1035 words by Stanley Lieber
All of this was not going to work for him anymore. It was coming down around his ankles. His output had exceeded his company's resources, and his private prospects were taking a nosedive as well. He could hardly pay himself to write. Without that weekly stipend from MASSIVE FICTIONS, he wasn't going to make rent on the storage facility for his collections. One unwelcome change blurred into another; and in short order, the accumulated results were overwhelming to contemplate.
Rimbaud passed Stanley on the fifty-fourth floor and tipped his hat. Stanley was probably off to tinker with more of his -- what had he called them -- martial simulations. What a thought; larping about as if to train for war. But, this was Stanley, and, after all, this was one of Stanley's interests. No harm was being done, in any case.
As he navigated the spiraling path, the requisite plying of a new editor at some other rag -- what other rags were even left -- was very much on his mind. A crease formed across his forehead as he alit gently on the elevator, negotiating the physical geometry with his body whilst simultaneously evaluating potential budget configurations in his mind. Duality. Synchronous operation. He watched the frothing crowd of his countrymen, churning to and fro along the pathways below. They resembled nothing so much as beer suds sloshing in a bed of potting soil. And it was a very long way down. Petals -- floors -- whipped by silently, causing the sun to blink, languidly, somewhere near the horizon.
Rimbaud stood amongst his fellow salarymen and mused that, self-evidently, the architecture of their day would have to be considered superior to that of any previous era. From his studies he recalled that, in centuries past, forays had been made into evolving wholly organic super-structures, but that it had taken the better part of a four hundred years -- bringing the public state-of-the-art almost up to date with that of his own great-grandfather's famous, proprietary work -- before emergent plant mimicry was fully integrated into the mainstream of public works. While it was true that most citizen hovels -- even today -- evinced the brute angles and sharp corners characteristic of the twentieth century's most prolific architects (perhaps out of some sense of fealty to tradition, since, structurally, such arbitrary designs were no longer strictly necessary), in his own lifetime he had witnessed the marvelous transformation of municipal buildings from great, lumbering and inefficient storage containers into organic, plebeian tangles of smoothly curving branches, stems and flowering foyers. Why, his own quarters were situated within just such a fractal space! Rimbaud had to remind himself that the upper-most levels of these buildings, or, more appropriately, growths, were still reserved for the business classes and their various concerns. He observed with some satisfaction that these concessions were small sacrifice when weighed against the general improvements to the Commons such commerce inevitably yielded. The slums were already starting to grow over.
The express elevator distended and Rimbaud disembarked towards an identification booth. He slid into a vacant pod and hooked his legs around the seating apparatus as his entire body was rotated into position. From there, his awareness shifted back to Home. Thus transported, he prepared his evening meal to the accompaniment of a historical recording. His pleasure was the Existentialist literature of the mid- twentieth century, and he preferred to track the audio wholly eyes-free while handling his cooking materials. Sophistry, perhaps, but well within the curve of the culturally acceptable plotted for him by his trusted almanack.
Pulsing from the far counter came a notice that his tuna had thawed. Rimbaud slid to the other side of his pod and began eating pieces of raw fish. From an adjacent curved plate he selected a number of additional food items to link into his meal. By running a finger across the stamen of the plate, Rimbaud seasoned the course to his liking. He chose some vegetables and elected to submerse them in one half-ounce of wood-aged high-fructose corn syrup. He flattered himself that his tastes were truly refined.
The 8-bit alarm drones Rimbaud had programmed for eight o'clock (a clever recursive reference, he had thought) sounded, softly, and he knew then that it was time to replace the dishes within their folds and return to work. Rimbaud made a gesture towards the door, and the sunlight streaming in from above shifted, gave way to the interior of his encephaloid pod. Identification. He untangled his legs and got himself up, running a hand through his mussed hair and replacing his felt cap. He smoothed down his jacket and made his way back through the forest of salarymen, climbing once again into the express elevator. As he flitted up the stem of the building, he thought to himself that his lunch periods seemed shorter and shorter as his life progressed. As he grew objectively older.
Finally reaching his objective at the very top of the building, Rimbaud took stock of the vast garden spread out across the city below. Millions of his fellow countrymen were busy going about their daily tasks, worker bees distributing commercially registered pollen. None questioning themselves as he did. None of them devoting the scant moments of their free time to comparing themselves unfavorably with American negroes of centuries past. Was his toil really so objectionable as all that? Such nonsense that he allowed to enter his mind.
Rimbaud then reflected upon his appearance, and suddenly he was grossly ashamed. He wiped away the stray rivulets of sweat from his forehead and pulled the end of his antique almanack slightly out of his breast pocket, cater-corner, plainly into the view of the casual passers-by. Moribund regrets of servitude would not cast a pallor upon his demeanor. I have a choice in this matter, he thought. My suffering is mine, and mine alone.
As the elevator distended once more, Rimbaud was bathed in the bright, sympathetic air of photosynthesis made comprehensible.
As was his usual habit, he pushed the negative thoughts from his mind, choosing instead to consider the significance of beautiful flowers.
To be continued...
written in 2005 for lord_whimsy