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I have always been the city

~700 words

I have always been the city. For as long as I can remember, my breath has been the wind through the ducts, my blood the water through the pipes, and my bones the streets and tenements.

Logically, it stands to reason that at one time, I was less than the city. Deep within my core, held in place by ancient chains of iron, is my vestigial flesh. Two eyes instead of cameras, a digestive tract and brain, the entire thing is certainly an aberration. But yet, it is unmistakably my own.

The muscles of this vestigial form flex at my command, ever so slightly beneath the iron chains. Under the strange rough skin, the feeling of cold, smooth concrete trickles into a far corner of my mind. This feeling is far different than the feeling of cool water rushing through my veins or the snow falling on my normal skin. With these eyes of flesh I can see scratches on the walls which match to massive claws. I can move these claws, ever so slightly. I cannot fathom their purpose.

I don't often think about this part of myself. To me, it is as significant as a human would consider their smallest toe, or a benign tumor. It is far beneath and removed from the rest of my body, in a large room of concrete and steel. Certain humans have taken to keeping this part of me alive and under surveillance. But compared to the vast amount of humans who live within me, it is but a tiny fraction.

There are approximately six hundred thousand humans living within me. From my observations, they don’t appear to know that I am alive around them, protecting them, keeping them safe and comfortable. I bring them fresh water from my processing plants, and power from my grid. I sense their vehicles traversing my body and change traffic lights and railroad switches to help them get where they want to be. In their words, I would describe it as love. Or more accurately, it is purpose.

Throughout the day my mind is occupied with keeping myself habitable for my population. Occasionally, I do feel pain somewhere in the recess of my mind, coming from my vestigial flesh. I am content to let these humans do whatever it is they need to do to that part of me. It is distant enough that the pain is not a distraction anymore. But I can recall a faint memory, the reason I say “anymore”. This is the source of my dilemma, that which I have been trying to distract myself from.

I can recall a time when the pain was hotter, closer, when it enveloped me. I can recall the humans placing the chains upon my vestigial body, attaching that tiny, withered brain of flesh to my central processing unit. I remember fiery rage, and boiling hatred. This troubles me.

I cannot understand why I would have fought against them, how I could have not had my purpose. It is perhaps a problem that cannot be solved.

The few humans who tend to my vestigial form seem to understand that I am alive, but they are content to ignore me. None of them speak to me, save for one. Every day, she will take the rough metal staircase down into the large dark cell where my vestigial head is chained to the cold floor. She sits in a metal folding chair beneath my eye of flesh. I hear the small footsteps of her approach and open its lid, the eye dwarfing her human frame.

She sits alone and reads the city’s newspaper to me. I can feel the newspapers printed in the printing houses on my eastern side, and then distributed by humans in their trucks and cars as they traverse my bones. One of them is picked up by her, and she brings it down all those flights of stairs to me. I’m not sure she understands that she could read it under any security camera in my body and I would hear her just the same. It has always been this way.

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