This city, growing between the cracks, was unmanageable, irrepressible. Despite its screened pipeways, its processed networks of lines, there were also shadows, perforations which formed a maze reaching downwards: a network of mines and quarries. How else does the city of Sandstone acquire its authentic brick? Mechanical tractors eat their way through soil, ingesting stone and clay, and shitting it out their rears, like accelerated cattle. The slurry of soil and sandstone is slowly inched to the surface on rubber belts. The tunnels had once been diligently refilled with liquid concrete, a cheap substitute like powdered infant’s milk, pumped underground to replace venerated stone. But the concrete slurry had leaked into the water table, causing explosions of luminous green algae, proliferating like popcorn; it had swept though the plumbing, rushing up pipes and blooming out of bronze taps in Rasel – an unwanted reminder of the city below. Public fountains bled green – an image-disaster, forcing Rasel to pass an emergency decree: that all instances of algae must be unseen. Removed from Rasel’s imagination, the quarried tunnels were no longer refilled, but left abandoned, dis-remembered. Instead, they formed reverse honeycombs below the water table, like the mirrored world of a photographic negative. Buttered yellow sandstone was exchanged for tunnels of unregulated emptiness, spools of blackness.
The competing definitions of the boundary pulled at the city’s seams, revealing ellipses and
omissions that yearned for misuse, if only for a moment. The cities were vacuum-packed, but there was always space to be won in the tug of war, and during the loggerheads, slits of space formed like air bubbles.
Each side pushed at the other, wilfully sightless, in blind backstroke. And in this deadlock, spaces grew, slithers here and there, archipelagoes that were only connected by knowing of them. These were the ellipses, the zones that were neither Rasel nor Felasteen, an indeterminate zone that could be seen by both, and yet was nervously unseen by all. The ellipses and shavings. These tiny splinters of space were abrupt gaps in the city’s shifting crusts and offered shapes that transformed into characters. The silhouette of an overcoat approaching in rickety steps, its edges shifting like spilt juice. But these shapes were structured around absence, cut out holes, full of nothingness. Until the centrifugal undercity bled into the emptiness, Felasteen dispersing into the slits, projecting into the brief openings and seeping into newly yawning pores. The grit of the other city, inseminating Rasel’s furrows and alleyways and creases.
The gaps, the dead zones, the pockets. As one house crumpled another, there were leftovers, spare trimmings in spasmodic shapes like the mash of paper confetti. And they were difficult to erase because the city was so fragile, its centre hollow. Holes filled with concrete might droop, like the heavy links of a chainmail glove, whose logic is exhaustion.
But the empty zones would have their revenge, because water gathers in the creases, a paste
thickeing in the folds, museli and flour grouting the indents. [muscle formation] In the revenge of the underbelly, every tap in Felasteen is turned on to the full, every shower spitting, and the lips of every garden hose opened wide. Water filling up the bedrooms and living rooms until it curdles backwards, foaming out of windows, permeating the ceilings while its residents hide in sealed tankers. A suicidal protest from the city below, filling itself up only in order to spew into the city above. And the water rises manically, panicking, pushing for any route, because it cannot fold inwards, so it must swell and brim over. It will break down walls on its unthinking pathway, it will bend trees like summer grass, smoothing all edges and tearing away sharpness like scabs. And in the city above, a swirling confusion of interior and exterior as the water sloshes over Rasel’s polished floors, whetting stone, licking it, blotting the planes of Rasel’s sidewalk. The water, a force from below, expelled out like steam from a kettle, a voilent cough racking up self-generating chains of phlegm. The evicted water is the rage of Felasteen, filling every hollow space and gushing out of potholes.
The cities mingle, briefly, like blood brothers, or spittle sharers. Cities in coition, sharing fluid, the ejaculations of Felasteen slipping between them like semen. Only at the apex of the swirling riot, when Rasel and Felasteen are submerged by a whirlpooling mass of expelled fluid, are the deepcity drains are finally allowed to breathe, their mouths opened, gullets slid wide, and the water tumbles backwards, drawn downwards as if the enraged glob of water suddenly revealed its form: that of an enormous coiling rope. The drag of unlatched drains allow the liquid to untangle itself, to slip backwards down hollow tunnels, the menacing pull of the pipes forcing water into a sleek ribbon that coils away. Drained, both cities fall back,
exhausted by their violent intercourse. Felasteen’s inhabitants will hide for days, afraid of the vengeance seekers from above, while Rasel’s streets and plazas are layered with the scum of the flood, the silt and slime of the city below, evidence which is hurried away, bagged up and incinerated, invisibilised.