Missing Cities

3 short stories in the style of Italo Calvino's 'Missing Cities' (fiction)
created: 01 Feb 2009; modified: 08 Mar 2017; status: finished; confidence: fiction; importance: 0

So. It came to pass that I should read a slim book within my library, pushed back by neglect. I enquired within of divers cities and slow phrases of philosophy - but! as I approached the end, tatters shewed me that the volume was incomplete.

What was missing was immediately apparent to me. It had expounded the dharma of two of the Three Worlds, but the third, that of the Future? It was silent.

May you forbear, then, with me,
as I scrive geography
of that which is yet to be,
of these missing cities three.

I

And a man may come onto a indifferently tended & rolling green country, camp, and pass through its entirety without once glimpsing one of the inhabitants, but perchance descrying distantly in the clouds a vast floating dome.

For the denizens dwell within that vast dome, & drifting with the ever-varying winds, they can by means of cunning contrivance betake themselves where they list.

And every fortnight they hold a festival. Chilling their dome - for it is well known that melancholic things incline to below and choleric to above - their shepherds bring forth the fruit of the land whilst new shepherds are sent. At the gloaming they feast; the vigor of the cookery heats the air within the dome, and as the air outside mists with the night, the dome is lifted into the twinkling sky and they continue on their endless peregrinations.

II

Coming through a forest, we shall arrive at a giant solitary lake, teeming with fowl and fish. As pleasant as a voyage across would be, one should proceed around on foot.

For in the center of this lake lies an island, and in the center of this island lies a city, and the center and other parts of this city are devoid of humanity.

The reason is thus: the townspeople sought to be renowned in the animal trade, and to that end imported quantities of curious gerbils, strange water-going birds, unusually large felines, and fiercely loyal guard-dogs. Previously there had been a causeway, but they razed it to hinder any escape by the animals.

Too late they realized, as the animals (now greatly multiplied) broke forth to claim dominion, too late they realized that it was to hinder their escape as well.

Now, the gerbils feed on the abandoned grain stores, the birds feed on fish, the dogs feed on both, and the gigantic felines on all three. The birds’ excrement is poisoning the lake; and the stores of grain are well-nigh depleted, and it very much seems that something important has gone missing.

III

Beyond the foothills and mountains, and on the borders of the desert, the unfortunate traveler may chance upon this city - I say unfortunate for if he draws nearer out of curiosity, that same curiosity has surely ending his wandering days.

Because this city is composed entirely out of tubes. Not as one might suppose are they for the purpose of quenching thirst of the body, but they are dedicated rather to the end of quenching thirst of the mind by transmitting conversations, music, and sundry noises.

There are all manner of pipes - there are fat pipes, thin pipes, tubes of stone, tunnels of gleaming bronze, channels too fine for even a drop of water to creep through, shafts large even for the Beast of London, ways of ebony, wynds of ancient lava channels. There are pipes of tiger’s eye, taut catgut and resonating bladders of boiled leather, as well as arching glass tubes and pipes composed solely of flocks of birds with the virtue of repeating precisely what they hear.

In all these wises and more are messages passed along. These marvelous devices have supplied such copious communication amongst the populace that the hearts of all are turned to each other, and they all seek to overhear all the others’ messages out of love, or jealousy, or fear.

It is thought that this must lead to one of two cities: a city in which the population slowly declines as, driven to the inevitable, each person discovers that place where all pipes connect and is destroyed by the cacophony, or - perhaps more benign - one in which the inhabitants converse solely about the conversations of one another.