There was something odd about this city. I had been a firefighter here for a few years when I began noticing the shifts. Buildings ruined in fires with no known origin, knocked down, and then… replaced. And I don’t mean replaced as in renovated, or a new building was erected in place of the burned one. I mean, other buildings in different parts of the city just sneaked in, like they were waiting for a new home, a new lot.
I’ve heard of mobile homes. I’ve heard of small houses being picked up on a truck and carried somewhere else. But a skyscraper? An apartment complex? It took me some time to realize that buildings I recognized from the north end of the city would literally move to a new area on the south end, once a fire or other disaster freed up some room.
And nobody else seemed to care. I pointed out burned-down buildings to coworkers having been replaced, and they shrugged and said, “That’s what that foreign labour’ll do. They go up quick, and they come down quicker.”
But it wasn’t quick. It was instant.
I don’t know why I did it, but I had to know. One night, after clearing out yet another crumbling old office building, I watched as the demolition crew knocked it down. They kept telling me it was dangerous, to back off, and so I had to hide myself on the roof of the building across the street in order to watch without being hassled.
Eventually, the demolition crew got the whole mess contained and fenced up, and they left for the night. Quick work, but not superhuman. I was watching after all.
It was cold on that rooftop, and the night seemed to last forever. Just when I woke myself up with my own snoring, something happened to the lights. All the lights. The whole neighbourhood, suddenly black. I couldn’t see the demolished building anymore, but I could hear–
Crumbling. Screeching, like metal being twisted and bent. Like the sounds a settling house makes at night, multiplied a thousandfold, all at once. I couldn’t see what was happening, but eventually dozens of lights sparked into view, in an inconsistently-gridded pattern.
The lights of a building. A building that wasn’t there mere moments ago.
And the rest of the street lights came back on. There, in place of the destroyed office complex, was a brand new apartment building. No, not brand new. I recognized it from downtown.
It was as though the city was rearranging itself. Getting comfortable. Sacrificing old buildings and having newer ones rise from their ashes. But if the buildings weren’t being replaced with brand new ones, then the city must have been shrinking. How long had this been going on? And what else was this city capable of?
Yeah. There was something odd about New Athens.
Today’s three random prompt categories were, “A mobile home,” “Firefighter,” and, “A living city.”
I think this is another of my many worlds that needs more exploration.