A unique short film on making livable cities and critiquing the prevailing urban planning ideas of the time.
A unique short film on making livable cities and critiquing the prevailing urban planning ideas of the time.
2. I saw the fucking white shirt’s face as I fell. The ground eroded under me. He just looked at me, mind smug with revenge. I was glad I’d fucked the shit out of his face last night but I was pissed I hadn’t smashed it to bits. I fell backwards. The ocean was below me. Its constant crashing had been plaguing my ears for all my days in the city.
1. The chandelier swayed side to side as the city moved. It wasn’t a far move today, a half mile. The swinging bulbs cast a flickering pendulum of light on the pool table. I didn’t get why anyone would play pool in a city that was constantly on the move. The bar was a dive, a trendy dive. Everything about it reeked of slum, and the people were even worse because they weren’t slum dwellers they were just slumming it.
The cheap liquor burned my throat as I took a drink. I stared at the two white shirts playing pool. They weren’t wearing their bureaucratic uniforms, but you could tell. Their nails weren’t caked with dirt from moving tracks like mine, they were clean shaven, and their clothes didn’t have patches.
I went to the bar. The bartender looked pissed. The constant rattling of drinks as the city moved along its railway tracks didn’t make for conducive pours. A fair amount of liquor ended up on the bar itself. I wanted to lick the wooden bar just to get a little drunker.
My pay wasn’t much. I decided to forgo the night’s cost in rent and waste it on some booze. The alcohol would keep me warm enough in the night. The morning sun would be my alarm to move down to the tracks and start working. Every day we moved the tracks, according to wherever the white shirts wanted the city to go, but always right by the water. The constant erosion of the cliffs demanded we move the city every day. The sea had risen in the last few years, and it was sloshing around more, constantly knocking away the cliffs that the city resided by. Some shit about global climate change. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. I wanted meals, I wanted liquor, and I wanted to stop working.
I got some shit that even a dog dying of thirst wouldn’t drink and sat back down by the pool table. The drink went down and bile came up into my mouth. I felt the heat of the alcohol in my stomach, the only way I could actually tell it was liquor and not sewage water.
“The farms’ netting needs to be adjusted with the movement by three meters, yet the ministry of agriculture has yet to put in the orders,” the taller white shirt whined. I wanted to smash his perfectly straight teeth in with my shitty mug of swill.
“Everything takes so long,” the shorter one said. He turned and looked at me ignoring the pool balls as they rolled out of place. His nose scrunched in distaste. The black eight ball fell into the corner pocket as the machine wheels underneath the city moved it further away from the cliffs of the sea.
“At least the water purification pipes are being moved on schedule,” the short one said. Purified water was the city’s main commodity; it was why it existed on the shores of the forever expanding ocean. The ocean’s water was funneled into a purification system that extracted the salt and boiled the disease out. The water was bottled and sold to the outlying cities. All the water had dried up in the mainland and which provided an open market for water purification businesses.
“We’re having more trouble with the movements as well. The track villages have sprung up on all sides of the city. They’re no longer concentrated,” the first one said.
I remembered the first time I had laid tracks through one of the shanty villages. The villages sprung up over night, the result of other track workers efforts to not pay the city rent and to live outside the city. Most of the villages were made of rubbish, of cardboard, scraps of plywood. Shitty structures for shitty lives. Occasionally there would be a small drawing, or a clipping that didn’t fit in with the crap material that made up the shanties.
We laid down the tracks through the village. We put down the metal right through the houses. If the houses were in the way we just pushed them away, they were flimsy and easy enough to move without tools. The weight of the city would crush the village, it didn’t matter how much rubbish the city had to ride over.
“I stayed here last night, and the night before,” one tracker had said to me as we put down the lines for the city to run on. “I saved two nights of wages. I spent it on some food. I slept and ate for two days. Tonight I’ll go back to a rent house.”
I shook my head at him. We spent our wages to stay in rent houses, sometimes the dormitories would come with slop breakfasts it we paid extra. Our wages barely covered the cost of the rent houses. It was a choice of eating or sleeping. People alternated between the two if they didn’t stay in the track villages. The villages sprung up every few days. People would organize them in order to catch up for a few days on their sleep and to eat a little more and then the city would ride over them forcing the dwellers back into the rent houses.
There was no going outside of the city; outside the city was a desert. I’d heard of people trying to make it in the arid land. If they came back they came back as crazed as if they’d been drinking salt water for months. Us trackers were immobile. Our only movement came with the moving city.
“We should take up more of the back tracks and lay them out,” the second one said. “The tracks behind us just sit there until we pick them up. If we laid them out before hand we could prevent the creation of the shanty towns, they would be too far out of the city. If they sprang up within the track realms the city could just crush them.”
“The unpredictable decay of the cliffs prevents just that though, plus we need the combination of back tracks geared with the purification systems to transport the water into the city to be purified.”
The two continued to play their rolling game of pool in silence. The two were drinking beers, fancy drinks. The beers were made with purified water. It was a leisure drink. The corner of my mouth turned upward as they set down their beers.
I swayed with the moving landscape making my way back to the bar. My pockets contained enough change to get me one last drink. The bartender sloshed the drink onto the bar and into my mug. A good deal of drink spilled on my hand.
“Sorry about the mess, you know how the moving days are,” the bartender said. “Let me get you another drink. This swill doesn’t cost the bar much, far more than it should. The piss that makes it isn’t even halfway purified. You can taste the salt of the sea in it. Its what gives the awful hangovers. First the alcohol then the dehydration from the saltwater.”
Putting on a stoic face I downed my mug of alcohol. I was in good spirits, not good spirits as in being in good liquor but in good spirits because I was getting free liquor.
“Last call,” the bartender cried as I sat down by the pool table. I sipped at my drink. It would be four more hours til the sun came up. Five hours til my shift would start. My alcoholic state would last three hours with this drink. It would be only one hour of shivering in some alleyway rocking to the time of the moving wheels of the city.
“Shit,” the tall one said. “I want another drink.”
“You should get us both one,” the short one said. He spread out his hands as if encompassing all the world’s drinks. The room was small and he hit my hand, my hand that held my mug. My hour of alcohol that would keep me warm long enough to stand the shivering before the sun came up. He didn’t even notice. The mug was upturned and its contents spilled all over the hardwood floor. I would have bent over to start licking at it if it hadn’t already fell between the slots. I let the mug fall out of my hand.
“Get me another drink, get me another drink,” the short one said.
“You better get me another one too,” I said.
“What,” the tall one said, noticing my presence for the first time. He looked at my face, not even bothering with a full up and down before he dismissed me. “I am not getting shit for no fucking tracker.”
“Your ‘friend’ here cost me the only bit of hospitality this city has ever shown me. I want another drink,” I replied.
“Why don’t you save up your wages for another drink. You should be able to get another in a week or two,” the tall one said with a snicker. The short one joined the tall one’s condescending laugh with an outrageous guffaw.
I got up from my seat on the bench and made a decision. It wasn’t that hard of a decision, it was a choice of targets. I figured the tall one would be the tougher of the two so I decked him first. Leaning over to my left made my left shoulder drop. My corresponding arm came down and with a quick movement my weight shifted from my left side of my body to my right as my fist drove itself into his liver. I hoped that he would puke, that I would damage his liver so bad that he wouldn’t be able to process his fine purified beer for months. It didn’t happen. He did bend over with a satisfying “oomph.” His eyes were alive and well. One of the great things about smashing in the liver is that it leaves the brain functioning, the blow shuts down the body alone, not like a chin knock out where everything goes black.
The short one looked shocked. Slumming it was fine, but this was a little too much in the slums for him. He thought he was just looking like he lived dangerously. I corrected that notion quickly when I did the most honest act that’s ever been done between the white shirts and the trackers, I kicked him in the balls. My booted toes went into his innards with self satisfaction on my part, although he didn’t seem pleased. When my foot touched the ground he fell a second later. I grabbed his shirt, which while wasn’t white (he was trying to blend in with us “natives”) still felt white in my hands, as if colors could be felt.
His body was easy to drag. He was a coward to begin with. He lay limp when I pushed him onto the street. The bartender didn’t look up when I dragged the short one past him. He’d obviously seen enough of these encounters to know that getting involved would do him, at least, no good. I kicked the short white face in the face.
“Please, please, please,” the short one said. His pants were dark around the crotch. He looked up at me the way I would look at the moon during my drunken nights when I would forgo the rent houses and my meals, when I was filled only with inebriation. The moon always looked like escape. I looked upwards. The skies were clouded over. There were no stars; the smoky clouds of the city’s factories covered them.
“What are you going to do,” I asked rhetorically. “What could you possibly say that will bridge the gap, the chasm between us? My longing for your face to be pulp on this tarmac and your desperate desire to avoid your destiny.”
I was so eloquent. I had read so many tracts. The posters of the white shirts had supplied me with an eloquent voraciousness. I was relishing. I was at a herrpunkt, a high point, a crescendo.
It was a something only slightly thicker than a two by four that smacked my skull. On the tracks when there was a dispute between us workers we settled things the old fashioned way, well old fashioned plus a wooden plank. My longevity as a tracker had partially been due to my ability to be able to see immediately the thick and grain of my opponents plank. I was able to judge the numbers of blows I could take. Then there are the blows you don’t see coming.
I was spitting blood when I came to. The metallic taste of my injury was clogging itself in the back of my throat. I coughed. I hawked out a loogie of blood and bile. I thought a piece of my tooth came out as well. The white shirts were gone and I had a headache, not the kind you get from drinking too much, the kind of headache you get from being a beaten dog. I was pissed as I wondered the streets. The city’s movement threw me off, making me sway more than would seem appropriate for one as drunk as I.
The sun came up, as inevitable as the return of the trackers to the track and the white shirts to their offices. I was down at the tracks, tired, my head splitting when the sun began to make its movement from east to west.
I moved slow, but so did every other tracker. Unless a white shirt was breathing down our necks there was no need to move very fast, or efficiently. They came to inspect our labors occasionally but not often. I was happy about the slow pace. It would give me time to get over my splitting head, and my headache. My hand touched the left side of my head where the plank hit me and felt the congealed blood left from the plank’s blow.
“Hurry the fuck up,” I heard the white shirt say behind me. His voice resonated. It echoed in my ears like an “oomph.” I bent over my track hoping not to be noticed. I bent over the wood cross bar that supported the track.
“Aren’t you going to nail that spike in,” said the tracker next to me. “Its been a while and that white shirt is coming awfully close. I don’t want him thinking we’re a lazy team.”
I sighed and picked up my hammer. My back bent picking up the heavy tool. I lifted it to my shoulder and stood up. I could feel the white shirt’s eyes on me. The handle of the hammer slid back in my hands.
“You,” the white shirt said.
The hammer slid down in my hands as it drove the spike into the ground securing the city’s forward momentum. The spike made a dull thud as the hammer head smashed it into the ground. The trackers that extracted it later would have a hard time. It was always far more annoying extracting the tracks than it was laying them.
I looked at the spike for a moment without looking up and then bent over to help with putting down more track.
“You,” the white shirt said. “You were at the bar last night.”
My eyes focused, like a good tracker, on the ground. On the path paved out before me. The white shirts had it all mapped out for us. Their instructions were tried and true just like we were tired and emotionally truant.
I felt the white shirt nudge at me with a cane. I looked up. It was the short one. He had a black eye from where I had I kicked him. His teeth looked a little jagged. I didn’t make eye contact. I let my eyes drift down to the ground back to the tracks that drove us.
“Well, well,” the short one said. “How the tables have turned. But really is it soo surprising,” the short one asked the other trackers. No one answered his rhetorical question.
“Hmm… what would be a fitting fate. Your destiny has already been laid out,” the short one said with a sweep of the hand, gesturing to the tracks being laid out and the trackers. “The only way to add more to it would be to hasten it. At least my view will be clearer as I spectate your demise.”
3. That’s how I found myself falling. Its funny how much time you have to fall and how much you can think about as you fall. It seems like forever, but its not eternity, its just a few seconds but our mind goes through our these motions.
The short little white shirt had tied me up on a cliff and watched from afar both as the back trackers picked up the rails from the city’s past movements and as the cliff eroded the cliffs. Eventually the little white short, like some sort of Napoleon strode forward and watched the last moments as I fell off the cliff the ground eroded underneath due to the pounding of the waters.
I didn’t satisfy him with a cry of pain, nor a plea for help as the cliff eroded underneath me. I saw him lean over the edge and look at me as I fell. I bit my mouth. I could feel the pain of my cheeks being squeezed underneath my teeth. The taste of blood filled my mouth. I was so red, red, red, as if I was a color as I fell.