The City Is a Cement Plant

The inspectors are told to sleep outside and report back to Sanders if the city is growing. The inspectors wear white helmets with flashlights and one-piece jumpers the color of pearl. They shine like soap bubbles in the sun.

At night they patrol the fence with their lights crisscrossing as they examine the ground. They measure the dirt between the fence and the nearest building. Each time the measurement shrinks a quarter-inch. Their flashlights illuminate the windows as they ascend each floor.

“What’s going on?” says one inspector to another, in a concrete stairwell that rises with each word spoken. “Are we losing our minds?”

“Beats me.”

“We have to report something, Jim.”

“I told you, it beats me.”

“What does that mean?”

“Means I don’t know.”

“How can you not know?”

“Just don’t.”

The ten dirt-encrusted inspectors stand in the room and their jumpsuits crinkle with movement. Sanders stares. One inspector has his flashlight on. Another inspector pulls the helmet off his head and with the heel of his palm knocks the batteries out and onto the floor. They do their best to stand silent.

“Well,” says Sanders.

“We don’t know why, or how,” says an inspector. “Also, the sun might be getting closer, but our reports say it’s an optical illusion.”

“And how, exactly, is that supposed to make sense?” says Sanders.

“What? The sun or the city moving closer? Both?”

“Let’s start with the city.”

“It doesn’t,” says the same inspector. His black mustache is saturated with sweat. “It doesn’t make any sense at all, that’s what we’re trying to tell you. Not sure if the land is retracting or these are new buildings. I know what that sounds like. We orange-tag them and the tags disappear. Is someone taking the tags off? Hm, maybe. Could be the guy who keeps lighting our buildings on fire. What I’m saying is that one of us sleeps in a building only to wake up with a building in front of that building.”

“Ghosts are working the night shift?” asks Sanders.

The inspector without a helmet says, “Does anyone care to know that I touched the sky and burned my fingers?”

“No, well, not exactly,” says the sweaty black mustache. “We can’t prove that. We can’t prove that because we have no physical proof of seeing the buildings going up. Yes, we see, we understand, there is less land between the village and here. Yes, there seems to be more random buildings, but, I, we, just don’t know.”

“Did you ever think,” says Sanders, rubbing his face with both hands, “to have one, maybe two people, stay up for a few days and just watch, or, I don’t know, take a few pictures? We have so much technology, use it.”

“But we did,” says the sweaty black mustache. “And we didn’t see anything. There’s no proof of construction, only what our eyes see, which is new buildings fully constructed.”

“That sounds,” says Sanders, “insane.”

“We know.”

“Last one,” says Sanders sighing and looking frustrated at a maroon draped window. He wants to take over the village, he wants it more than anything, but he also wants to control it, to understand it and what is happening with the sun moving closer and these random buildings sprouting up. “In your inspectors opinion, is the city, however impossible that a city can grow on its own accord, actually growing?”

The sweaty black mustache takes a deep breath and his protective suit crinkles. “Yes,” he exhales.

The ground moves. Sanders and the inspectors all lose their balance and fall to the floor in a sad heap. The ground splits, grows new buildings. The sky is twisting the sky into something new. The sky isn’t a sky because the sky is all sun and the buildings look up.  

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