A preliminary preliminary test for one of my untitled 2012 manuscript projects, inspired by the Kowloon Walled City…
The sun hadn’t cast its warmth on these streets in many years. Though each morning the sun would rise over this city just as any other, the labyrinthine network of buildings allowed no light to penetrate its weary foundation. When the city was still relatively young, a census would one day report a population of over 50,000 in just over 7 acres of space, but it wasn’t an entirely accurate approximation, as there were many unreported births and deaths, and then there were the lower levels below the city that very few knew existed, and those with the knowledge would never dare venture for a mere population count of a city the world had all but abandoned.
This was not the first city of its type the world had ever birthed. Many years ago a city much like this one had stood and fell on the other half of the world, after thriving for some years in self sustained anarchy. Though its ancestor had peaked at 14 stories due to falling within the flight path of a nearby airport, this city saw no such limitations. At current, the teetering walls of the city have reached for the gates of heaven as well as the depths of hell, building house upon house, store upon store, then digging below the city, creating a network of caverns below the earth whose suffocating darkness knows no bounds, and where only the most desperate and depraved take up residence.
Unlike our ancestor city, this is where we live not because we want to, but because we must. We’re exiles, the lower class, the scum that no one wishes to see laying upon their shimmering streets, so we were cast out to the shadow city, surrounded by endless desert for such a time that those who had once lived outside the city and remembered the sunlit streets have long since died, relegating the outside world to that of fables and bedtime stories. No one who has ventured beyond the vast sand fields has ever returned to speak of what lay beyond. Those who braved the sand and ruins are assumed dead, either by the elements or by those who had once upon a time sent us to this plot of land.
There are remnants of the world that once was all around us–hollow buildings, decaying cars and piles of bone dust–before they slowly
moved away to more hospitable environments, further from the exiled city and its inhabitants, but the sands have inflicted a superstitious fear among the residents of the shadow city and no one dares traverse the threshold into the sun without good reason.
The sun cannot reach the city streets, which are a series of maze-like corridors no more than 6 feet wide and illuminated by fluorescent lamps, running off power leeched from the abandoned power plant a mile beyond the city limits. Occasionally the plant would require maintenance, and straws were drawn to determine who would make the journey to its humming doors.
On a particularly clear night, from the rooftops of the city, one might see the distant glimmering lights of the thriving upper class beyond the sand fields, like a carpet of fallen stars that had drifted softly to the earth and hovered there, above the soil that could still bear fruit. But on most nights it was shrouded by fog and dust storms, invisible to the naked eye.