the City,

Everday Halls,” “the Hilltop,” “the Flower”: planets largest atmospheric island drifts steadily east-to-west, with the local rotation speed, to stay on the lit side. From a clump of a dozen joined arf homes into “the most ambitious of post-religious temples,” eventually the planets main population hub — “as close as you get to a capital of Earth”: a fair of fairs, a metastreampoint, its halls and towers are being lived, shaped, abandoned, reclaimed by divergent projects and lineages; very probably, someone you know has had a City period in life. “The whole civilization seemed once destined to soak up into the arfworld of the City” but the trend reversed.  ■    An archetypal “breakthrough collective,” Citys founding gang of “night evaders” grew explosively though not all converts responded to the lure of eternal light: many were refugees from sparsened-out surface cities, others simply wanted a part of what was the most talked-about project on the planet — “the last wonder of the world.” Bright, windy time that was, just when accessible flight uprooted everything: a magnificent cloud castle (“so grand, so human-scale”) materialized millennial dreams, “ushered a new amalgamation of humanity” which was quickly atomizing into the shells of family homes. There was no shortage of failure predictions for the “megalomaniac affair” so obviously inspired by retro future visions — yet, in its stasis, offering no meaningful beyond; typically for an undertaking of such scale, no one would say if it was a success — its scope and aims kept shifting as it grew, with triumphs and disappointments aplenty.  ■    Citys founders aspired to rise above weather, as close to the Sun and the cosmos as changed humans can tolerate: to erect the ultimate window sill with a view on all heavens, “the home and the void” in-your-face in their bare grandeur. Most of the contributors didnt even plan to move in but then the evershine — “a strangely powerful fetish” — proved addictive: many would surprise themselves by settling “up there” (City-wards is always up even if you descend to it from outer space) and, slowly, growing intolerant of the planets “dark and damp” down below. Not every resident photophile, however, enjoys the rarefied cold air of the upper City — the constructions cruising altitude has always been a hard-won compromise; like any floating home, the City sinks and rises daily in response to weather but the long-term altitude trends may be a telltale mood indicator for the City-centered slice of humankind. Longitudinally, it was once anchored at midday but after a long struggle (“skylark” vs. “twilight call” factions: love the light but “you cant chase what is right above”) slid eastward, now fluctuating at early evening — feeding the fadeout cliches; latitudinally it is less predictable but generally follows the bulk of migrant homes in chasing the northern summer. ■    Its smaller and emptier today than it was in its heyday a century ago; Citys population is mostly transient except for a small lightfolk core, long in the memorial stage, who rarely leave their everlit island — prompting parallels to the Library whose indwellers never see daylight. It was probably natural that, once capable, the all-dayer and all-nighter factions separated forever: “a period of darkness [or light] every few hours was finally recognized as something you might want to get rid of.” ■    From afar, the City is a floating big tree — or a giant flower, both artificial and irregularly, amorphously organic, “organismally complex”; petal-like walls, roofs, floors go up and up — curved and tangled, exceedingly thin, translucent, coloring the eternal sunlight into all shades of pastel (forget “pure light”: nowhere else such shading, dissipation, indirection). Inside, its echo-filled halls and froth of tiny cells, miles of busy thoroughfares and never-mapped forgotten corners; the uppermost layers are only accessible from outside, wont even support full human weight: “tended and mended in the shining eternity,” they change perceptibly every day — the arf sails are so thin they wont stay up for long, like a flower that withers and sags in fiery sunshine. (Theres so much arf from so many people that any individuals contribution is negligible: the City is a true public domain workable by anyone — otherwise maintaining its immense surface would be impossible.) The lower City envelops itself in an artificially condensed, moistened atmosphere, with alpine gardens greening the creases (“no abstract idea would stay tidy once you dip it into reality”).  ■    Its just a “City breeze” as it passes high above; for all its bulk, the orchidean island casts but a faint shadow on the ground: fixated on light, Citys architects didnt want to breed darkness underneath — its almost translucent as seen from below, its body permeated by ducts that amplify light as they transfer it downwards. Visitors' homes attach at designated places so as not to obscure the light vents; an eerie sight as it passes overhead — with scattered dots of guest homes on a wavy, lucid, sparkling cloth sliding fast and silent across the sky.

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