They need buildings, you see, for all those battles scoured the land until only a handful of cities remained. They must build, or they will disappear.
This particular little boy was a builder already, though he had barely seen eleven years. His teachers knew that he was destined for greatness, perhaps he would even become the Lord High Architect and rule the Shadowlands from the Inkdark Tower. Yet there was also something not quite right about him, as if he were a clock with a missing piece just waiting to go wrong.
There came a day, shrouded in the glittering fog that permeates the Shadowlands, when the boy looked at the sky and saw foundation. Foundation and possibilities, all floating together in that immense gleaming sky where airships and collapsible planes and gearbirds were born. The land was broken, hurt, impaired, but the sky was untouched. For all the battles that had waged there, it remained free and clear and calm.
All through the night for weeks and then months on end, he scribbled furiously in his sketch pad. He filled many such pads with schematics and designs until he found the possibility he liked best. “This,” he said to parents who weren’t listening, “will change the world.”
Those same parents were people of means, and they denied their son nothing but their attention. With their wealth, he began to build. He built and he built, up and up and up, until no one believed he would ever stop. Finally, on a cold winter night, it was finished. He stood on the desolate plain before his creation, alone but for his trusty worker drones, and gazed up at the face of years of hard labor.
“Give it life,” he told his robots, for no human dared go near. And they did.
The face began to turn, its great arms dancing with perfect synchrony through the sky of possibilities. It was exactly as he had envisioned it, and he laughed in delight.
The next morning, the people gathered before his creation to wonder at its strangeness. “What is it?” they asked, utterly perplexed.
“It is a city,” the boy replied. “A city on gears. It spins so that we shall always see the world for what it might be, instead of only what it has been. We shall stand on our heads and sleep in the sky, and remember how to live with our feet on the ground. We shall not be trapped to walk only in the footsteps of our parents.”
The people stared at the city. They whispered to each other words like “insanity” and “preposterous,” and then went back to their daily lives.
All of them, save a single little girl. She looked at the boy and smiled. “They’re just afraid they’d all end up with their coats and skirts around their heads,” she said. “But I think it sounds like fun, and much better than the orphanage. Can I live in it?”
The boy smiled back and took her hand, and together they stepped into a new world, built for many but created by two.
Keep this t shirt on if: You see things not as they are, but as they could be.
Forget about it if: Tilt-a-whirl rides make you want to run away screaming.
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