Sunday January 22nd, 2012

The exercise:

Write about: the city in the sky.

Had a pretty quiet day around the house here. Might have had a little to do with a donut coma.


Tina stood at her living room window, staring at the layer of permanent clouds below. On days like that one she liked to pretend that it was really just an open field, covered by an overnight snowfall.

Maybe, she thought as she sipped her mint tea, one morning I'll forget the truth and try to go for a walk.

She would not have been the first.

It was a difficult adjustment, but it wasn't a bad life. The solar panels took care of the city's energy needs, and with no need for traditional currency everyone was on relatively equal footing. The Council members had the nicest homes, but that was to be expected. After all, it was thanks to them that the city existed in the first place.

But Tina missed the trees, and the lakes, and the feel of solid ground beneath her feet. And the guilt of being among the chosen few to populate the city followed her everywhere, a constant ghostly companion.

And the wondering never seemed to stop. She wondered if the city was sustainable. She wondered when she would be allowed to leave. She wondered when the first murder would occur, and who the historic victim would be.

But most of all, she wondered whether or not any of those left behind on Earth's surface had survived.


Greg said...

A doughnut coma? How many did you eat?!? ;-)
I like the image of the clouds as a snowfall on a field, and I like the mint tea given that mint could be grown in a pot – nice touch. It feels a little like you meander at the end; the last three paragraphs don't seem as tightly focused as the earlier ones. Great scene though!

The city in the sky
Some days the anchor chain would come past and all the children would scamper around it, daring each other to run up and touch it. Some of the older ones, and the more foolhardy of any age, would jump on to it and hang on for a few seconds before letting go and rolling and bouncing on the earth below. Adults would shout at them to stay away from it, and warn them of the dangers of an iron chain with links made of metal as thick as a leg. And they'd point at ruined houses which had been in the way when the prevailing wind changed.
Soron had run through the crowd of children wearing his backpack and his climbing boots over warm clothing, and had leapt onto the chain, hearing their cheers and shouts behind him. When he started climbing though, hauling himself hand over hand until his feet could gain purchase on another link their shouts first fell quiet, then turned to screams of fear. He climbed on anyway.
It took half-an-hour to get to the top, and his arms, legs and lungs were burning even though he'd stopped twice, clinging to the chain as the wind howled around him and he swayed sickeningly from side to side. When he pulled himself over the edge and onto solid ground hanging somehow in the sky, he'd clung to the ground, shuddering and crying until he could get control of himself again. Then he'd looked around at the ruins of the city, and hoped that he'd find something there worthwhile.
Because he couldn't face the climb down again in a hurry.

Cathryn Leigh said...

For my own I think I’ll take an except form my NaNovel 2011, edited to fit. It’s not a city per say, but a floating castle of sorts; very popular among Beta-Vegas 5 Management families.

Citadel in the Sky

Michael could not believe he was doing this, the subterfuge required to pull of a trip planet-side to visit his half brother was something he would have never dreamed of in a million years. It wasn’t that he didn’t go planet side nearly every trip. His mother lived on one of the floating citadel, which kept it free from ‘infestation’ by the Nueri Nin Ni. As it was, she had no clue he was a Nueri himself. A fact that continually surprised him. Then again she was a flighty thing, loved fashion, but couldn’t stand to live in a Moon Base.

Then again her flightiness made it fairly easy for him to pull the wool over her eyes when he pretended to leave and instead went down to the lower levels. Deep in the bowls of the motors that keep the Citadel two hundred feet off the ground he found Kron. The man was working on a tricky complex piece of equipment and Michael thought of Rachael. She’d enjoy this type of engine. She was a mechanically inclined woman and could visualize anything presented to her on paper in 3D, without the need for perspective. Michael waited as his half brother grumbled about and then sighed as it began to hum.


Kron moved under another engine as Michael walked away. His half-brother was a strange one, of that he was certain. The man hated the life he led. Lupita had told him it was because he was torn. How the girl, who’d been raised by the Nueri Nin Ni collectively could know so much about parents that she’d never met, he didn’t know. She was keen to find them. Given that he’d owed her his life, he was helping her. She’d be very interested in this latest development.

When he finally finished maintaining all fifty of the Citadel’s anti gravity engines, he piloted his small shuttle back down to his abode. A small hut, suspended among the tree branches of a balboa tree below. It was supposed to protect him from Nueri, should one get lose, during Transition. A protection he’d found useless and pointless after Lupita had found him.

morganna said...

Towering pink rooms
High in the sky, I want to
Live in the sunset.

David said...

@marc - nice opening - like the contrast between utopian sky and apocalyptic Earth.

@Greg - i love the fact that the city is in ruins, because the first image for most is an idyllic city. Hooked me to know more.

@CathrynLeigh - you have a gift of world building - even if I got lost in this a bit because it is part of a bigger piece, enough details in this little bit to give me the picture of how the city works.

@morganna - thanks for this. put a smile on my face on a gray manhattan day.

Mine is weak at best today (not self deprecating) - but a bit of world building being done:

Randall’s mother first told him the story of the City in the Sky when he was four years old. It was a simple fable: A boy escapes from his domineering parents and stumbles upon a city populated by other children fleeing from harsh circumstances. In the City, the children build a peaceful community that recognizes the worth of each individual, no matter what. At least, that was the moral of the story. Randall’s mother skipped many of the details about the journey to get there, particularly the suffering and death.

Randall played along the fence this day with many of the other children with white pupils. There life was not horrible they were told. It could be worse. They should be happy that they lived within the confines of the camp. Outside, they would be vulnerable. They were told they should never leave the camp, that safety was assured within, but violence lurked without.

Randall enjoyed his days, playing with the other children. But sometimes he looked up at the guards that hovered over the fence. These men with black pupils looked down on the children and the other inhabitants of the camp, there to protect the inhabitants from themselves. Sometimes the boy with white pupils would look through the fence and wonder in which direction the City in the Sky laid, and he knew that one day he would have to find it for himself.

Anonymous said...

City in the Sky

She floated quietly and then opened her hand. There on her palm lay a small orb, glowing in the darkness that surrounded her as she floated here in the void.
She blew upon it and her sweet breath gave it life. The orb shook, rattled and expanded in a resounding burst of noise and crackling. It floated up and grew before her eyes. Forms emerged, crystallizing as if from thin air. Pointed spires and rounded domes took shape, glowing with light, throwing rainbows through their prismatic walls, which reached downwards and flowed like ribbons over the surrounding lowlands way below.
Her vision was pleasing. This city in the sky glowed and floated on invisible legs above a forested floor of earth. But it lacked something. ’People’, she thought, and no sooner had she thought it, there they were, milling around, doing people things, flying from building to building.
’Perfect. Now let’s hope they don’t mess up this world!’ she thought.

Krystin Scott said...

Lysandra sat low in her saddle, leaning forward she urged Zamira to gain speed and continue to follow the road way beneath them. The countryside was picturesque; covered in lush green grass and pink and white wild flowers. She closed her eyes and felt the suns warmth upon her face. The wind rushing past set her long white hair dancing in rhythm to the twist and turns of its currents. She had always loved flying; it made her feel limitless and free. “There is no time for reverie today.” She chastised herself, knowing that her current flight was one of great importance.

Clouds quickly rolled by and she scanned the terrain below, looking for any signs of life.
The Highland Plains held few obstacles. From a proper altitude the pair could see all the way from Madhuk Lake to the mountain city of Darslan; which they were quickly approaching.

“Zamira, the courtyard ought to be big enough for a proper landing.” Lysandra yelled to her mighty friend.

Zamira nodded and slowed as she entered the mist that canopied Darslan. The city was nestled among the clouds and visibility was nil. The air was heavy, thick and wet making it hard to breathe. They flew on and dived left as the first of the towns spires abruptly came into view. Zamira circled twice before locating the courtyard and starting her decent. Her pale blue wings fluttered just enough to keep them upright as she lowered the bulk of her massive purple body and prepared for landing. Steam loosed from her nostrils and she touched down without incident.

Lysandra slid out of the saddle careful to avoid the barbs of Zamira’s scales and spoke quickly, “Zamira, remain here. I shall bring news from His Majesty and will require your counsel.”

“I shall await your return.” Came Zamira’s telepathic reply.

Her flowing skirts, trailing in her wake Lysandra ran down the garden walk, up the castle stairs and pushed past the guards who bowed as she entered into the Great Hall.

Upon seeing her each member of the crowd turned quiet and watched with awe as she walked purposefully down the isle to the head table. When she reached the dais she bowed respectfully and much to the amazement of the courtiers present, Seth, the Lord of Darslan, rose, spoke her name, and bowed in return.

Upon straightening, his booming voice resonated off the walls of the now silent hall, “Why have you come, Dragon Rider?”

Okay... so it's not about a city in the clouds, but it takes place in one that counts right?

David said...

@Krystin - EVERYTHING counts - you wrote today :)

morganna said...

Off-topic: I don't know if anyone is interested, but I edited the poem I wrote for the blackout prompt, and posted it on my blog.

morganna said...

I messed up the link above -- it looks good, but you can't click it. Copy & paste works, though. :(

Iron Bess said...

Thick fog oozed around Anna’s legs as she walked home from the bus stop. Initially she was so lost in thought that she hadn’t noticed the peculiar nature of it until she began to feel as if she were walking through water. What the fuck, she thought. Reaching down she passed her hand through it, and, holy crap on a cracker, her hand felt as if it were pushing something. You aren’t actually supposed to be able to feel fog were you?
Anna couldn’t see the ground through fog which had started to take on the consistency of curdled milk. It felt slimy as it eddied around her legs the sensation gave her the heebie-jeebies. How can I be feeling fog? Pulling the straps on her backpack tight and cinching it into place she picked up the pace to try and get home as quickly as possible. She was becoming anxious to see the dark red doors of her sanctuary, but as she walked it was becoming harder to move as the unnatural fog intensified. It was now as high as her hips and she beginning to panic as she tried struggling through it.
God, what is that smell? A miasma of rotten milk, swamp, and sulfur saturated the air around her making her stomach turn. She pulled her sweater up over her mouth and nose trying to diminish the stench. Her lungs were burning from the effort of putting one foot in front of the other. At this point she was only guessing where the sidewalk lay she hadn’t seen the ground in almost ten minutes and she couldn’t see more than two or three meters in front of her. Do I only have one more block to go? God I don’t know if I already passed Old Man Johnson’s place or not.
Suddenly something with thick, coarse hair skittered up her leg and clung to the bottom of her shorts, she screamed and battered at it with a closed fist. Whatever it was clamped down on her hand and she felt a burning sensation as teeth sank deep into her flesh. Yanking her hand up she could see a large rat clinging to it as its talons and teeth dug were dug deep into her flesh. “Get the fuck off,” she shrieked while beating it against the grey wall beside her. Finally the rodent let go dropping lifelessly back into the swill. She had to hold her injured hand inches from her face to see that it was dripping red with her blood. The pain of it beat to the cadence of her pounding heart. Grasping it tightly with her other hand she tried to staunch the flow of blood before pushing forward and focussing all her will on her destination.
Her foot struck something hard and she fell forward onto her hands and knees the air was so thick down inside the treacly mess that she couldn’t get a breath. Her hands moved blindly about searching for a purchase to help her stand up. Stairs! She had stumbled onto the first step at the base of a staircase. With a final burst of energy she scrambled up and out of the deadly brume which clung to her body as a cloying sludge with a consistency of mucus. Scrubbing the slime from her face she looked up to see the double red doors of her apartment building. “Thank you,” she breathed. Her keys were jangling in her hands before she was even consciously thinking of them.
Just before slamming the doors behind her she looked out to see the tall spire buildings of her city floating above the cloud bank of murderous fog. “The legends were true after all,” she said. “The city in the air is here.”

Anonymous said...

In my youth,
I walked the transparent glassy thoroughfares
of the City in the Sky.
Amongst the clouds
I would look down at the people
who scurried like ants
on the surface.
I would troll the stratus
for flying fish
and climb the sheer white hills of cumulus.
Then, one day,
the path to the clouds
was gone.
Try as I might
the way was closed.
Now, my feet are held fast
by the littleness of mud
and the gravity of earth.
When I look up
piercing starlight
and scorching sunlight
blinds my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is all so reminiscent of Chrono Trigger! I loved that game. *wistful sigh* Anyone else ever played it?

So, this isn't a city per se, but hopefully close enough:

The bright sunshine of spring filled the air with dozens of dreamy little birds. A soft breeze casually bore the fresh scent of new life and sweet blossoming flowers. The princess lay on her stomach and stared over the edge of her tiny, personal island, wishing desperately she could chuck herself off it. But she had tried that. More than once. It was as impossible a task as drowning herself in the spring or hanging herself in the solitary tree. Those were only a couple of the ways she had tried to end her endless confinement in the sky. The same force that held it all together, this self sustaining environment suspended without outward support, seemed also determined that she remain every second in it. She couldn't even starve herself. After several days of not eating, she would wake in the night to find herself gorging from the garden that grew by itself next to the spring. All sense of the passage of time had left her and she was no longer certain how she'd gotten here or why she was here at all. Parts of her head felt stuffed with cotton, memories rising and falling without reason. Her head drooped flush with the grass and, although she wanted to cry, she wouldn't let herself give in just yet.

Marc said...

Greg - hmm, I hadn't given any thought to how to say what I wanted in the last three paragraphs while keeping to the focus of the opening ones. I'll have to ponder that one.

Man, that is a story that calls out for expansion and continuation. Great stuff.

Elor - city, castle... same diff :P

I like the anti-gravity engines as a way to keep the whole place floating. Opens up lots of story possibilities.

Morganna - that's fantastic; really lovely.

David - that's a very intriguing world you've built there. Would love to hear more from it.

Writebite - great imagery and descriptions. The only tiny thing I'd change would be 'way' to 'far' here: "... and flowed like ribbons over the surrounding lowlands way below."

Just sounds better to me.

Krystin - hah, you did it too, in your opening sentence no less! If I hadn't just noticed it in Writebite's I might have skipped over your 'way'.

Anyway. Great scene and descriptions. Really setting things up for something seriously epic.

Iron Bess - ack, perfect horror movie opening. Read it earlier and not reading it again now - I need to go to bed shortly and would like to be able to sleep tonight!

GZ - that's truly beautiful. Particularly enjoyed the part with the clouds.

H.N. - I remember Chrono Trigger! That was a fun game :)

Hey, whatever the prompt inspires you to write is all good. If you go off on a totally different tangent, I'm not going to complain! As long as the prompt triggered you to write, I'm happy :)

Great scene, interesting situation. Could easily be extended into something longer.

Anonymous said...

marc, good point, ta :)

Krystin Scott said...

Marc - Alas my fine fellow, the fault is mine as I did not make my intentions clear. I had meant roadway; which caused me to go back to a previous writing in which I had written water way. Apparently I make this seperation blunder often. Your critique has helped me greatly and I welcome them.

@David - Thanks. Yes I did write today; it's 23 consecutive days now. I'm determined to keep the promise I made to myself.