There is a city where everything is happening, but nothing ever does. Or, if it does happen, it happens inadvertently. It’s never very far away, and it’s never very hard to find. As you approach the city limits, the hair on the back of your neck will stand on end. This is a case of the body recognizing danger before the mind. As you cross the limits, you’ll hear a very slight popping noise. Well, all blips in the time/space continuum involve very slight popping noises, you see. Your mind, however, will rationalize this, labeling it a mild change in air pressure and nothing more.
This moment decides your entire future.
The city itself looks quite normal. There are some very normal-looking buildings, parks, suburbs, malls, and the like. But something isn’t quite right. The skyscrapers lack a certain grandeur, the parks, a certain lushness. Every sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste is soaked with an oppressive grey. Again, the mind rationalizes and all is forgotten.
You visit a park and sit down on a bench. The man opposite you is on break from a miserable job that he can not stand. Every shift, every hour breaks his spirit. He’s been leaving this job for the past five years, on the way to becoming a freelance writer. He just has to build his portfolio a bit more, get a few more contacts, then, by God, he’ll tell his worthless, two-bit boss what he thinks of him!
His worthless, two-bit boss, of course, has not been building a substantial career, nor has he been becoming a model husband and father for the past thirty years. Of course not! That just happened to play out. This manager has actually been preparing himself to run for political office since he graduated from his university! He’s just got to find the time, the money, the support, then, by God, he’ll really make some changes. Big, big changes!
If you still have your wits about, you’ll realize what danger you are in. You will go to leave. But maybe, on your way out, you see or hear something. Perhaps a bit of music that you can’t turn away from. Perhaps a cafe that catches your eye. Maybe you go inside. Just for a snack. Maybe your server is the most charming, attractive person you have ever met. The exit is always there, right? Dinner plans are made. Maybe you show up. You’re still leaving, right? Foot out the door, be gone tomorrow. Maybe you get a few drinks. Maybe you go back to their place.
Maybe you accidentally start a family. You can’t leave your family.
So the children grow up, move away. But you stay. You can’t travel that far anymore, you’re too old, stuck in your ways. Leaving is for the young! You are content, now. The danger has passed.
It may be surprising, but some people in this city are, in fact, somewhat happy. There are countless waiters starting theatre companies, shop girls going back to school, businessmen making time for their families, and school children becoming rock stars that know their dreams to be forever impossible, beyond hope, and have found a bit of quiet joy. They are content to dream and only to dream.
The others who realize their situation are stifled and struggling in a battle that has only one ending. The surrender may come immediately or it may take years, but it comes, it always comes. They are prisoners who don’t know how to escape. There are no maps, no riddles, no secret passageways; the city becomes a labyrinth of dead ends. They don’t know the secret.
There is only one way to leave: Clear your mind and swiftly walk in one straight line.
The city without ends.
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A city is a place. But it can also be an idea. Like the moon, they can reflect more light than they create.
What "cities" have you visited? The City of the Dead? The City of Eternal Music? The City Without Evil? What was it like? Tell me about it. Maybe it will inspire a song, a poem, a drawing, a video, or a textual story. It can be many things.
Tell me about the cities that you have seen.