Frank finally found the city. He had taken every form of transport available to him: car, bus, train, plane, his own two aching feet, bicycle, and finally boat. As the city rose over the bow of the leaky, decades-old fishing boat, the tug behind his gut seemed to loosen. The folded postcard in his breast pocket was a molten brand of hope and childlike optimism on his heart.

Life had ground to an overly warm stagnate existence for Amelia. Trapped above the cloud level – in a glass box – Amelia had the entire world at her fingertips. She was at the height of modern technology, she was as mapped out as the best planned city. There was no one like her, there never had been another like her, nor would there ever be one like her. She was a road map. She was not her own. She was caught, ensnared. Made and unmade.