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  • Matthew Warren

Invisible Cities 1: Cities and Ruin

This is one of many of my own short imaginings inspired by my favourite book, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. (Cover Image: Unusual Thursday by Kay Sage)

Scula was once a city of astonishing size and beauty. Every building, every street was a temple to the industry of those who lived there. And it was such a hive: throughout the whole city, the air was thick with shift sirens and coal dust. On every street could be heard the rattling of spider-legged looms that carpeted the walls of the great buildings, buildings whose marble flagstones had been prized from the ground by a horde of burrowing behemoths. Furnaces poured out steel over the land and into the sea, great plumes billowing over steam ships that rose up, ready to set out.

I did not see it in such times, though. When I entered the city it was entirely by chance, as it would be for anyone these days. Scula has long since faded from maps and memories as the industry devoured itself into starvation and the people left. The forest had reclaimed the land around the city,, stitching the punctured ground with its roots. Within the city boundaries is left only an impression of the Scula that was. Where building once stood (the stone long ago having been pilfered to build the houses of the living) one can now see only ghostly fragments in outline—the corner of a street, where a tree’s branches still bracket the brick wall, seeming not to have yet noticed its absence; where the facade of the great library had been, ivy was still matted, freestanding in columns and arches; and the forgotten kitchens and parlours of the houses that had fed and sheltered the furnace-fuelers where spiders still tapestry walls that have long since vanished.

And over it all—faintly in the streets of this hive, a miner bird still echoes the call of the shift sirens.

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