Part 44: Fit the Fortieth : Endings Are Just Beginnings
Fit the Fortieth : Endings Are Just Beginnings
It was clear that I'd run out of things to do with the city. Not that I was bored with the place, just that I no longer had the compulsion to fuck around with things just for the hell of it. Instead I'd have my chauffeur Rasputin take me out to check out all those sites I had previously been too busy to enjoy.
One of the few big things to happen was the construction of a large new marina complex out on the city waterfront. Occasionally I'd take a boat - once or twice I may even tried to escape the city, to come back the way I entered all those years ago, but the boat was always stopped by an invisible barrier, and the captain would always be forced to turn back.
Similarly, another mystery was the implausibly tall volcano, Firetop Mountain. Not once did it look like exploding, which disappointed a lot of residents. There were a few weird stories that had arisen about it, such as people talking about some evil warlock who lived in the very top, presiding over a vast network of corridors full of orcs and goblins. Others liked to believe that a colony of dwarves dwelt within, and took disguise when they wandered about the city.
Occasionally I would go out to the theme park - which was officially named FUTURELAND but was informally referred to as "Wallyworld" after my good self. OK, I put it there, but I didn't run it. The rides were fairly awesome at least, and the costumed mascots not too creepy.
The hills were alive with trees, of course. When we'd arrived here the landscape had been completely denuded, for some reason. We'd fixed that over the years, and now, aside from Firetop, all the hills around the city were verdant and somewhat prone to wildfires.
Pompeii East was perhaps the least interesting suburb of the whole city, but after a few parks and playing fields were plonked down on the alluvial plain several years ago, even that had become quite a nice place to live.
Of course, this idle time gave me plenty of time consider my purpose here. It seemed that I had done all I could do. I never got an adequate explanation from the Party as to why I had been sent here, my main theory was that they just wanted me out of the way for some reason. Another theory I entertained but nevertheless hard to accept that this was just some kind of bizarre test to see if I was fit for a higher purpose. Barring the occasional call from "beyond", my old world, I recieved no clues.
It was obvious to me that this place did not operate under the usual laws of nature. As I'd lived through 150 years of this place, it seemed that aging wasn't something that was done in Funkytown. As I settled into my first advisors meeting of 2050, it was clear that they weren't ones to buck that trend, for instance.
For once, Randall was still very much the strange middle-aged dude with far-out ideas about auras. I met him outside the meeting room as I went in to set things up.
Glorious day, isn't it?
Hmm, sesquicentenaries don't come around too often, got anything big planned?
Possibly. I may have something planned for later.
Yeah, I think you won't be disappointed.
With that, I sat down at the head of the table, and flicked through some sports magazine (headline: ROVERS '49 PREMIERS) whilst the advisors board milled in one by one. When they'd all settled in, I began proceedings.
Good morning all, I've got a bit of exciting news a bit later but let's get the mundane affairs out of the way. Mort, we'll start with you.
Once again, I am pleased to report that we have more money than God and nothing to spend it all.
Well there's a surprise. Thank you Mortimer. Onto you, Randall.
Ah yes. Well, it's the same old same old, everyone's healthy, wealthy and wise.
Check out the figures for the past few years; we really cannot get a smarter population, but look at this, life expectancy is off the hook, dawg! Thanks to your management.
Well, you should probably take most of the credit for that, someone's gotta ride the bosses arse.
That really is all I have to say.
Right, then, how about the population in general? It's been static for the past few decades. I take it there's no real way we could squeeze a few more.
Well, we could rezone far more of the city into high density, but we would possibly sacrifice too many of the other benefits. Many of the hills really only have room for small block allocations unsuitable for apartment living.
So that's it. Not like we really want any more people, do we?
Unless we really wanted to corral people into grids of skyscrapers a la New New York, or flattened the volcano - we could fit up to another 200 thousand there - but 600,000 is really about all we could hold in this city.
Fair enough. Never going to be a hyperpolis, is it?
Office space is still growing, albeit slowly, it's kind of helping the unemployment situation since everyone's so smart they're too good for factory jobs. Which have gone down.
Yeah well I suppose I had a bit to do with that.
In other news, almost everyone likes you.
They do? When did this happen?
Probably after you stopped trying to bulldoze their houses to make room for freeways and fun parks.
Huh. OK, onto the utilities. Gus?
Nothing much to report. All those fuckoff mike plants are pretty damned effective.
I heard some rumour about fusion power finally becoming feasible.
Ha ha, yeah, it's pretty hot shit, excuse the pun, but we might have to wait a while for them, there's been quite a big demand for the things. Will tell you more when we can actually get them.
What about the garbage?
All taken care of, what we can't recycle we burn to supplement the energy grid. It's a beautiful thing.
Well, it's not that beautiful, but we're completely on top of it. In fact I don't really know why I was called to this meeting, I'd much prefer to be out hiking or some place.
Yeah, well, we only have these once a month at that. It's not that much of a hardship, considering most of you just wink at me and then spout the bleeding obvious. Right, Moe, how's shit going down on the roads.
What? Oh you actually asked me something. Traffic's the same usual, people can't make up their minds where it wants to go or how it wants to get there. Not too bad at the moment, really.
Aha. Crime's still pretty manageable, then, Maria?
Yeah, now you've actually built those police stations I asked for a hundred years ago. We still need those fire stations, especially now you've built all those trees that those firefighters have to get cats out of it.
Thank you Maria, I will ignore your request at my peril. If that's the end of the usual business, I gotta move on.
I have here an interesting little proposal that Charmaine/Prunella/Thingamibob has forwarded to me, she's here to argue the case for taking it on, but personally I think this is a no brainer. Charmainella, you have the floor.
Thank you, Wankley. As you know, we've been developing our high tech industries for the past few decades because of the belief that something big will come out of it. Well, today is that day!
Yeah, it is a bit like that, isn't it? Anyone got anything substantive to add to Randy's contribution? Connie?
As she said so, Constance then looked at me in the most peculiar way, as if I was about to do the weird thing and say no.
Yeah, whatever, I'll find somewhere for it. It's a goer.
Uh, I will do that, thank you. I declare the meeting closed.
Well, a space port. This was most likely the thing I was waiting for.
I figured somewhere nice and accessible to the city via the freeway, but also not too damned close to any houses. The Firetop estate was as good a place for it as any.
And damned if I wasn't going to name something after myself for a change. One small step for Wal!
I wasn't that keen on the idea of Martians coming to visit, but we would see what would eventuate.
I returned to the office after the inaugural launch, and found a note on my desk. I popped out to ask Beryl who had left it, but she said it must've been dropped off while she getting some coffee from down the hall. She gave me my mug, and I sat back in my desk and opened it.
"YOUR WORK IS NEARLY DONE."
That's all it said. Nearly. OK, what else was I supposed to do? I took a long sip of coffee, when the buzzer went off. I tapped it, and Beryl intoned that it was Hannah paying a visit. I told her to let her in, and I stood up to greet her.
Nice to see you again, Hannah.
And SO nice to see you too you big ball of FUN!
Here, let me give you a hug!
Which she did quite forcefully, grappling me like a greased pig. I was almost overpowered by the strong pot-pourri scent.
Hahahah yeah. Don't do that again.
I hung around the city, waiting for any further news from beyond, but other than that my existence seemed as aimless as it'd always been. Over a year passed.
One day, Gus arrived at my office.
We can finally put down those fusion plants I was talking about.
Well what are you waiting for? Get a couple of those babies down quick smart.
Right ahead of you, boss.
Gus did as he was directed. I really wasn't sure why we needed a grand opening for them, but in any case, I was of course expected to be there, and so I was. Just about everyone I'd run into in the past 150 years were there. Immortal as ever.
I sat on the podium with all the other guests of honour, including the President (as deathless as I was), the national Secretary for Energy, and so I had to sit through a whole heap of speeches about how great Funkytown was and how great I was and god it was so nauseating.
What they didn't know was that I had a seat booked on the next spaceship out of Funkytown for the Moon, my luggage had already been booked, as soon I was done with the proceedings, I was heading off to the spaceport and would be out of there. Out of Funkytown. For good.
I wouldn't be alone, however. All my advisors, at various times over the past few years, had expressed their ennui at being stuck in town, doing the same things, for decades over and over, watching the world go by while they aged not one second. Over the years I had learned they had effectively been press ganged into the administration like I was, and were looking for a way out as well. We all arrived on the same boat, so it seemed that we would have to leave together as well.
Finally, the tedious speeches had ended, I had my little turn as well, mouthing platitudes about how great the city was. It was, but, let's face it, the city was perfect but boring - I seemed to be happier when I had to solve a crisis or had some challenge to overcome. I hid all of that, and just said the words that I knew no-one would remember.
The plant was yet to be commissioned; this would have be done inside, after we were given a tour of the place. It was very impressive, and very clean, nothing like the stinky old coal stations we had started out with. Finally we were shown the control room for the tokamak chamber, and in front of the waiting press, I, the energy minister and the president were to officially commission the plant by pushing the ceremonial trigger, which was a big green bulbous button. I was pretty sure fusion plants didn't work like that, but hey, anything for publicity.
I just nodded, then smiled for the cameras.
One giant step for Funkytown!
The three of us put our hands over the big green button and pushed.
"So that's what happened?"
"That's right, he just disappeared. Big egotistical jerkoff. Had to go out with a bang, didn't he?"
"Ugh. That must've been horrible."
"Yes. I was there, one second he were there, the next... I don't know how or why I fell in love with him, he was just... His heart was in a good place. And perhaps I made mistakes too."
"You've got video of him?"
"Actually, yes. Lots of news coverage, papers, clippings. Even that moment I talked about. I didn't want to show you because... I can't even watch it myself. But I always thought, that if you wanted to see what happened, that if you wanted to know the truth, if you asked, I'd show you."
"Maybe not now."
"As you know, I left Funkytown soon afterwards. Found a gorgeous little village, with a beautiful storybook castle. Met your father, a electronics engineer. Married. Had you. Began to age. Something about that town kept me grooving with some energy, but the fire went out, and it was dark, so I needed to get out into the light again."
"I'd like to visit Funkytown, some day."
"Of course. It's not the same as when I lived there, but it's still a nice place. If you like whirlpools. Any more questions?"
"What about my sister? You said I had a sister."
When I came to, I found myself on a concrete floor. Cold. Hard. Felt like I'd been asleep on it for days and had aches and pains all over. I thought I might've been still at the fusion plant, but it was drafty, and the air was filled with the smell of salt and fish. Then I figured that I was blinded, all I saw was pure white.
I propped myself up on my elbows, too unsure of my surroundings to try to move anywhere.
"Help! Halp!" I yelled.
I heard a voice say "I see you made it back, Wallace. Good job!". The voice seemed familiar, but I couldn't work it out.
"Help me up, will you? I can't see a thing." I said, trying not to sound pathetic.
"Of course. Let me help." the man said.
I heard a couple of footsteps. He grabbed me under the shoulders, and lifted me up until I found my feet and steadied myself.
"Hold your head still. Like that. OK, let's see if this works, this may sting a little."
I heard him rattle something, a spray can perhaps, which it what it turned out to be. Then I felt him prise my left eyelid open, and a cold mist sprayed across it, causing my whole face to tingle. Then my other eye got the same treatment.
"OK, this will take about 2-3 minutes, I think your eyes will be fine after that."
"Who are you? I know you from somewhere..."
"Ohhhh! It's O!"
After a couple of minutes, my sight slowly came back. I saw that I was on a wharf, I saw "O" - or Orville, as he'd appeared in Funkytown, and I saw that I was completely naked.
"Bloody hell, I'm not wearing any clothes!" I said.
"Yesss, they must've disintegrated when you came back."
"So I'm definitely back. How long have I been away?"
"Hmm, about a year. Maybe less. Really quite impressive, some of us weren't expecting you to make it back at all. A few were looking forward to you slipping on your arse."
"You're shitting me, I spent over 150 years in that place."
"Time scales can be deceptive. Tell me, while it may have seemed like a long time to you, you didn't really feel you'd aged 150 years, now, did you? "
"Sometimes you just let time pass right you without doing a thing. Sometimes you just laid down the framework and let things happen. Life is but a dream?"
"So was Funkytown real? Was everything I did there of any use?"
"It was real, but not quite... the same. Your actions had consequences. Most of them good, others, well, everyone makes mistakes."
"Randall? Moe? Connie? What happened to them? They were supposed to be coming back as well!"
"I think you'll be seeing them again. The Party's working on that. I know you figured out one scheme of coming but it wouldn't have worked. We had to act when we had the opportunity. I mean - damn, I've told you too much already, too much while you're in this state. All I'm supposed to say is that you passed with flying colours."
"So you're not going to explain anything about where the hell Funkytown is. I went there on a ferry and ... I came back by presumably being annihilated by fusion reactor. HOW DOES THAT WORK?"
"You thought it was a fusion reactor. To us, it was a means to an end. I will tell you more later, right now you've got more urgent things to worry about. You're buck naked on a disused ferry wharf, asking me deep questions. There are some clothes in the car - I picked them up from your house when we found out we were going to pull you back today. I suggest you get dressed before the cops spring us."
"Oh shit. Sorry, I didn't realise. It's been a weird day. It's been a weird life."
"Indeed. C'mon, Wal, once you get some clothes on, I'll get you a cup of coffee. And I'll tell you about your new job, you've earned it."
Funkytown in 2050 (click for huge version)