The Silence & The Howl (§.25)

§.25


Harmon begin typing as soon as he returned from his encounter with the literate watchman. A new story occurred to him, and, inspired by the day’s events and the memory of the thriller Andy had played when Lyla had come over, he set himself to the task of its completion. A dull, irregular clacking emanated from his keyboard until the light crept over the edges of the world and eschewed the darkness for a magnificent plume of solar irridescence.

After seven hours without a break, Harmon paused, shifted in his chair, lit up a cigarette, smoked a moment and then withdrew to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of ice water and another cup of coffee as Marla came ambling clumsily down the thick-carpeted stairs. Her hair was wild and rabbit slippers obscured her slender, shuffling feet.

“Mornin.”

“G’morning,” she groaned, rubbing sleep from her puffy eyes, “You been up all night?”

“Yeah. Writing.”

“Sheesh, don’t you ever sleep?”

“Couldn’t.”

“You aren’t a vampire, are you?”

“Not last time I checked.”

She chuckled and leaned against the kitchen counter.

“Andy told me you were a writer. Fiction, right?”

He nodded and handed the foggy woman a cup of coffee, which she readily accepted with a broad smile and a mumble of thanks. For a long moment they stood staring at each other before the sound of Andy’s footsteps reverberated on the linoleum above. They both turned to greet him, confused by his furrowed brow and the cloudy expression in his eyes and mouth.

“Sonsofbitches.” He muttered leaning against the wall.

“What is it?”

Andy worked his jaw and then looked towards his guest.

“We’re outta work.”

“What’d Swain say?” Harmon inquired without emotion, crossing his arms and leaning against the counter as Marla.

“Just said we were fired—excuse me—’let go.’ I hate that bullshit. Fucking weasel words. ‘Let go.’ ‘Passed on.’ Bullshit. Fucking bullshit.”

“Sorry baby,” Marla replied, with a pout. She massaged Andy’s shoulder as the man shook his head and glared at the scuffed linoleum of the floor.

Harmon reached up to the cabinet and withdrew a coffee cup and then slid it across the counter to Andy who nodded back in thanks.

“No point complaining about what we can’t change. Other jobs to do.”

“Hell – like what?”

“Well, what are you good at?”

“Ain’t good at nothing.”

“That’s not true,” Marla chided sadly.

Harmon inhaled deeply and then moved off of the counter and looked out the window. Not a single soul stirred upon the barren street, now covered in a thin skin of dead leaves that skittered with the wind like hollow bugs beneath the swaying skeletal boughs.

“Its a lovely day. We should go out. We can go to the cafe I was telling you about and stop by the river.”

Marla smiled and nodded, “That’s sounds nice.”

“Alright,” Andy intoned sullenly.

Harmon turned back to the window and sipped his coffee, watching as a flock of crows tore a red-stained eagle from the sky.

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 20

§.20


“Yo. Someone asking bout you at the front.”

Damion turned from the fat man with whom he was sharing a beer to the lanky, bejeweled man before him.

“And he is?”

“Don’t know. Never seen him before. Some white boy.”

“What about me is he asking?”

“Asking to speak to you.”

“Everyone wants a piece of the pie.”

“Not quite everyone,” Harmon declared, striding impassively beside the lanky man who reached swiftly for his gun. Before he could fully unholster the piece, Damion swiftly raised his hands in entreaty.

“Take it easy. Think our boy here is just lost. Ain’t that right?”

“No, Mr. Strake, not lost at all. Came to talk. If you’ve got a moment.”

“I’m afraid I don’t.”

“You don’t look afraid.”

Damion looked to his bodyguard with a raised brow. The lanky man shook his head and turned to Harmon derisively.

“Who the fuck you think you are?”

Harmon ignored the flustered guard, his eyes fixed on Strakes.

“I’d like to speak to Mr. Strake in private.”

“I’d like to be a millionaire.”

“With a mouth like that, I find your prospects doubtful.”

The lanky guard opened his mouth to repost the verbal jab but before he could speak, Damion interrupted, gesturing towards the door.

“Kelly, wait outside please.”

“Whatever.”

As Kelly and the fatman made their way out the door and sealed the pulsating electronica behind them, Harmon took a seat, upright, eyes level with his host, hands folded upon his lap.

“Thanks for calling off your dog.”

“You’re lucky I did. He bites.”

“I suggest a muzzle,” Harmon replied as he studied Damion’s face and then straightened once more, “You don’t remember me.”

“You don’t look familiar. What is it you want?”

“Does the name Sprawls ring any bells?”

“That ratfuck… yeah. He a friend of yours?”

“Used to be.”

“My condolences. Wait. I’ve seen you before.”

“Yes. We met – what was it – two years ago, at a music festival not far from here. You sold Sprawls something. Were secretive bout it.”

“Just some gas. You know how it is.”

“I don’t. That’s why I’m here.”

Damion rolled his eyes and leaned over the table, pushing a unopened can of beer toward his guest.

“Gas. Pot. Marijuana.”

“He buy other things from you?”

“Maybe. Why you asking? You buying?”

“Maybe. What other things does he buy?”

“Ya know, that’s the kinda question that only really dumb niggers ask. You ain’t no dumb nigger are you?”

Damion assumed an aggressive posture, his bleary eyes narrowed and he leaned out even further over the table, his mouth crinkling into a grimace.

Harmon cracked the beer and raised it to take a sip, responding before he did so.

“Do I look like a dumb nigger to you?”

Damion smiled humorlessly and shook his head.

“I don’t know what you look like. You on some bullshit.”

“Still haven’t answered my question.”

Damion gave the man a wary look before continuing.

“China Town.”

“He buy a lot?”

“Woulda if he could afford to. Last I heard that broke ass nigger was scrubbing toilets.”

“He come lately?”

“No. Why the fuck are you so interested?”

“Will you be selling, or not?”

“Depends on if you’re paying.”

“Course. You accept checks?”

Damion paused, furrowing his brow before he spied Harmon’s mocking expression.

“Very funny. You know you fucking lucky Karst ain’t here.”

“Don’t know him.”

“You should, this is his building. He ain’t quite so accommodating as me. Month ago, some dude named Luke Rawel comes up in here, talking shit, bout how much TNT he got and whole buncha bullshit. We tell him he needs to leave. He decides not to and says if we didn’t do business he’d have to have a word with the cops. Karst, well, he calmly told him there was no need for that and that they should talk about it in his office in the basement. Don’t know what happened, but ain’t no one seen Rawel after that…”

“That a threat?”

“Fuck no. I’m just telling you like it is.”

“Your boss’ personal affairs don’t concern me.”

Harmon removed a thick clip of hundred dollar bills from his belt and waved it before the pill merchant enticingly.

“Bring me what Sprawls last bought. Whatever he paid, I’ll pay double.”

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 15

§.15


Harmon drew the device’s teeth against the wood grain.

The sound of the chainsaw split the tranquility of the placid Sunday afternoon and sent the sparrows spinning from their thorny thrones.

The smell of the wood, the metal, the machine’s furious humming engulfing the grotesque chittering of the wide outer bright.

He stood over a small, felled tree before Andy’s old, creaking house, the species-name escaping his ken, and rolled it with his booted-heel and worked the grinding steel of the mechanical saw against the spindly branches which shivered like insectal limbs with the impact. He paused to behold a group of men walking along the street. Familiar faces all. They were those he had seen so many days before, waiting at the corner just beyond Sprawls’ house. The congregation wore brightly colored and expensive clothing and moved with a languid swaggered, as if the entirety of the sidewalk upon which they walked belonged to them.

A young and scantily-clad woman moved down the side walk, heading straight for Andy’s lot, ass pushed up and out in jeans one size too tight, hair cropped on both sides, long on top and combed wildly to one side, below which a thin, ribbed and sleeveless exercise top girded her wobbling breast, paler than her spray tanned skin. Harmon thought he’d seen her before but could not remember where. She paused and turned and yelled something at him, her round, lacquered face contorting in vexation. He stopped the chainsaw.

“What?”

“I said why the fuck you gotta make so much fucking racket.”

The gangbangers laughed and muttered jokes concerning the scene.

Harmon furrowed his brow and methodically set the machine down beside the brush pile and dusted off his jeans and turned to the woman with a placid expression.

“Just clearing some brush.”

“Well, clear it somewhere else.”

“Ain’t no other brush to clear. Even if there was, think that would probably be trespassing.”

Her expression softened and she crossed and uncrossed her arms anxiously.

“Andy around?”

“Harmon nodded fractionally and jerked his thumbed above his shoulder, pointing towards the house.

“He’s inside. Bout to leave though. Better hurry.”

She did so and made he way to the door and and passed therein as Harmon bent to his lent chainsaw and returned to work as the toughs, having lost their source of amusement, ambled along down the street.

A hour passed. The woman hadn’t come out of the house. Bluebird hadn’t called. His anger had ebbed some but he refused to allow placidity to overtake him.

Lessons must be learned, so first, they must be taught.

He surveyed the flat, dying grass of Andy’s diminutive lot, restarted the chainsaw and imagined the tree was Serena’s throat.

*

Firebug

Devlin Carver heard it in the morning. The dull scratching on the ceiling that had kept him up half the night. Something in the walls…

He rubbed the dream-dust from his eyes and rose and paused, listening intently. The scratching intensified for a brief moment and then fell silent. Shortly, the sound started up again in roughly the same spot.

Insects.

Carver cursed under his breath and moved to the left to examine the wall, placing his ear against the dull, green surface. The sound of multi-legged skittering greeted him. Could be termites. Pine beetles. Ants. Something else. Maybe a family of mice or some other type of rodent. He considered his options as he showered and hurriedly dressed. He’d need to call a exterminator to rid his tiny house of the mysterious scourge on his way to work. Unless…

“I wonder if I could make a trap?” He mumbled aloud as he brushed his teeth. He had no idea what kind of insects were in the walls and thus, had no idea what kind of trap to build. When he thought on the matter for just a little longer he realized he had no knowledge of insect traps whatsoever. He knew that sticky paper could get rid of flies and certain zapper-lights could kill moths and other light-drawn night-fliers, but he’d no notion of how to construct such items, nor where to purchase them and figured it didn’t much matter because such devices wouldn’t work inside his peeling walls. He hoped his erstwhile guests weren’t possessed of some vile disease. He’d heard of that before. Read of it. Bug disease.

Suddenly, the scratching came again – so swift and loud and sudden that it caused Devlin to swallow a little of his toothpaste by accident. He cursed under his breath and turned to the flat, tiled wall. There was nothing. It was as if the creatures in the wall could tell when he was near…

*

Devlin arrived at work five minutes late and was met by Jamie Brinks outside his work station.

“Where in Waldo’s name have you been?”

“I was only five minutes late.”

“Seven now.”

“Shit.”

“Cameron is gonna flip.”

“He’s always flipping about something.”

“You been sleeping ok, man? You look a little… brittle.”

“Couldn’t sleep last night. Some kind of… infestation… in my house. You know me. I keep tidy. Don’t know how it happened. But, anyway, it sounded like… insects… or… something.”

“Gross. Sorry to hear that.”

“Can hear them in the walls. Gotta call an exterminator. Know any?”

“Uh, yeah, actually, I do. When Maggie brought back one of her weirdo foreign plants, turned out to be filled with some kind of tree-killing beetle and the damn things went around and started fucking up our orchard. Killed the fuck outta all the trees. Can’t remember their names. The trees or the bugs. Anyways, we called this small company that operates out of the suburbs. Cheap, quick, clean. I can give you the number.”

Brinks reached into his suit’s inner breast pocket, withdrew a memo pad and a pen and began furiously jotting down a name and phone number.

“Thanks, man. Appreciate it.”

“Ah, shit, here comes Cameron.”

A short, fat man strode – or rather waddled – up to the duo, his pin-prick eyes smouldering with strange intensity and his shiny, spa-smoothed brow reflecting like a mirror. He looked, to Carver, like some kind of disgruntled bullfrog.

“You’re late. Again.”

“Sorry.”

“I don’t need apologies. I need good workers who know how to set their alarms. Clearly that isn’t you.”

“But sir-”

“You’re fired.”

*

Devlin Carver shook his head and ate a pickle and called the waitress of the diner over and ordered another coffee; he wanted a drink of something stronger but detested the taste of alcohol. He simply couldn’t believe he’d been fired for being only a few minutes late. It was only the fourth time in four years. So what, he thought furiously, so what if I’m late, so fucking what? He thought back to his time at the company, clicking a keyboard, filing reports, getting yelled at for incompetence and laziness. Four years of his life down the drain. Four years of his life spent laboring for a company whose board and CEO he’d never even seen or talked to, four years he could have been building up his own company, his own venture, his own life, rather than serving those he didn’t even have the courtesy to give him the time of day. It was all their fault. Them and those things in his walls.

Motes of dust like flecks of burning gold spun through the ambered light of the Jenny’s diner. He wondered who Jenny was, if she was the fat woman behind the counter to the far left of the room or the hot little number serving beer and sandwiches to an old couple at a table to the right. The duo must have been in their late sixties, perhaps old, and yet they chortled and moved with a vivacity that Carver associated with the gilded fervor of youth. He bet they had plenty of cash to burn. Coasting on retirement funds. Subsidized unto the tomb. The pickle raised before his mouth slipped from his hand and splashed upon his breeches, soiling them with juice, prompting a muted curse. The man’s fists shook as he picked up the pickle and grabbed a napkin off the table and began sopping up the mess as the buxom waitress, returning from the old couple, began to laugh, siding up to Carver with a twinkle in her eye.

“Having some technical difficulties, sir?”

“Doing fine. Thanks. Just dropped my pickle.”

” You dropped your pickle on your pickle.”

She laughed raucously but quickly brought herself under control as her boss shot a dissaproving frown in her direction. Carver wanted to punch her. Wanted to slam her over-powdered face straight into the corner of the table. He remained silent.

“I’m sorry, sir, I shouldn’t laugh. Anything I can get you?”

“Got a new pair of pants in the back?”

She smiled and chuckled as Carver forced a smile.

“Fraid not.”

“Didn’t think so. Thanks for asking.”

A jolt of realization shot through his mind and he scrambled for his phone as the waitress went about her work. He had forgotten his date. Julia was going to be distraught. What was the time, he thought frantically, what was the time! He pulled out his phone and sighed.

He was late for his date. Late by half an hour.

He paid for his meal and hailed a cab.

*

When he arrived at the Scallop he was greeted by an exceedingly prim, mustached waiter who leaned towards his ear.

“You are Mr. Carver, yes?”

“That’s me.”

“Julia Farrah, with whom you had secured a reservation, wanted me to deliver a message,” the waiter handed a small folded piece of paper to Carver and then shifted away.

“Where’d she go?”

The waiter paused briefly arched his brows, “She left, ten minutes ago.”

*

Carver blamed the things in the walls. For his firing. For the spilled pickle. For missing his date. Costing him his relationship and it but fetal and barely formed, so filled with promise, now dashed. He would have gotten up at day-break if the whatever-in-the-walls had not have kept him up half the night with their incessant chittering.

He swigged vodka from a ceramic coffee cup adorned with palm trees and hula girls and looked out the window of his decaying apartment at a gang of youths harass police officers on the street.

“It’s not my fault.”

As if in response he heard the chittering. A rancid insectal thrumming.

“It’s not my fault.”

He started, eyes widening and then swore and threw his cup at the wall of his study where it shattered, raining ceramic fragments to the floor. The noise ceased momentarily and then picked up, louder than ever. Carver’s ears rang. His head felt as if it would, at any moment, burst under the strain of the ratcheting aural assault.

He rose and kicked the wall, but the sound only increased. He swore and snatched up his cell and punched in the number that Brinks had given him. A smooth male voice answered on the other end.

“Y’ello.”

The voice sounded strikingly familiar to Carver, though he could recall who it belonged to or where he’d heard them speak.

“Hi. This is Devlin Carver. Jamie Brinks gave me this number. Said you were a good exterminator.”

“You say your name was Devlin Carver?”

“Yeah.”

“I think I know you.”

Devlin paused, furrowing his brows and pursing his lips, “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, you’re Julie’s friend, right?”

Devlin froze, his knuckles going white about the phone, eyes engorged with the dying amber light that filtered in through his windows from the slowly setting sun. He had heard this voice before, at Julie’s family’s Fourth of July party…

“Who is it, babe?” A female voice inquired from somewhere in the near distance.

Devlin hung up the phone. He knew if he didn’t he’d scream. The noise started up again, scratching the interior folds of his brain much as it scratched the plaster and drywall. He rose and moved from his study in the far left corner of the room to his bed on the opposite side of the room and threw himself against the sheets as motes of dust leapt into the air. In the golden light of the vanishing sun, they looked to all the world like ashes from a crackling fire. The noise continued to pummel his brain, now coming from the floors and the ceiling. He put the pillow over his head and then screamed as his bed began to reverberate with the chittering.

Carver leapt off the bed and lit a candle on his nightstand, shut his window and ran for the kitchen and turned on the gas and left the tenement as the sun and the world was covered in shuddering darkness.

*

Carver watched the firemen tend to the charred ruins of his former home. The ensuing flames from the explosion had taken out at least five other apartments. The skittering sound had ceased. The things in the walls were gone. Gone forever.

Unless…

Unless the creatures in the walls were fireproof…

Notes On Mobile-Platform-Cities

NOTES ON MOBILE PLATFORM CITIES

Defining MPCs

Such a structure [an Arcology1] would take the place of the natural landscape inasmuch as it would constitute the new topography to be dealt with. This man-made topography would differ from the natural topography in the following ways: It would not be a one-surface configuration but a multilevel one. It would be conceived in such a way as to be the carrier of all the elements that make the physical life of the city possible—places and inlets for people, freight, water, power, climate, telephone; places and outlets for people, freight, waste, mail, products, and so forth. It would be a large-dimensioned sheltering device, fractioning three-dimensional space in large and small subspaces, making its own weather and its own cityscape. It would be the major vessel for massive flow of people and things within and toward the outside of the city. It would be the organizing pattern and anchorage for private and public institutions of the city. It would be the focal structure for the complex and ever-changing life of the city. It would be the unmistakable expression of man the maker and the creator. It would be diverse and singular in all of its realizations. Arcology would be surrounded by an uncluttered, open landscape.” — Paolo Soleri, 1969; Arcology: The City In The Image of Man, p. 13.

The need for a new definition of human settlement is apparent now more than ever before in human history. — Logan Bier, 2014; Post-Arcological Human Scale Emergence, p.1.

What do cruise-liners, space-stations and aircraft-carriers have in common?

They are all moving cities.

In contradistinction to the traditional view of a city as a static settlement, we posit the city of the future – whether oriented towards land, air, sea or space – should be designed for maximal mobility to the extent the aforementioned capabilities do not sufficiently impede central functions of the total system (food production and distribution, water collection, filtration, distribution, storage, power generation and dissemination, general comfort of the denizens, etc). To this end we posit the mobile-platform-city. Briefly, a mobile-platform-city will be a city built into a moving apparatus that will be self-contained and self-sustaining. We take as our starting point, the modular structure of the human brain and the crew capacity of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. The brain, not just the human brain, but all brains, are remarkable due the amount of information that is contained within such small, sometimes tiny, folds of flesh. Just as the neuron is the building block of the brain, personal container units, each individuals “house” within the total structure, should be the building blocks of the mobile-platform-city. Given the space needed for just one comfortable human habitat, the size of the total structure will need to be fairly expansive, around the size (or slightly smaller than) a US super carrier, the two largest of which are the Nimitz-class (second largest) and the Gerald Ford-class (largest). Though Nimitz-class aircraft carrier are slightly smaller than Gerald R. Ford-class ships in terms of total size, the crew-carrying capacity of the Nimitz-class (5000+) is presently unmatched by any vessel. Thus, it is easy to image a construct of like size which could be designed for civilian contentment rather than military engagement. However, unlike a aircraft carrier, a mobile-platform-city need not be constrained to only open waters and could instead be fashioned for air, sea or land or some combination thereof. The massive amount of energy which would be required for perpetual flight render any sky-base of aircraft carrier size implausible (at present), however a rolling land-to-sea mobile base of aircraft carrier size is highly practicable.

Benefits of mobile-platform-cities (MPCs) over static settlements (S-Ss) are manifold; chief benefits include terrain adaptability (instead of piecemeal evacuation in the event of a natural disaster, one may simply move the whole MPC), task-bundling (resource shipment lines can be significantly reduced via utilization of the MPC as part of a previously external2 supply chain). Offensive and defensive capabilities of MPCs would also offer several marked benefits over traditional settlements, given that a MPC could operate as a offensive unit itself and offer tactical flexibility in deployment of on-board defensive units (such as air-crafts, tanks, submersibles, troops, etc.). Given the immense spatial demands of even a relatively small MPCs3, evasion of military assault, however, is the principal benefit over S-Ss, as MPC mobility will likely be relatively slow in comparison to state-of-the-art land, sea and air transport, simply due to size. Another significant benefit is the obviation of crippling sanctions by fording international waters, thus circumnavigating territorial sovereignty and the need for overflight authorizations from third party countries. America’s rise to power, much like the British Empire before them, was due in large part to mastery of the seas, thus, it is pertinent to muse upon the tactical advantages of a free-roaming civilization which could potentially establish itself as the world’s premier overseas trade-arbiter.

Remarks on likely lines of opposition

A likely line of opposition towards the very idea of MPCs is that they sound fantastical. The whole history of technological innovation, however, is filled with precisely this kind of uncreative, grim impossibilism. it is important to remember that cities already are mobile, simply not in spatial terms. Rather, modern cities are digitally mobile, with every human being therein incessantly “teleporting” all over the world through the web which itself is fostered by the infrastructure of the city itself. Thus, though the physical infrastructure of the modern city is (generally) static4, the information infrastructure is in ever increasing flux. All major urban areas in the world today (2018) are interconnected through wireless networks, and various other lines of near-instant communication. The total mobilization of the city itself is thus a reasonable continuation of the data revolution wherein the physical components catch-up to the ever-growing digital domain of which they are a indispensable part.

Potential feasibility, types, designs and functions

Jeff Stein, in a 2012 TEDxMission talk entitled The City, 2.0 noted, “No Eco-thinking can ignore density. Crowding, the maker of life.” Stein was invoking the concept of CDM (Complexity, Miniaturization, Duration), remarking upon its often overlooked importance in architectural, specifically urban, design.

Utilization of CDM will be indispensable to the construction of any feasible MPC. As previously mentioned, MPCs already exist (simply not in name) thus, there should be no argument as to the feasibility of MPCs themselves, but rather, the feasibility of certain types of MPCs.

Sources and reference materials for further reading

  1. Arcology: Comments Corpus, Logan Ray Bier (2009-2017).

  2. Nanoarchitecture: A New Species of Architecture, John Johansen, Princeton Architectural Press (2002).

  3. P. Soleri, 1969, Arcology: The City In The Image of Man

  4. Indian Navy seeks EMALS system for second Vikrant-class aircraft carrier, Naval Technology, (May 29, 2013).

  5. On The Prospects Of Inverse Arcology, K. E., Logos (May 5, 2018).

  6. Ready For The 21st Century, All Hands (Magazine of the US Navy).

  7. Time For Mapping, Cartographic Temporalities, Alex Gekker et al. Manchester University Press (2018).

  8. Tekever AR5 Life Ray Evolution Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), Naval Technology.

  9. Vikrant Class, Naval Technology.

1Arcology is a portmanteau of architecture and ecology. See, Soleri, Paolo (1973), The Bridge Between Matter & Spirit is Matter Becoming Spirit.

2Meaning, external to a static settlement, ie. Foreign factory (1) > Cargo ships (2) > Sss (3), whereas with a MPC, steps 2 and 3 can be bundled together, saving a tremendous amount of time and resources and generally reducing population stress through labor reduction.

3Akron, Ohio, in 2017 had a population of 703,505. USS Gerald R. Ford, the largest aircraft carrier in the world – as of 2018 – can harbor 4,550 crew members (ship, air-wing and staff).

4There are some exceptions to stasis in modern cities, such as moving bridges, etc.

The Photographer’s Dilemma (VIII)

She was so distressed by the mysterious message from the cafe she skipped her gala showing and the meeting she was supposed to have with Thompson afterwards and found herself wandering in The Tombs near where Greely had been killed. She passed by the stoop where he had called to her as night fell like a blanket of smog, the hairs on her arms rising ferine, her breath coming and going erratically. Nothing felt real. She had no idea what she was doing. Pure compulsion drove her to stand where the old man had called out, where, not far away, the strange man with the white jacket had warned her. She removed her camera and snapped a photo of the dead man’s after image and then walked up the stairs to the door of the old tenement, still adorned with police tape that had been severed.

She froze. Someone had been here after the police had cordoned off the area. She reached out her hand to touch the knob whereupon a voice sharp and clear rang out behind her and nearly made flee her very skin.

“Curiosity killed the cat.”

She whirled, eye bulging in great owlish disks and her breath catching in her throat. A middle aged man stood in the alley, he was baggy-eyed and disheveled, dressed all in ill-fitting cast offs.

“You scared the fuck out of me.”

“How much fuck did you have in ya, exactly?”

She rolled her eyes and traversed the steps, “What are you doing here?”

“Investigating. Its what I do. I’m Jervis Lock. Reporter.”

“Ariadne Campbell. Artist. Are you the one who cut the police tape?”

“Nope. Was just about to ask you the same thing.”

He didn’t seem interested in her, his eyes were fixed wholly upon Greely’s former tenement. She’d seen his kind before, lean, cold, restless, cynical; journalism seemed to draw such creatures to its fold as meat drew maggots.

“You know what happened here?”

He nodded.

“Sick fuck was kidnapping kids. Selling them, my sources tell me.”

“Whose your source.”

“Well I’d tell ya,” he grinned wolfishly, “But then I’d have to kill ya.” She didn’t find the jest amusing and for a moment just glared at him until the reporter became uncomfortable. He peaked up moments later, “I feel like I’ve seen you somewhere before.”

“I’ve been holding shows at the Thompson.”

“Oh you’re that photographer! Yeah, I seen ya, in the paper. Ariadne Campbell. Knew I’d heard that name somewhere before… So why are you here?”

“I’m here because I say him.”

“Who?”

“Greely. The kidnapper. Before… before whatever happened, happened.”

“No shit.”

“He was sitting right where I’m standing now. Asked me if I was looking for something. I think its only because I turned down his offer for… whatever it was he was offering that I didn’t end up like him.”

“Oh, I doubt that. See,” Jervis paused, uncertain if he should continue.

“What?”

“Well, its kinda confidential information pertaining to the case.”

“From your mysterious source?”

He nodded and shortly thereafter a mischevious look came into his eye.

“What say we get out of this dump and I can tell you about it over drinks?”

“Are you asking me out on a date?”

“Nah. I gave up on dates after my third marriage. I’m asking you to be my drinking buddy.”

*

The bar was cold and smelled of fried chicken and musk and old varnish. It occupied a seat next to a textile manufacturing plant which had been out of operation for over fifty years and the skeletal remnants of the great site of production loomed over the dive like a massive keep, covering it over in an omnipresent shade. Lock loosened his tie and as the drinks came, his a fruity margarita with an bright red umbrella, hers a forgettablely named bottom-shelf beer. He leaned back and looked his companion up and down briskly and then took a sip of his drink and jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

“You know the old plant?”

“Formerly a steel mill or something like that, right?”

“I’ve no idea. I just saw it and was wondering if we really knew our own history.” He gave a laugh, “Guess we don’t.”

She didn’t know how to respond and set to removing the cap from her beer; it wouldn’t budge.

“Ya want me to get it?”

“No. Its fine. I got it.”

But she didn’t and shortly her grip slipped and a ruddy gash appeared upon her palm. It stung but none too bad, even as the blood trickled down upon the table. It looked so beautiful that she could do nothing but follow the red lines like mercury and ketchup where they ran down her palm and splish splashed upon the smooth faux granite of the old dinner table.

“Shit, are you alright?”

“Fine. Just a scratch.”

“That looks a little deeper than a scratch.”

She ignored him and raised her hand up to her face, running her tongue out from between pristine red lips to slithered against her blood. After she had made the first pass across her bloody palm she gazed up behold the journalist whose face was contorted in confusion and disgust; she smiled and then took a sip of her beer and wrapped one of the cloth napkins at the table around her hand and leaned forwards over the table eagerly.

“So here we are. Drinking buddies. Now, why don’t you tell me why you said that you doubted that I’d have ended up like Greely even if I stayed.”

“What?”

“You said that, earlier, when we were by his tenement.”

“Oh yeah, yeah. Well, see,” he lowered his voice conspiratorially, “What happened to Greely… it’s been happening all over the city, not just in The Tombs, everywhere, for years now. Lot of old cold cases, disappearances are treated like stand alone instances, right, you have some sicko and he wants to diddle kids or eat them or whatever the fuck and the police think, well it’s just this one guy, this one mentally deranged guy. And usually that’s true but what I’ve found is something… quite different. See, I’ve been reading through every dissapearence and homicide for the past couple of years, no connection, no connection, then, suddenly bodies start dropping. One or two at a time, late at night, isolated locations, nobodies… or so it seems. One thing at least fifteen of these recent murders have in common, the victim was always a victimizer.”

He held up his hands, his fingers pressed to palm and them facing Ariadne, he raised his index finger first, “So most recently Greely, child kidnapper, may or may not be involved with a intercontinental human trafficking and drug smuggling ring. Then, last month there was this fellow Eric Graylane, smut peddler and a suspected money launderer, political player of some importance, couple weeks before that, there was this lady, Anna Conrad-Winthrop, criminal defense lawyer, real well esteemed pillar-of-her-community-type. Winds up facedown in a pool of her own blood, knifed through the chest with such force the blade lodged into her spine,” Ariadne’s brows rose, “Turns out, after the investigation, she was a covering for a migrant grooming gang who, only a couple of days before all just up and vanished. Poof, gone.”

“What happened to them?”

Lock shook his head grimly, “A kid found them in the docks, or rather, what was left of them, heads floating in the shallows. Hacked to pieces.”

“You thinking this is a vigilante?”

“At first glance it would seem that way, maybe like a syndicate of sorts that is taking the law into their own hand, cept for one thing… there is another point of commonality between all of the victims – and I do use that word lightly – they were all involved, at one point or another with the Merideth Foundation.”

“Thompson’s gallery is partnered with them.”

“Lots of galleries are. Merideth is the single largest independent non-profit organization in, not just the city, but the country. They’re everywhere.”

“So you think this might be political?”

“Merideth has given a lot of money to a lot of different people. Not all of them savory.”

“Mr. Lock-”

“Yeah?”

“Why are you telling me all of this? I’m assuming its not just cuz you wanted a drinking buddy.”

“Yeah, well… ya might have assumed right. I uh, could use your help-”

“You were just pretending not to know who I was, weren’t you? You were looking for me. You want to use me for your story because I work at Thompson’s. Fuck, I’m thick tonight…”

“I hope you don’t mind, I just didn’t want to come across as pushy.”

She wasn’t upset, she was elated. This was just what she had been looking for. Seeking. New forms of inspiration. Inspiration which the charnel hosue of the city’s filthy underbelly had graciously provided.

Ariadne smiled and closed her fist around the red-soaked napkin, soaking redder still.

“I’d be delighted to oblige.”

 

The Photographer’s Dilemma (VII)

*

As soon as she was able to get some distance from Partridge she pulled out her mobile and opened up her social media on Rattle.web. She squinted down at her profile photo, it was a top-down angled portrait; she didn’t like it, she was trying to hard to look interesting, she thought to herself. What caught her attention after a few moments was the eyeliner she was wearing and how wide she was holding her eyes open. After a comparison she was certain, this was the picture. She cursed under her breath, how could she not have made the connection? It was so obvious. So easy. As easy to realize as it had been for who ever made the photo, to obtain. The internet was a bountiful sea of information, most of it public or at the least, publically accessible, no matter how intimate. Like shells beneath sand.

*

Ariadne was surprised to find her work in increasingly high demand in the ensuing weeks after her first major showing at the Thompson Gala. The little boutique art papers and e-zines covered her gallery with enthusiasm, noting a “bold new voice” with a “distinctive eye for gritty realism.” Calvin continued inviting her to his compound raves and she began to dance for the first time and found to her very great surprise she was good at it. Everything was going so smoothly that she nearly forgot all about the murder which she had nearly been drawn into and the eerie photograph of her eye and the theft of her photos and the man with the white jacket. Yet the more attention she received the more stressed and irritated she became. It was not that she was ungrateful, or that the galas were unpleasant but rather that everyone began to twist her art to fit their own personal narratives, there were feminist columnists who declared her pictures displayed the crisis of masculinity and conservative yahoos who declared that her pictures of the city were indicative of the need for a revitalization of the faith and its attendant patriarchal norms and there were anarchists who took her grim realism to be a calling card to a morally vacuous modality of thought which sought out the beauty of destruction for its own sake. None of it was true. Before next gala, Jamie, Calvin and Svetlana met her at cafe just outside The Tombs known as The Orange Tree.

Svetlana hugged Ariadne and smiled broadly, “I’m so happy for you.”

“Thanks. I… wish I could feel the same way.”

Calvin titled his head inquisitively as they all sat down around one of only four rickety wooden tables in the joint.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t mean to say I’m unhappy or ungrateful – I owe you a lot of thanks, Cal – its just, every time there is a new article or podcast out about my work its always the same old song and dance. They don’t really care what it is actually about, they just want to use it for their own ends. They could just ask me.”

“Lynder once told me,” Svetlana broke in, “That there are only two reasons why a work of art is misunderstood, either because its author was lacking in talent such as to properly communicate its messages, or, it is deliberately twisted to fulfil a institutional function. You are certainly not lacking in talent.”

Ariadne balked, “I’m so sick of hearing that name.”

Svetlana looked to Jamie and Calvin for assistance. Neither had anything to say. When their drinks came Ariadne practically siphoned her cup down. She, typically prim and restrained in social outings, was too flustered to care about such trivialities. Jamies laughed suddenly and pointed to her lip.

“What?”

He was laughing so hard he could barely speak, “C-co-”

“WHAT?”

Calvin leaned in towards her over the table as a couple of detectives strolled by some five feet away.

“You’ve got a chocolate mustache.”

She twisted her spoon towards her such that it showed her reflect. Damn, he was right. She didn’t see what was so funny about it. Fuckers. Laughing. Laughing. Laughing. She reached for her napkin and from it a small slip of cream colored paper fluttered down into her lap.

She flipped it over and read it in horror.

Do you see?

The Photographer’s Dilemma (I)

Ariadne Campbell scoffed.

“It’s… really quite dreadful. He’s talented, clearly, but it’s just so… grotesque.”

The woman’s companion, a bulky man with golden hair, dressed in a blazer that was far less expensive than it looked, folded his arms took a step away from the painting. He scanned the composition for a few moments and then returned his gaze to Campbell.

“I have to disagree with you. I think it’s lovely. No, that isn’t the right word. Striking.”

“You’re far too accommodating, Calvin; you never like to say a negative word. No spine beneath all those muscles.”

“It’s not that I am afraid to critique, it’s just in this I find nothing to critique at all. It’s magnificent, really.”

“It’s shock-drivel. I mean, rape… really?”

“Are you sure all that faulty ire isn’t just a result of Lynder Partridge getting top-slot and you getting… well, nothing.”

Some art reviewers from the local papers walked by, sizing up the massive canvas and it’s disconcerting contents. They stroked their stubbly chins and scratched out some notes and chattered amongst themselves about the latest cinematic releases and celebrity scandals.

“You seen the latest Captain Omega film?” A pudgy, balding man with a windbreaker inquired to a young, starry eyed Asain woman who stood beside him. She shook her head mane, “No. Haven’t seen them, superhero movies are rather… I don’t know I just don’t find them interesting. They’re all… it’s like the same film over and over again. There is no dramatic tension because you know the good guy will always win. You know one thing I was thinking about was how morality is handled in these films, superhero films, action films generally,” the fat man nodded blankly, he wasn’t really listening, didn’t really care, his eyes scanned the room, seeking out the all-stars from the world of the arts; there was always a scoop, if one was keen enough to but find it. The woman droned on, “So like, they’re always just like good and noble and whatever which is fine and all except that, ya know, they’re actually vigilantes. I mean, think about it, that’s what superheroes are, really. If someone dressed up in a mask and a cape and went around beating up criminals we’d all think they were crazy.”

The fat man turned to his companion with a knowing glint in his eye, “Lady, we pay good money to watch the mistresses of inner-city thugs throw tampons at each other; I think we’re all crazy.”

The woman gasped and turned to her friends to relay the horror she had just witnessed as the fat man cracked a grin and moved up stand between Campbell and Calvin, examining the elaborate drawing in between darting glances to the aloof duo.

“You’re the famous Ms. Campbell, aren’t you? The photographer, right?”

Campbell was surprised and flattered to be recognized; she tried in vain not to let it show through.

“Yes. Do we know each other?”

“Nope. But I know you know. I’m Ashton Derby,” he flashed a well-filled notepad in front of her face, “Been following your work. Pretty stuff, very pretty stuff, you’ve got a keen eye.”

“Apparently you do as well,” she smiled smugly, luxuriating in her burgeoning fame, “Are you an artist yourself?”

“No, not me. Ha, can barely draw a stick figure. I just like writing about it. I fancy that’s what the shrinks would call ‘cathartic release.’ Or voyeurism… or something like that.”

“What do you make of Partridge’s work; his drawings?”

“They’re… different. They’re kinda… I dunno… disturbing.”

Campbell turned to Calvin with triumph shinning in her eyes, “See, I told you he wasn’t all that.”

“Oh no, it isn’t that I think they’re bad, I mean, it’s like a car crash, it’s horrible but I can’t look away, that’s kind of a testament to the artist, don’t you think? Whole reason I came to this gala event was to snag an interview with the elusive Lynder Partridge, guy never answers my emails, phone calls, nothing. He’s a hermit. Ya know, I tried looking him up… weirdest thing, there are no photographs of the guy anywhere, online, in papers. Must be camera shy.”

Campbell’s heart shrunk. She was so sick and tired of hearing that name. So sick and tired of everyone praising such a rank amateur. This should have been her event. HER gala. If only… if only…

Now it was Calvin who looked victorious, he arched a brow in his friend’s direction as if to say, “Still so haughty?” Campbell crossed her arms about her breasts and bite her lip and then scoffed at the fat man.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe our collective tastes have reached such lows. Decades ago this city used to be the art capital of the world and now… THIS? This is what passes as art? This ghastly aberration?! Lynder Partridge is nothing more than an over-hyped elitist.”

Darby was taken aback and for a moment he stood in stunned silence; he’d not expected such a sudden deluge of passion. Calvin only sighed, it was not the first time he’d witnessed such an outburst. Before either of the men could respond, a new voice fluttered over the air, low and scratchy and strangely sonorous.

“I’ve been called many things, Ms. Campbell, but never ‘over-hyped’.”

All heads turned to behold a man of middling height and pale flesh standing before them. The intruder wore an off-white suit, expertly tailored, a red tie and a jet black overcoat, tipped at the collar with expensive furs and leather loafers that clattered musically upon the gala’s marbled floor as the cane that followed with them. His features were sharp and angular and his opaque blue eyes reflected the light in prismatic sparks that were diluted from the thick and serpentine whorls of smoke that roiled up from a daintily clutched cigarette – half smoked – which he held in his left and leather gloved hand.

Darby’s face lit up as he saw the man, his long-sought quarry as Campbell’s own fell in dismay. She’d not actually expected to meet the man when she’d accepted invitation as Partridge was notoriously aloof. Some who knew him reported that he was partial to month long vanishing acts; where he went was anyone’s guess.

“M-Mr. Partridge! Hello, I’m-”

“Ashton Darby. Newspaper man. Culture reporter for The New Daily Standard. I read your column,” the fat man waited in vain for the artist to comment on the quality of his writing; when he did not, the light faded from his eyes and he twirled the notepad with agitation, “And you are Ariadne Campbell, and this must be your friend,” Lynder turned to Calvin with the faintest trace of a smile and extended one of his thin, leather-gloved hands.

“Calvin Mercer, pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Partridge.”

“Likewise.”

“Do forgive my friend here, she sometimes gets a little carried away, I’m sure she didn’t mean-”

“I meant absolutely everything I said,” Ariadne snapped hotly, her gaze narrowing and her mouth going taunt. It occurred to her suddenly that this chance encounter opened up a whole world of new possibilities for her career. Perhaps, she thought, Darby would even write her up in one of his columns! If there were to be a public spat, surely someone would pick it up. One of the tabloids. One of the screamsheets. Tantalized, she steeled her resolve.

“Your art is dreadful.”

Darby nearly gasped while Calvin simply shook his head in resigned vexation; why, he thought, could she never behave herself? There always had to be a show…

Lynder’s face registered nothing. His facade as placid and impenetrable as a Venetian mask.

“You’re a photographer, are you not, Ms. Campbell?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“What I should fancy is truly cause for dread is the photographers’ dilemma; the photographer is a documentarian through and through. He does not create, he captures creation.”

“All art is documentation.”

“This is true. Art is documentation of one’s own creation, not of anothers. The photographer who does not arrange his or her own scenes, why,” Lynder finally turned towards her, it was the first time he had looked directly at Campbell since he’d entered the scene; his head level, piercing blue eyes unblinking, “She wouldn’t really even be an artist at all, but merely a voyeur, a vessel for the real actors to communicate. A medium.”

Campbell froze having noticed the gender switch – he to she – she’d heard the words but they did not instantly register in her mind. When they had sunk in she groped for a retort but there was nothing other than the rattling of the crowd like a great and baying pack of hounds echoing all throughout the hall surrounding and her own rapid cluttering thoughts which slithered up from the viscous recesses of her frantic mind. She had never considered such a position before; she knew he was wrong, of course, indeed, had to be, but she could not articulate why and in due course began to question her own conviction. I’m not… I’m not just some documentarian. I’m an artist. Just like you. Only better. Far better. You think you can talk down to me because you’re on the rise? Because you’ve got a little bit of local fame? Because you got the gala slot and not me?! I’ll show you, you arrogant bastard. I’ll show you!

Campbell made a showing of carelessness, sighing and turning from Lynder as if he bored her, though, in truth, it was to escape his gaze. Most people looked off at regular intervals when they were talking with someone but Lynder’s eyes never wavered, he was focused wholly upon her, expectant, she assumed, of a reply. She didn’t like it. Didn’t like him or his weird eyes or his fancy coat or his preened dress clothes beneath it. Didn’t like the gala and the insect clattering of the crowd.

She wanted to get out. Needed to get out.

“This conversation bores me, I’m leaving,” she thought that might do it, that that would stir some hint of passion from him, rouse some semblance of anger. But there was nothing. His cold, blue eyes and his sharp pale face remained wholly immobile, unfazed.

Momentarily, Lynder inclined his head respectfully, sincerely, “Good’day, Ms. Campbell.”

It took considerable willpower for Campbell to keep herself from running from the gala. The bastard had won, she thought to herself, and what was more infuriating was that she was fairly certain the battle was entirely constrained within the confines of her own mind. He had won today, but she vowed she’d never allow him the upper hand again.

*

 

She scanned Darby’s column as soon as it was released. There was no mention of “Ariadne Campbell.” Ariadne cursed herself; I should have made a better impression on Darby and a worser impression on HIM. I should have… I should have…

“Something on your mind, Ms. Campbell? You look worried.”

She turned to her model where he stood in the albescent loft, naked and holding a fig. Putting down the paper upon her worktable she looked up at the man and shook her head.

“It’s nothing. Hold the fig a little higher.”

“Like this?”

“Yes, good. Good.”

Only it wasn’t good. It was a stiff and cliche sub-par Renaissance-era facsimileism. It was deplorable. She looked at the digital camera reel, picture after picture of the lithe, muscular young man in various poses of heroic splendor as hackneyed and messageless as the splicing on-to of Roman columns upon a Brutalist facade. She had attempted Homeric Joe McNally and ended up as just another amateur floundering at the fathomless edges of the new. She sighed and leaned back, setting the camera down with a dull clack upon the worktable and sipped some lukewarm bourbon from a small, squat wineglass. She hadn’t been able to find any of the damned shot glasses, she wondered idly if Calvin had thieved one for his upcoming flat-party. He’d better not have…

“Ms. Campbell, I could really use a stretch, like I said before, I don’t mind posing a little over-time, and we’re,” he looked towards his mobile phone’s clock, “ten minutes over, “But I’ve been doing this pose for almost twenty minutes straight, neck is killin’ me.”

“Yeah. Sure. Fine.”

She was only half listening. Frustration’s savage increase consumed the whole of her mind. She couldn’t find her shot glasses. She couldn’t get a gala slot. She couldn’t get featured in any of the big name art columns even if she was being recognized by their writers. She still couldn’t think of rebuttal to Lynder’s rebuke and as a consequence had decided to forego her typical photographic methodology of streetcrawling for real-life scenes in favor of a elaborate and meticulously crafted designer-fantasy shot. What bothered her most was that the draftsman had not spoken out of anger, but out of concern and curiosity. His low and sonorous voice echoed still.

Art is documentation of one’s own creation, not of anothers. The photographer who does not arrange his or her own scenes, why, she wouldn’t really even be an artist at all, but merely a voyeur, a vessel for the real actor’s to communicate. A medium.

A medium… is that all I really am? A vessel? She wondered with horror, her hands closing tensely upon her sunless knees, her lips and brows trembling with emotion. The week had begun so promisingly and now everything felt wrong. Fate was taking the piss.

“What’s the matter?”

“I don’t pay you to psychoanalyze.”

The model threw up his hands in entreaty, his mouth going taunt, eye mired in confusion and a mild but growing sense of irritation.

“Yeesh. Sorry. Don’t know why you’re in such a foul mood today. I was just worried about you-”

“I don’t pay you to worry. I pay you to do good poses for my work. A task at which you have miserably failed. Look at this. It’s cartoonish,” she held up the camera reel screen for him to observe, “See. Look at this.”

“Those were poses you asked me to do.”

“Well, you didn’t do them very well, did you?” The question was rhetorical. She knew they were bad and she knew he knew they were bad. She just wanted him to suffer for it. He wasn’t an artist but he’d been around enough artists to know what was aesthetically pleasing and what was schlock. It was his fault, she thought, anger rising with her body from the couch. HIS, not mine!

“I don’t know what else you want from me.”

“I want you to leave. You’re fired.”

His eyes went wide, “What? Why?”

“Just get out.”

“An explanation for my CV would be appreciated.”

“I said get out.”

He turned to leave, hurriedly dressing and snatching his phone up from off the counter of the exposed kitchen island. He paused at the door and turned to look at his former boss with equal measures of disappointment and disdain.

“You ever wonder if you can’t get into the big galas because you aren’t talented or if its just because you’re a unbearable bitch? Food for thought. Have fun with the rest of your life.”

She was expecting an infuriated slam but he closed the door gently behind him. As his feet clattered down the old tenement hallway Ariadne moved to where he’d stood before the counter, as if to envelope his afterimage. Some indeterminable amount of time clocked away into nothing before she inhaled deeply and poured herself another shot of brew, sipping the golden drops in quick, nervous gulps, cursing her former employee in her mind. You never really cared about my work. You probably only cared about me because of money. Maybe you wanted to fuck me. Well, now I’ve fucked you. Bastard. 

Outside the cars tore at the concrete and a flock of birds she’d never seen before squealed by, as if in protest of gravity’s suzerainty. The city screamed and she screamed with it.

 

 

On The Prospects of Inverse Arcology

The object is eternal, only the subject dies.

Introduction

Who is this brain-dead worm, this mad cadaver, this “modern” American architect? Not nearly modern enough, his works swim amidst a phantasmal tide and lags behind decades, or, if he or she wishes to showcase their cultural acumen, centuries! How little has changed since the times of Sant’Elia and how right he was! All around America one spies these ugly conglomerations of brick and fake wood, roman columns affixed to cement facades, as if in afterthought. Ugly, insipid and wasteful; it is the latter which leads so oft to the former eventualities. Those materials which have been hitherto plied to fashion those many layers of superfluous paneling, column-fitting and ostentatious, gaudy nonsense on our buildings could have been aggregated to create whole new living spaces and the pathways to them! Fear not, we shall dispatch of these cretins in goodly time.

However, it is never enough to merely criticize; a solely negatory enterprise invariably consumes itself at the last. Instead we will pair our rebarbative salvos with a proposal, not just for a new style or aesthetic of American architecture, but an all-encompassing vector for societal construction. Be not uncertain, this task is of no small import, but rather, one of the greatest possible magnitude. The total world population is projected to increase markedly by 2050, whilst the concentrations of individuals living in urban areas are projected to continue intensifying. As of 2010, over 50 percent of the world population lived in urban areas. According to United Nations, China’s population is projected to reach 900 million by 2030, India, approximately 700 million and the USA, just under 300 million1. One then spies numerous problems arises, ranging from resource scarcity from over-consumption to hyper-compression and traffic congestion. To effectively meet this challenge new societal models will be required. One of the most interesting of these new ideas was laid out by the Italian architect, Paolo Soleri, in his 1969 book, Arcology: The City in the Image of Man. Soleri lays out the foundations of Arcology2 as both a new type of societal structure and a new way of thinking about man’s relationship to the world. He wrote:

“Such a structure [an Arcology] would take the place of the natural landscape inasmuch as it would constitute the new topography to be dealt with. This man-made topography would differ from the natural topography in the following ways: It would not be a one-surface configuration but a multilevel one. It would be conceived in such a way as to be the carrier of all the elements that make the physical life of the city possible—places and inlets for people, freight, water, power, climate, telephone; places and outlets for people, freight, waste, mail, products, and so forth. It would be a large-dimensioned sheltering device, fractioning three-dimensional space in large and small subspaces, making its own weather and its own cityscape. It would be the major vessel for massive flow of people and things within and toward the outside of the city. It would be the organizing pattern and anchorage for private and public institutions of the city. It would be the focal structure for the complex and ever-changing life of the city. It would be the unmistakable expression of man the maker and the creator. It would be diverse and singular in all of its realizations. Arcology would be surrounded by an uncluttered, open landscape (Soleri, 1969, p. 13).”

To construct his soaring vision, Soleri borrows from the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Omega-Point hypothesis3. Due this influence, Soleri conceives of arcologies as places, not just of new-found frugality, protection and efficacy, but also of spiritual improvement. Soleri further sketches out the details of his new habitational paradigm by way of CDM (Complexity, Miniaturization, Duration), three guidelines which all arcologies must obey to be commensurate with the rhythms of human life. Soleri takes the issue of energy consumption seriously and posits that arcologies, to be properly constituted, must be energy-cities, that is system-structures which, in their entirety, work to produce, capture, store and utilize energy. Additionally, Soleri tackles the issue of density, the synthesis of CDM, that is, miniaturization within a complex system over a period of time; as Jeff Stein noted, “No Eco-thinking can ignore density. Crowding, the maker of life.”4

Some concrete examples of arcologies which Soleri sketched (though these were, obviously, never built) included, Novanoah II (1969), a massive construct which could comfortably occupy 2,400,000 inhabitants upon the open oceans, and, Stonebow (1977), a gargantuan arch designed to be situated over canyon topographies, as well as, Arcbeam Variation (1977), a giant multi-layered bridge-like structure designed to be situated between two cliffs or mountains. Whilst a cursory viewing of his conceptual sketches and reading of his theories might lead one to believe he is some sort of jelly-minded Utopian, he is nothing of the sort. During a 2008 interview between Soleri and The Guardian reporter, Steve Rose, the journalist inquires as to the feasibility of creating a “utopia” without money to which the architect responded, Utopia is a pretty stupid notion.”5

It strikes me as rather odd that Mr. Rose would make such a inquiry given that he conducted his interview in the Arcosanti, a arcological city designed as a alternative to the traditional American urban sprawl by none other than Soleri himself! Now, it bears noting, that the Arcosanti even now, as of this writing in 2018, is not yet completed, but the fact that it exists at all, attests to the immediate practicability of, at least some, his designs.

Thus far we have established three points of import: Firstly, we have established what arcologies are, secondly, we have established that arcologies are required for the future development of technologically advanced peoples due to urban concentration, and, thirdly, we have established arcologies are, at least in some of their variations, immediately viable. However, the uniqueness of particular nations, countries and empires bears factoring into this tripartie equation; one cannot merely say, ecologies should be built, or, ecologies need to be built, and simply leave it at that. We must tackle the specific kinds of ecologies which should be built and, additionally, address, precisely why and how they should be built. Soleri’s Arcosanti, for instance, was created specifically for Americans as a reaction to the cloistering penchants of modern urban architecture. Hence, Soleri, like all good architects, took both the question of topography and identity into consideration; the topography of the land, the identity of the people who will prospectively occupy the structure and, finally, the identity of the prospective architecture itself to ensure that it is commensurate with those who will there taken up residence.

For our purposes we shall narrow our focus upon prospective Arcological methods for the United States.

On The Prospect of Inverse Arcologies

Arcologies, as formulated by Soleri, are generally conceived of as towering megastructures; but let us consider a different formulation, a inverse arcology, one which goes downward instead of up. To build down means to traverse one of two domains: The earth and the waters.

Chthonic Arcology

Modern architecture already entails a good deal of chthonic burrowing, such as: subways, basements, bunkers, mausoleums, mine-shafts and vaults. To go further and build a habitable domicile is not just practicable, but already a reality. For instance, in Festus, Missouri, a 15,000-square foot home was built inside of a sandstone cavern, dubbed, the Cave House. The structure blends seamlessly into the cave walls for both aesthetic appeal and pragmatic effect as geothermal design wholly eliminates the need for additional heating and cooling modules such as air conditioning units or electric or gas heaters. The case of Cave House, though not a arcology, is promising given that there is nothing which prohibits those same techniques and materials being utilized towards subterranean city development other than a willingness to take the plunge. Once such a process becomes mainlined then the additional mind-power required to begin fleshing out possible arcological models for underground self-sufficiency (such as thermal capture, deep gardens and watershed exploitation).

Then there is the fantastical underground city known as the Shanghai Tunnels or Portland Underground, in Portland, Oregon, used in the 1850s to the 1940s for the imprisonment and transportation of captured laborers – slaves – to be utilized by unscrupulous seamen in their travels to the Orient (a practiced colloquially referred to as Shanghaiing). Women who were captured were, according to legend, typically sold as prostitutes for the enjoyment of libidinous seamen. Though the dense and winding passageways beneath Portland’s Chinatown (also known as ‘Old Town’ or ‘Central Downtown Portland’) were utilized for rather unsavoury ends, the infrastructure was (or rather, still is) highly sophisticated and even housed various subterranean living quarters, primarily prison cells used to hold the various men and women who were dragged down into the labyrinth. Again, the Portland Underground is not a arcology but given that it shows the answer to the question, “Are modern underground cities feasible?” is an obvious, “Yes,” the question then becomes, “Where then to build and how?” Let us turn our attention to abandoned mines as a prospective domain of conquest.

There are approximately 500,000 unoperational mines in the United States of America, according to Abandoned Mines.gov, a website managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Some place this number higher, given the difficult of mapping hazardous topography and the fact that some mines are so old that documentation concerning them is all but impossible to find. Governmental statistics from 2014 show 46,000 abandoned mines on public property. Given the fact that so much funding and man-power is already being directed towards modulated these empty husks of former productivity, it stands as imminently reasonable to propose that we go all in on these myriad projects and transmogrify them wholly. Instead of dark and echoing pits, into which, the hapless wayfarer might be plunged, arcological mapping might produce a luminous and bustling cultural hub, or transportation terminus. The Department of the Interior has projected that the Environmental Protection Agency’s empty mine clean-up plan would require approximately 72 billion dollars (2.4 billion dollars from tax payers), and that is only for hard rock mines, meaning, those mines which separate minerals from metals, and does not cover any other mine variants. One might fashion a new and more efficacious plan which lowers the total cost for equipment, manpower, transportation and tailing clean-up and put those saved funds into renovating vibrant living spaces within what would be, even after EPA interference, hollowed out caverns. This plan would be especially useful for those mines which are slated for re-opening as some portion of the arcological space would be able to function for them as a home-away-from-home during their labors and, in time, may even birth whole new cities which would continuously expand themselves as their inhabitants drilled further and further into the earth, chasing the precious metals and minerals therein.

Abyssal Arcology

Let us dispense with any silly notions about the impossibility of underwater cities and let us also cast off our fears of the inherent dangers there implied. Japan’s Shimizu Corporation announced, in 2014, plans for a underwater city designed to accommodate 5000 people. The project, entitled, Ocean Spiral, was given the green light in 2015 and consisted of blueprints which proposed a series of massive interlinked orbs, 1600 feet in diameter, with exceedingly long screw-like extensions which would burrow into the seabed where they would connect with various modules that would be utilized as outposts for resource collection, such as mining. The spiral surrounding the floating spheres of project Ocean Spiral would serve a additional function other than connecting to the seafloor, namely, energy collection. Given the scarcity of power options so deep underneath the ocean, the theorists behind the project realized that the structure would require a built in power-source, thus, the spiral would capture thermal energy from the ocean generated from the difference between the cooler lower seawater and the warmer shallows and then use that captured energy to power steam-turbines within the spiral, a process referred to as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). Shimizu Corp also believes it is feasible to utilize microorganisms that live upon the seabed to harvest energy by using them to convert carbon dioxide into methane. The question of sustenance is easily answered given the bounty of the sea, though to ensure a goodly supply, fish and crustacean farms and underwater gardens would be built into and around the structures and water would be desalinated via a reverse osmosis membrane from the ocean. Each sphere within the spiral would be able to move up and down at-will and operate like spacious slow-moving submarines with the uppermost sphere acting as the principal residential area.

In a interview with The Guardian in 2014, Shimizu Corp’s spokesman, Hideo Imamura stated, “This is a real goal, not a pipe dream. The Astro Boy cartoon character had a mobile phone long before they were actually invented – in the same way, the technology and knowhow we need for this project will become available.”6

Thus, we see that not only are inverse arcologies possible, they are already being designed (Ocean Spiral, for instance, is speculated to be built and prepped for human habitation sometime around 2030).

1United Nations, World Prospects, 2007 revision.

2Arcology is a portmanteau of “architecture” and “ecology.” See, Soleri, Paolo (1973), The Bridge Between Matter & Spirit is Matter Becoming Spirit.

3The Omega-Point is the belief that all things in existence are destined to move towards the creation of a superintelligence born out of the evolutionary process. Chardin’s theory is similar to the heat death hypothesis proffered by many physicists and cosmologists, differing in that he believed that the process would operate beyond the strictures of entropy. The idea might best be summarized via Kurzweil, “Evolution moves inexorably toward our conception of God, albeit never reaching this ideal.”

4Jeff Stein, The City 2.0, TEDxMission, Nov. 9th, 2012.

5Steve Rose, The Man Who Saw The Future, (The Guardian, 2008).

6Katharine J. Tobal, Japan Releases Plans For Futuristic Underwater Cities By 2030, Nov. 25, 2014.

The Iron Garden: Part.12

Campaign

Angela Vikander stood anxiously upon the balcony of her expansive highrise, overlooking the main thoroughfares of the city. She wanted a cigarette badly but had decided to quit, a move to improve her image; it had been Erlen’s idea. Vikander cursed her campaign manager under her breath. Damn him. Why the hell do I need to quit smoking? No potential voters is going to know or much care what the fuck I do in private. No one cares what people do in the privacy of their own homes. Look at those genderqueer freaks… no one bats an eye any more about them and their bizarro protests, their period fetishes… any sane person would gag seeing those loons. Yet you see the news hen-pecking them, Erlen? Fuck no. No one gives a shit.

These were inappropriate thoughts, she well knew, thoughts which, if given voice, would sink her campaign almost as quickly as the CAF albatross which had been thrown about her neck. Everything was coming apart at the seams. She inhaled deeply and leaned against the cool steel of the balcony as a voice echoed from behind.

“You look a little stressed. Did I come in at a bad time?”

She turned to address Erlen Straik. He was a short, thin man, with immaculately styled hair, designer glasses and a swooning way of moving that Vikander had always found infuriatingly effete and affected.

“No. What is it?”

“You need to see this.”

He moved to the table in the middle of her make-shift conference room and laid out a news article. The headline read: CAF Attacks Art Gallery. What Part Did Vikander Play?

Angela sighed, “That from The Trumpet. They’ve been pro-Layne since he announced his campaign.”

As Straik pulled his phone out of his pocket and swiped the screen, illuminating his face with dim, blue light.

“That isn’t all, it gets worse.”

He showed her a online article from his news-feed, the title read: Prominent Democrat Backer, Damien Holt Declares End of Support For Vikander Campaign.

“That bastard… He didn’t even call me!”

“It’s pretty bad. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but… what were you thinking? Arguing with Layne in the middle of a public gala?”

“He made a snide remark. When he saw me he smirked like the smug fuck he is and said, ‘Surprised to see you here, figured the Epstein Institute would be more your speed.’”

“I don’t get it. The what-now?”

“The Epstein Institute. Geez, you’re supposed to be my campaign manager how do you not know this?”

“I’ve been busying doing damage control all morning. So sooorry.”

“Don’t do that.”

“What?”

“That bitchy little lisp thing.”

Straik shook his head and then looked to the would-be mayor once again.

“So why’d this make you angry again?”

“The Epstein Institute is some weird art center, all contemporary abstract stuff, you know, paintings of white squares and statues of police men beating immigrants, all either on-the-nose or political propaganda or some kind of “deep” art that is beyond everyone but the artists who make them.”

“So he was saying you were a pretentious snob?”

“God you’re slow… yes, Erlen, he was implying I was a pretentious snob. So I made some quip back at him, I can’t even remember what I said, it was all a blur – the doctor put me on these shitty pain meds, been messing with my short term memory –  anyways, we were there arguing one moment and then those CAF freaks broke in and-”

“Those CAF ‘freaks’ are some of your biggest supporters.”

“Unfortunately.”

“Their vote is as good as any. Besides, we can turn this to our advantage. We already know how this is going to play out.”

“Do we? I was never much of a student of history but the one thing that I learned from reading it is that assumptions concerning the future almost never pan out accurately.”

“Almost. Pretty big almost.”

“Ever heard of Nostradamus?”

“Who?”

“Nevermind. So what’s rattling about that devious brain of yours?”

“Well, like I was saying, we know how this is going to play out because we know Layne and his base. Nativist populism almost always manifests itself in the exact same way. They’ll say that CAF are terrorists, that they’re threatening the public’s safety – especially after the recent cold-cocks which Layne’s taken – and they’ll try to directly tie you to CAF so that you take responsibility. So we can then say that if you are to be blamed for the unurged actions of your supporters, then Layne must be blamed for the actions and words of the actual Neo-Nazis and fascists which support Layne. We just have to be sure that we pound the table the loudest.”

Vikander nodded in silent affirmation before responding.

“Put out a memo.”

“You should also probably drop this thing with Partridge.”

“The fuck I will.”

“You can’t beat him in the press.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“Why are you so dead-set on getting to him anyways? Because he supports Layne? I mean, ok, but I just don’t get it.”

“Lynder Partridge is one of the most influential people in this city, he’s the one who put Layne up on the pedestal he now precariously occupies. If Partridge goes down in flames, so does Layne.”

“I don’t know that that is necessarily true. I mean, Layne has kinda become his own thing. His supporters – I mean his die-hard supporters – at this point would follow him for him not because of his big backers or even for the change they think he can bring.”

“Yes, all those slavering “patriots” consider him their dear, little leader… But he’s not really in control. He’s just a puppet.”

Erlen gave a sudden wry chuckle.

“Aren’t we all?”