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The Machine City

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I never dreamed very intensely, or if I did, never remembered it. From childhood, I would only remember images or individual, isolated events. My dreams never felt substantial, never felt like there were any weight to them.

This dream was different. It didn’t have the flavor of a dream. It was more like I was observing in the spirit, watching something real but beyond my ability to understand. I felt like I was in an unformed land, like where I used to envision when my stepfather would put me to bed, the kind of place where you could fly if you wanted to hard enough, where your body wasn’t real. Where you didn’t have to be a little girl, alone. But not alone enough.

That place had been there for me, helping to take me outside. And I was there again. Now.

I was floating, my feet far off the ground. It was day, but not bright, and there was a heavy, acrid industrial-smelling mist everywhere, laying as a fog bank on the earth and stinging my face and lungs. It tasted horrible, like chemical waste, but with a weirdly organic texture. I drifted in the light breeze for what felt like days, but it might have been forever or just minutes. Below me, the fog cleared in spots and I could sense as well as see what was below. I felt a sense of pressure, like air was being pulled at me from all sides, like something was filling the world and trying to drive me out. The sky was a sickly yellow, no clouds, and no features on the horizon.

Below, I began to make out shapes.

It was a city. Not a city like I had ever seen, but rather a city built with no human in mind. There were structures, looming, brutish, utilitarian, broken up by smaller buildings that were scattered in a highly organized chaos - there were no walkways, no roads. The structures had no doors, no windows, just pipes, smooth and featureless joining the monolithic towers and squat squares of what looked like stone. Here and there, the monotony was broken by what resembled a smokestack, thrusting into the sky and the air was filled with the steady thrum of machinery. The buildings seemed to be vibrating, shaking with momentous, intense activity.

There was, all around, the feeling of something oppressive; just as in the waking world there was a feeling of loss, of emptiness, here in this nightmare city-scape, there was a feeling of fullness, of Presence that threatened to overfeed my senses, the world too real, too defined and full of…something. What? I just kept thinking of a poem. In my dream drifting, I couldn’t remember the words, but I remembered how they had haunted me as a young girl. A poem.

Where the fuck was I? Was I in Hell?

The horizon never came. The city just went on and on, spreading out as far as I could see, completely flat except for the chimneys belching their payload of harsh poisons. There were no lights below, no sign of movement, just the subtle juddering of the buildings as they vibrated and shook, reminding me of the motor in my stepfather’s Yamaha. He had taken me on many rides. Many. What was that poem?

With a start, I realized that what I was seeing was not a city, but a machine, one enormous infinite machine stretching from below me to no termination point that I could see. There were individual parts, but they were all joined like cells in a body, singular units inextricably linked. There were no city sounds, no jets overhead, no cars, just the incessant pounding, grinding groan of the machine city below. What was it for?

After an indeterminate amount of time, the machinery began to thin, the buildings beginning to assume a circular shape and a more regular pattern. Looking closely, I saw what looked like veins, thousands of them converging on the heart of the city machine. I drifted lower and saw not veins, but rails, like monorail tracks, and vast transports hitching along on them. Each moving platform held people, tens of thousands of people, naked, beaming in ecstasy. They stood, as if drugged, staring at the sky in joy and awe. They were holding hands, young girls, old men, teenage boys, all awkwardness lost, all cruelties forgiven. All love for each other forgotten. In reverie. They looked sublimely happy.

The transports were grinding on, slowly at first and then with increasing urgency to the heart of the city. There was a great structure that was as Cyclopean as the rest of the city machine had been all together. It looked like an arena.

I looked at it in wonder, a building as large as a country. I simply couldn’t understand the scale of the thing. It was outside the abilities of my imagination. The vast walls were a solid metal. I had seen it before. Where? Why couldn’t I remember anything important?

The walls were deceptively thin, no more than a mile thick, and in the center was a seething mass. Drifting in closer, I could see that it was row after endless row of great gears, grinding together and gnashing, with blades interspersed. They were layered in such a way that they could cause the maximum trauma to any material that fell into it.

As I watched, one after another, the transports approached the walls, and I knew, in that deepest place in my heart, the place I had worked so hard to hide even from herself, what was going to happen.

The transports raised up the walls in the thousands, wave after wave, and then came to rest at the edge of the gnashing metallic chaos below. With a sudden lurch, the platforms tipped, one after another, tossing the masses into the teeth. They fell like rain, hundreds, then thousands of people holding hands as they pitched forward into the blades. They didn’t even scream. In fact, I thought I heard them singing.  Looking through tears to the far end of my sight, I saw the transports, stretching back farther than I could see, each rattling closer to the great city machine, filled with people.

Filled with fuel for the machines.

And I remembered that poem.

Daddy. A bag full of god.

I knew what that feeling was, that fullness. It was in the acid air all around me. In the metallic din of the surface below, in the placid timid joy on the faces of the people that filled the transports. This place was full of God.

I awoke screaming and I did not stop. I couldn’t.

Because that feeling, and the grinding, thrumming god-sound never went away.

It's in everything.

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