FUTURE CITY
21 January 1996, S Hartwell

(Two linked dreams which made me feel I had fallen into the future. It built up like a movie and I got the feeling that if I'd carried on sleeping, the two threads would have been woven together and some sort of resolution reached.)

The big boss was in his tiny apartment-cum-office. He was always in his tiny rooms, he never ventured out. Whatever he needed he ordered by electronic means and it was delivered. In fact he couldn't go out; a sensor on the door and a subcutaneous transceiver chip meant that warning sirens would be triggered if he tried to leave his blue-steel and iodized glass home. From his office-bedroom he controlled a sprawling commercial empire that controlled most of the country. Today, he decided, he would leave his prison home. He had noticed a weak point in the one-way glass of the bathroom (he could see out, but no-one could see in). He could bypass the door sensors and leave after his attendants were done with bringing him the morning news and his breakfast.

(At this point there was an intermission in the dream, the scene was different but the timeframe was the same)

I had arrived in New Jersey from New Zealand quite legally, but with illegal intentions - I wanted to film the slums and decayed houses and the forced resettlement of slum dwellers into the steel-glass hives. The houses were reminiscent of the ancient cities in the Egyptian desert - shells of buildings with caved in walls and roofs, dust and debris having sifted into the honeycomb of rooms. No longer discrete housing units, holes in walls allowed the denizens to move from "home" to home, congregating around campfires built of whatever combustible debris they found. This nomadic existence delayed the resettlement squads.

When the troops came they were not gentle. Men, women, children were rounded up by weapon-toting militia and marched through the street, across the cleared no-man's land of blacktop which marked the border between the decayed houses of old and the new multi-storey domes and towers of the hives. In the streets, cars decayed though there had been rumours of slum-dwellers running cars on alcohol. Gasoline supplies had been exhausted.

The walls of the huge tower, a mile long each side, were steel and glass. Each of the "resettled" persons was allocated a living unit - mine was 11-10, that is floor eleven, unit ten. My thumbprint was taken, this would serve as my key, allowing or denying access within the hive. Floor eleven was a rough area, I learnt, a place to put the nomads. Desirable areas were on floors 25 through 30. Inside the hive were wide corridors, paved with white tiles. I took a public lift up to floor eleven; as the lift sped upwards I peered out of the glass sides. The core of the hive was hollow; the living areas were along the outer edges - not bang up against the outer glass walls, since there was a wide walkway between the living units' front walls and the hive wall. There were several rows of living units, forming concentric squares within the hive. The hollow centre was a light-well and lifts moved up the walls of this light-well.

On some of the floors there were large open areas adjacent to the light-well. One was a children's theatre or school area on the edge opposite my lift; I could see a teacher (or similar) standing in front of benches lined with children. I decided I had to take a closer look when I had time. On another floor to the left of the lift was a theatre, I could see costumed actors moving about and an audience sitting in a semi-circle. I also saw arcades of shops - and all this on the first eleven floors.

I stepped out of the lift at the eleventh floor, needing to find unit 11-10. Following signs, I turned left as I got out the lift. The walls were brown fake-marble with brass-effect light sconces and some plants (real or fake) set onto the wall at intervals. I walked past a jewellers store (the wares where in front of the unit and in the porch/doorway) on my left hand side, and past several labelled doorways before realising I had overshot my mark. Retracing my steps I found that the jewellers shop was in fact a stall (pawnshop as well as sales, probably stolen goods) set up in front of my own living unit. At first they did not believe that I was going to move into the patch they had been occupying, but my thumbprint on the door scanner proved my right of occupation and they moved out. They left behind a clutter of sandwiches and litter. "Throw it to the dogs if you don't want it" they told me. I doubted that there were any dogs since all dogs and cats kept as pets had been rounded up and destroyed when pet keeping became illegal. Some affluent people on the upper levels (penthouses) apparently owned fish in tanks. The dogs turned out to be street urchins who snatched the scraps.

Inside the door was a reception room, a living room/bedroom off to the right and the kitchen behind the living room area. Behind the reception room, off a narrow corridor, was the sanitary area. I checked the refrigerator and decided to go out and find out about getting some food; presumably there was an allowance or welfare payments.

As I left my quarters I turned right, back towards the lift. On the way I met two of the actors I had seen on a lower floor, they were walking in the opposite direction. Both were wearing masks of stiffened blue-green cloth and embroidery, looking like fancy versions of Greek masks. We spoke briefly, one was playing Agamemnon; I did not catch the name of the other character. My living unit on a corridor intermediate between light-well and outer wall, though closer to the light-well. On all the floors I had seen there was a walkway or open area adjacent to the glassed-in light-well; I hoped that by retracing my steps I would come to an arcade of shops or booths and somewhere I could get information about living in the hive - jobs, welfare payments, recreation etc.

(Another odd one as the two dreams were linked in the same timeframe. It was once again like riding around in someone's head as they tried to orient himself or herself in the hive building, having been brought in off the streets, but not actually being a ghetto person)

THE VERTICAL TOWNS
27-12-2011 (morning)

The sequel to my 1996 dream came in 2011. I woke with it fresh in my mind.

The “vertical towns” had been established in my great-grandparents’ time and most of us had never known any other way of living. The first cities had been small, a few miles wide, but by merging the original hives together, the first true vertical cities had grown.

Although it wasn’t forbidden, merely discouraged, there was simply no reason to go outside. My favourite places after work were the theatres and cinemas though I also frequented the swimming complex with its huge pools and tide machines or wandered round the galleries of bright shops. The towns outside the vertical cities had largely been dismantled and the building materials recycled. If we cared to look, which we rarely did, outside was inhospitable-looking scrubland.

Enclosed railways transported goods and people from city to city, both above ground in windowed tunnels or below ground in tunnels artificially lit daylight-bright. With everything available in the city, that was as much “outside” as any normal person needed. I knew of a few people who’d travelled to one or other of the two neighbouring vertical cities. To cater for them there were a few “outdoor shops” on the galleries, stocking the equipment necessary for travelling outside of the safe urban environment: blades and axes to cut through a century’s growth of scrub and woodland; self-heating food; water purification tablets; bottle-stoves; insulated tents; sleeping sacks and inflatable boats. Was outside chilly or was it hot? Humid or dry? No-one knew. With the city climate so carefully regulated, no-one could even imagine those things. Those who cared to look outside said that it rained more frequently than before; that the sky was a duller colour; that lightning flashed most days.

Then everything changed.

The first most of us heard was when the orders came to evacuate the vertical city. Take only the essentials – neighbourhoods were being relocated further inland. Inland? Due to erosion and rising sea levels, our once inland city was no longer far from the changing coastline. Apparently there’d been a serious quake felt several hundred miles away and the forecast said we were in for “the big one” which would send a tsunami crashing into our beautiful steel-and-glass home. Not even these marvels of engineering could withstand what nature was likely to throw at us.

The wardens shepherded us out of the workplaces and leisure places, leaving those places dark and empty, locked behind us. No-one panicked. A huge tide of humanity flowed around the different levels, packing, congregating, being directed to this station or that terminal. Families and colleagues were accounted for.

This was our chance – those of us who styled ourselves urban explorers and who were unlikely to be missed because we often went missing for several days at a time and returned with far-fetched tales of a city-within-the-city. If you knew where to look, there were doorways into forgotten parts of our vertical city; there were whole floors lost between walls or levels. In the early days, these had been service areas needed as the city was being built. Other parts were interlinked dead spaces created as the early city swallowed up the neighbouring hives and tried to rationalise the space into a single, coherent vertical conurbation. Many had their own power generators or even surveillance screens – the legacy of superseded control rooms that were abandoned and forgotten.

It was into one of those floors-between-floors that I went with a few friends. Somehow we didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of abandoning our home (later, we’d be proved right when raging weather tore open the other towers). As the lights went out all over the place, five of us sat in the dim light of an old control room accessed through a panel behind the back row of seat in a mid-level theatre. Once the rest of the place was empty (we doubted any wardens would be left behind, though we’d have to be careful of automated security) we’d find some supplies from the closed stores and find our way to a dead space with a view of the outside world. We’d need torches, because sooner or later the generators would quit working, and we even decided to get those instantly inflatable life-rafts in case the tsunami breached the tower.

Just as we each, with the exception of Kim who manned that old control room, headed for the door, it opened. None of us had ever met the man before, but he seemed familiar – one of the people with money and whose family owned whole floors; whose faces turned up in magazines.

“Not leaving either?” he asked.

No-one said anything. He unfolded a sheet of paper, something torn from an old magazine. His grandmother had been one of the original settlers in this city, had helped fund it in fact. He wasn’t planning to leave either. And thanks to his grandmother, he also had some maps of some of the dead spaces and corridors inside walls where the automated security couldn’t look. It didn’t surprise us that there were other urban explorers hiding in secret places and closed off rooms they’d found as children or been told about by parents. Some had even gone outside.

The mid-levels came out of it the best. The heights were ravaged by incredible winds that peeled back the walls. The lower levels and under-city were flooded when the waves hit. For weeks we sat there, our glass tower an island in the changed geography of the seas. Across the deep flat waters we could see the shattered needles of other vertical cities and we wondered if there were people there looking back at us.

THE FALL OF THE VERTICAL TOWNS
07-02-2012 (morning)

The third of the "vertical cities" dreams was early morning of 7th Feb 2012. The first dream had been the building of the vertical cities. The second dream had been abandonment of some of those cities due to flooding. The third dream seems to have been the final destruction of the remaining cities. I don't know why my mind kept returning, in time lapse fashion, to these glass towers to trace their creation and destruction.

Outside the window, the horizon is dark. For centuries the horizon has been lit by never-sleeping multi-towered vertical cities glowing from within. Only in the wild regions between the cities, where their light didn't reach and where no-one lived, was there even semi-darkness. On the concrete apron outside this tower is a scene of industry that has been going on for many days and nights without a rest. There are interstellar craft parked, looking like gigantic crouching animals, and dark figures move around in what seems to be a military camp. Fires and furnaces glow golden. The shorter outlying towers beyond this one have already been reduced to stumps as they dismantle the structure and reuse the metal and the transparent panels. The enormous interstellar craft hunch over the remains like predators at a carcase.

There are three of us in here watching the aliens dismantle our world. Somehow we escaped their notice when squadrons of their green-skinned reptilian soldiers rounded up other people from the city. We don't know what happened to our fellow citizens - we were hiding and saw nothing more of them. Our world has been reduced to a few levels about a third of the way up one side of this city. We can't get past the damaged sections to find out who else escaped the great round-up. Soon the alien settlers will finish dismantling the smaller towers of the outlying suburbs and start on the huge heart of the vertical city. There's no way out of this mess so we've decided to take our own lives when that happens - we've a good supply of drugs. What we don't have is a good supply of water, but that's probably not going to be a problem considering our remaining time is limited.

Tonight there is light on the horizon again. The two huge central towers from the neighbouring city are pulsing with light, far brighter than we've seen them lit before. The whole of the taller tower, which tapers in gentle curves to a pointed dome, pulses with a pink light. The squatter, square tower next to it (about half the height, but four times the footprint) pulses with a bluish light. It's not just a few windows, it's the whole of each tower that glows like a lantern, brightening and dimming. It might be our imagination, but we can hear and feel the pulsing as a rising and falling humming sound quite different from the racket of the alien dismantling machines. Even the aliens stopped working to look at the towers. From they way they are staring and pointing they seem surprised - the pulsing light is not their doing. The only explanation is that there are people over there. The pulsing goes on for a matter of minutes; each time glowing brighter than the last and each dim period less dim. It gives the impression of building up to something. The pulsing light dies abruptly and is replaced by flame. Both edifices have become blazing torches (they must have disabled the fire retardent systems). The three of us believe it was an act of defiance from people hiding there; depriving the invaders of materials.

The aliens know we are in here. They've seen the movement and probably the light from our torches. I guess it's not worth the effort of rounding up stragglers; they know we've nowhere to go. The destruction below means we can't even reach the freight tunnels in the lower levels and we can only reach a floor or two upwards. Three stray humans (no doubt there are others on the floors we can't reach) weren't important - they would have got to us in time. But now they've seen that stray humans can destroy city towers and all the resources they contain; it's got them worried and we can see squadrons of alien soldiers moving close to the base of this tower. From the amount of weaponry they carry they look like clean-up troops.

It's time to take the drugs and lie down to sleep at last. Outside is just the black of night and the dull yellow glare of of lights they've rigged up so they can work 24/7. And the fires on the horizon of course. We three can't reach any of the utility control centres, but maybe another group of survivors elsewhere in this city has seen the other towers burn and can figure out how to overload the power grid on this tower.

DRAGONQUEEN'S LAIR

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