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A Walk Through A City

The lights of the city appear in the distance, seemingly rocking as the boat rocks, side to side. The man gazes at the city and wonders if this city will be different from any of the other cities he has visited. From a distance it could be any city, any port city that is, depending on who you ask "What city is this?" Is it a place of decay, destruction, and ruin, the type of place that everybody hates? Yet to the residents it is home, and not nearly as bad to them as it is to those who do not live there, just as so many other are. The lights come closer, as does the city's air of fear, oppression and non-caring. The lights cast an eerie glow as the boat pulls up to the dock.
A cool breeze blows in off the sea, and the salt in the air is so thick it can be tasted. The man steps off the boat and examines the docks. The docks are run down and deserted. A feeling of death and decay permeates the air. By morning the docks will be bustling with activity as dock workers scramble to load and unload cargo, though the air of death and decay will remain. A beggar, with a tin cup, tugs at the man's pant leg hoping for some spare change. The man drops a few coins into the cup and walks off the docks and onto a street. It is not long before the sides of the street begin to appear cluttered with bars and clubs. The first are the older and more run down of the bars and clubs, and these are the ones that serve the dock workers and others who only attained the lesser jobs in life. As the man moves up the street, the bars and clubs gradually become fancier and cleaner places until they turn into the fanciest types of bars and clubs, the kind that only the rich can afford to attend. The man walks on as the street twists and turns, until slowly, steel gates take form, as do the mansions placed behind them. They are homes of the rich, the places that they go to avoid all those poor souls who can't afford the safety of iron gates, security cameras and security guards. A security guard watches the street, his steel eyes coming to the man. The security guard glares at the man intently, daring the man to take some action, any action, which would be out of place, until he decides to speak to the man.


"Watch it scum!" the security guard yells at the man as he steps out of his protective booth.
The man turns, meeting the security guard's steely gaze with one of his own. The security guard instantly realizes he has made a severe mistake and scrambles to get back inside his protective booth. The man resumes his walk. The street goes on taking him to a middle class neighborhood, laying in the shadows of giant corporate skyscrapers. The residents of the neighborhood are little more than slaves to their rich bosses and their multinational corporations, waiting for the slightest mistake that could shoot them up the ranks, or plunge them into the depths of sorrow and despair.


The man walks on, following the twisting street that plunges him deeper and deeper into the city. The corporate towers fade and the houses get dirtier, dingier, and more run-down, until they are replaced by rotting shacks and slum apartments. The man continues to walk, the twisting streets taking him deeper into the city. And, as he walks all sense of safety starts to fade, until there is no more. Even the police refuse to cross the unmarked lines that tell what is safe and what is not, and they turn back from this place. Past these lines lie the worst that society has to offer. Robbers and murderers mix in with the homeless, who are just trying to keep warm, by lighting the contents of trash barrels on fire. Gang members roam the street, ready to die for an unwatched gesture or an accidental step in the wrong direction. Some carry only knives and zip guns, which are as likely to injure them as they are to injure an opponent. Others carry light machine guns. Some are only groups of friends, gathered for protection. Some are effectively small armies, looking for the slightest excuse to wage war on any one or anything. The names of the gangs are a motley collection, though there really is no difference between them. Those known as the Tigers, the Ancients, and the First Nation like to think that they are. Fires blaze, sometimes from the trash barrels, lit by those who have no other place to go. But, all too often they blaze from vehicles that were unlucky enough to be caught in a crossfire between the gangs.
A gang member steps in the man's path, perhaps by accident, perhaps not.


"Buzz." says the man in a low, menacing voice.


The gang member quickly leaves, and the man walks on. The twisting street now taking him out of the city instead of into it. As the man moves on, toward the edge of the city, the violence disappears, but the weapons do not. Clubs once again begin to line the street, mixed in with small twenty-four hour markets, where any food you buy is probably more soybean than real. The gangs' appearance changes near the edge of the city as those with multi-colored and leather jackets are replaced by those in three-piece suits, wearing conservative haircuts and mirrorshades. They call themselves Mafia, and Yakuza, but they are simply gangs, who have reigned unchecked, some times for hundreds and hundreds of years. A man in a three piece suit steps in front of the man walking down the street.


"What's your business here?" The man in the three piece suit says.


"Just passing through." says the man, continuing his walk.

 

The man walks on. The clubs once again give way to the domains of the rich, where their houses are the perfect clones of the ones before, though the owners are certainly more sinister.
Gradually the city changes as asphalt and concrete gives way to dirt and trees, and man gives way to beast. The lights of the city fade into the distance, as does the city's air of fear, oppression, and non-caring. The city that could be any city fades into the distance. The man ponders how this city is so much like the other cities he has visited. The lights dim as the man walks down the street, now only a dirt path, and fade out as the man enters the forest and the darkness.

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By P.Baumgart