1020 words by Stanley Lieber
All of this was not going to work for him anymore. It was coming down around his ankles. His output had exceeded his company's resources, and, on a more personal note, his own prospects were taking a nosedive as well. Without that weekly stipend from MASSIVE FICTIONS, he was not going to make rent on the storage space for his collections. One change blurred into another until, in short order, the accumulated results were overwhelming to contemplate. He passed Stanley on the fifty-fourth floor and tipped his hat. Stanley was probably off to tinker with more of his -- what had he called them -- martial simulations. What a thought; larping about as if to train for war. But, this was Stanley, and after all this was one of Stanley's interests. No harm was being done in any case.
As he navigated the spiraling path, the requisite plying of a new editor at some other rag -- what other rags were even left -- was very much on his mind. A line formed across his forehead as he alit gently on the elevator, negotiating the physical space whilst simultaneously evaluating potential budget configurations in his mind. He watched the frothing crowd of his countrymen, churning to and fro along the pathways below like beer suds sloshing in potting soil. A very long way down, he thought. Petals -- floors -- whipped by silently, causing the sun to blink, languidly, somewhere near the horizon.
Rimbaud stood amongst the salarymen and mused that, self-evidently, the architecture of his day would have to be considered superior to that of any previous era. From his studies he recalled that in the late nineteenth century, forays had been made into evolving wholly organic super-structures, but that it had taken almost another century -- bringing the public state-of-the-art almost up to date with that of his own grandfather's famous, proprietary work -- before the special properties of plant mimicry were fully integrated into the mainstream of the building trade. While it was true that most citizen hovels still clung to the brute angles and sharp corners that characterized the twentieth century's most prolific architects (perhaps out of some sense of fealty to tradition, since structurally such arbitrary designs were no longer strictly necessary), in his own lifetime he had born witness to the marvelous transformation of the municipal buildings from great, lumbering and inefficient storage containers into organic, plebeian tangles of smoothly curving branches, stems and flowering foyers. Why, his own quarters were situated within just such a fractal space! Rimbaud had to remind himself that the upper-most levels of these buildings, or, more appropriately, growths, were still reserved for the business classes and their various concerns. But he observed that these concessions were a small sacrifice for society when weighed against the general improvements to the Commons such commerce inevitably produced as its result. The slums were already starting to grow over.
The express elevator distended and Rimbaud disembarked towards an identification booth. He slid into a vacant pod and hooked his legs around the seating apparatus as his entire body was rotated into position. From there his awareness shifted back to Home. He prepared the evening meal and started a historical recording in the background. His pleasure was the Existentialist literature of the mid- twentieth century, and he preferred to listen while he handled the cooking materials. Sophistry, perhaps, but well within the curve of the culturally acceptable plotted by his trusted almanack.
Pulsing from the meal area came notice that the victuals had thawed. Rimbaud slid to the other side of his pod and began eating raw pieces of fish. From an adjacent curved plate he could select any number of food items to link into his meal. By running a finger across the stamen of the plate, a portion of each selection could be added to the menu for this sitting, seasoned to his liking. Rimbaud chose some vegetables and an additional portion of fish that he had no way of knowing tasted more of corn syrup than the flesh of an extinct animal. (In truth, it is conceivable that the rupturing of his conceit that the meal consisted strictly of traditional elements might have caused him some noticeable displeasure, but let us not pursue this line of thought so diligently that the flow of the narrative comes to an unintended halt.)
The 8-bit alarm drones Rimbaud had programmed for eight o'clock (a rather clever recursive reference, he had thought) sounded, softly, and he knew then that it was time to replace the dishes into their fold and return to work. Rimbaud made a gesture toward the door. The sunlight streaming in from above shifted, gave way to the interior of the encephaloid pod. Identification. He untangled his legs and got himself up, running a hand through his mussed hair and replacing his felt cap. He smoothed down his jacket and made his way back through the forest of salarymen, climbing once again into the express elevator. As he was flitted up the stem of the building, he thought to himself that his lunch periods seemed shorter and shorter as time progressed and he grew objectively older.
At the very top, reaching his destination, Rimbaud took stock of the vast garden below. Thousands of his fellow countrymen going about their daily tasks, worker bees distributing pollen. None questioning themselves as he did, none of them increasingly spending what little free time was available to them comparing their plights with that of the American negro of centuries past. Such nonsense that he allowed to enter his mind.
He then suddenly reflected upon his appearance, wiped away stray rivulets of sweat from his forehead. He pulled the end of his antique almanack slightly out of his breast pocket, cater-corner, plainly into the sight-lines of the casual passers-by. These moribund regrets of servitude would not cast a pallor upon his demeanor. I have a choice in this matter, he thought. As the elevator distended once more, Rimbaud was bathed in the bright, sympathetic air of photosynthesis made comprehensible.
To be continued...
written in 2005 for