Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Italo Calvino Impersonation - The Walled City

Here's my attempt at writing like Italo Calvino. Anybody who's grown up in a decaying industrial town in the Northeast should be able to understand what I'm saying. This is called the 'Walled City'.

The gate at the entrance to the city is rusted. There's a plaque that reads, 'May all those who enter find peace'. The massive stone buildings and smokestacks are withering monuments to the mountains that were leveled to construct them.

The inhabitants of this city rarely leave. They are stuck there by an attractive force that they cannot see and can barely comprehend. The young inhabitants all talk about the force and how to avoid it. They vainly search for its source. Some falsely believe it radiates from the city's center and keeps the citizens in irregular orbits, a belt of human asteroids with crossing paths that inevitably lead to violent collisions. The wisest of the city's youth know its source is unknowable just that it must be escaped.

Only a few can escape the force's pull and venture beyond the city walls. They have been fortunate to find wings tossed into the city by those who have fled it. Once they've learned how to fly they can break free from the force's pull. Some become like albatrosses, constantly in flight, fearing they might land in another walled city. Others become like swifts who only return at night to their spot in the cave, which in its perfect darkness appears to be a very accommodating home, the piles of guano, the cockroaches, and the eyeless lizards all hidden under night's twinkling blanket.

Some have given up the search for wings and burrow underground and only return to the surface out of necessity. But once they see the vacant stone buildings and the living skeletons that shuffle along the roads, they return to their private underworld, this time burrowing deeper hoping to avoid the horrors that scrape the surface. Some have dug so deep they can no longer leave the warm blackness of their dens.

Only a handful of the cheeriest inhabitants stroll the city's streets. They are ridiculed; the others believing they have not found freedom but out of desperation have learned to love their prison. They smell like barber shops, bakeries, hot spices and dry leaves. They gather together in plain sight. They pat each other on the back and ask how the other is doing. They recall their day, say prayers for the citizens alone in their dens underground, and together they radiate an opposing force which keeps them in perfect synchronized orbits, a combination of love and fear.

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