The City

We lived in a city named for where it was built, a place where two rivers merged and fed into the sea. We took the name from the people who had lived on the land before us, and then took the land as well.

There were many people living in the city, and more came every day. Some lived tragic lives, some joyous, but we all felt our lives were good. The city was important, and so we all felt important in some way. We were proud of its bridges, steel spans that were the envy of architects. We were proud of our skyscrapers, which only got taller with every passing year. We thought we lived in the most interesting place on earth.

Then the day came when we had a minor earthquake that made window glass into jello and set off car alarms. The news, in the middle of reassuring us it was only a 3.2 tremor, accidentally showed us the cause of the shaking. The news copter was roaming over the bay shore, filming fish thrown up from the sea, when it came upon a black bar sitting just beneath the surface of the water. We all gaped and the blackness gaped back. It broke the surface. It kept going.

It was a long, slick oblong that rose until it dwarfed the tower bridge. Another had grown near the shipping yards and curved to meet its twin. We watched as they grew silently towards each other until they met, so smooth and black it seemed like no light could escape the surface. It was a bridge, resembling a strand of mycelium or some alien root more than the tower bridge it had engulfed. The newscaster, uncharacteristically silent throughout the whole act, spoke first: “what about the people on the bridge?”

There was a mad exodus at first, those who had cars jammed intersections for blocks around, those who didn’t tried to make it on foot. They were joined by the drivers when it became clear the cars weren’t going anywhere. They came to the other two main land passages just as they, too, were being swallowed up. Slick black spider-filament bridges, bigger than anything made by human hand up until this point. We decided to go home for a while.

The bridges made leaving impossible, and no one wanted to put a boat in the water in case anything else came up. We tried watching the news, see if people outside knew what had happened, but after the bridges went up all signals, television, phone, internet, were lost.

The spires were next.

Nobody called them buildings. It didn’t seem to fit, a human word on these black monoliths. The first one yawned open beneath a block in the business park, swallowing whole the four skyscrapers that had been there only to push them back out a moment later. It took a whole day to grow and when it stopped, the tallest building in the city multiplied by six and stacked end to end couldn’t have measured it. This turned out to be one of the smaller spires. The rest averaged about three days to grow and wound up impossibly tall, no architect in the city knew how they could support their own mass at that point.

They weren’t all tall. Some were just oppressively huge. We lost the zoo and the library in the same fell swoop, you could hear the zebras shriek as something that looked like a pyramid of staircases domed over the whole thing. The stairs were so massive we’d have to climb up on each other’s shoulders to even touch the top of one step. The city square sank into a massive pit, but nothing grew out of it. Instead, water rushed in from the bay to fill it, until it was a bottomless pool.

We lived in terror those first few weeks. Someone might be sleeping in their bed and, with no warning stronger than a groaning sound, be relocated to the earth’s crust. Or crushed. Or absorbed into the new building. We never found out exactly what happened to them. All we knew was by the time the city silenced, there was only a fraction of the population left. What few man-made structures had survived squeezed between the new city’s buildings like lichen, we crowded into those rather than brave sleeping in one of the monoliths. The black rock or volcanic glass or whatever the structures were made of deadened sound, and even our hardest tools could not scratch it. They all smelled wrong…empty, like nothing had ever lived or died within them. This was not a city that invited inhabitation.

We’ve been stuck like this ever since.

Since the city’s stopped growing the only sound is the wind that churns through the tops of the spires, the wind that makes it impossible for any aircraft to pass over the city. The population’s dwindled so much that, if we keep rationing like we do, we might be able to stick it out for another three years. Until rescue or…until the people who belong in this city arrive.

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