for the girl&the machine fiction i’m writing with kaylee.
The White City – Once upon a time, the White City was a splendid oasis in the middle of a vast plain, an architectural masterpiece of heavy white stone which caught the rays of the sun at any time of the day and reflected it–shining for miles. The White City was ruled by a long line of White Monarchs, a queen and king for the most part though a few eras deviated with two kings or two queens. For centuries the White Monarchs ruled, just and fair, until one day the White Palace doors opened to reveal every single person residing within its walls to be dead. There was not a trace of murder; no errant drop of blood, no bruising of the flesh, no poison on their lips. And yet, they were all unmistakably and irreversibly dead. Even the cook. Horrified, the man who made this discovery took to the streets shouting at the top of his lungs. A frenzied panic swelled through the city, every last person convinced that chemical warfare was upon them from the Black City (despite being over a thousand miles away and, contrary to it’s title, not evil at all). Or if not the Black City, some great Unknown. People fled their homes, their farms, their jobs and took to the Underground. Subway systems and sewers lost their purposes and instead functioned as mass shelters. Eventually, these shelters became permanent home. A new city emerged in the Underground, a city of paranoid and skittish (yet good-natured) people that exist with a half-lunacy, starving for sunshine and green fields but too terrified to move Above.
When this Great Migration happened, a handful of people were left in it’s wake to become restless inside the walls of the White City: The Rulers. Their title itself does not denote any royal power, but rather their strength which began as social popularity due to their talents before the Great Migration and carried over into the Aftermath.
These Rulers, once figureheads in the society of the White City, became corrupt in their solitude and listlessness. They took to tormenting any soul that dared to brave the Above for food, water, or otherwise and engaging each other in battles.
Meet the Rulers:
The Tree – The first ruler to emerge in the Aftermath, the Tree was once a beautiful mage of wilderness; a thinker, a nurturer, and able to speak with all plant life. The Tree was highly sought after to give blessings upon gardens and crops and was prayed to if a person or an animal went missing in the dark forest that surrounds the White City. She could grow things with the lightest touch of her finger, and bring good fortune to farmers with a simple verse from her lips. Now, after the fall of the White Monarchy and in the time when her following of civilians has vanished Underground, the Tree has grown resentful–as gnarled and twisted as the menacing ancient trees she keeps the company of. She has seized control of the last remaining fertile croplands, viciously punishing and enslaving any she might catch trying to steal fruits or vegetables to take back to their families.
The Roman – Once the General of the White Monarch’s army, the Roman was a man of incredible strength and flawless stratege. Under his command, the White Army rarely lost a battle and never lost a war. He comes from a long line of military leaders, and from the time he could walk he was trained to fight and to defend with honor. A fierce mind housed in a powerful body, the Roman was never a friendly man per se, but was not unkind before the death of the Monarchs. Stern and vigilant, he was highly regarded in the city and looked up to by every young child aspiring to be a warrior. When the White City began to fall into ruin, and his troops scattered into the Underground, the Roman became mad with grief and rage and was possessed by the haunting memory of his glory days. He turned his wrath inward and against the others who remained Above, and has become the grim reaper of his era; death speeding along on his chariot to slay whoever crosses his path.
The Beethoven – The halls of the White Palace almost never went a night without the glorious melodies of the Beethoven. The best concert pianist and the most groundbreaking composer of his century, the Beethoven was accomplished at any given style of piano playing. He could perform a jazzy number that would set everybody to dancing, or weave a harrowing funeral march which would wrench sobs from even the proudest of men. Citizens would gather outside the palace walls to chance hearing just a whisper of his enrapturing compositions, mothers would bring their fitful children to be lulled to sleep by his tranquil symphonies. People said his fingers were made of magic, made of gold, and his brain an endlessly turning complex of cogs which churned out piece after piece every hour of the day. With the death of the White Monarchs came the obstruction of his concert hall–the palace sealed off as a crypt. In despair and fury, the Beethoven sought a shadowy corner of the desolate city and built himself a monumental organ from the bones of the unearthed dead he’d once played at the funerals of. He plays, still, every night, though the other Rulers can never locate him when he does as the depressing music ricochets off every surface of the ruins, making him virtually impossible to find. If one did glimpse him, it would be in the daylight hours when he is digging up replacement parts for his organ. His reclusive nature, however, is not to be mistaken for passiveness. The Beethoven wields an unholy power that makes him just as dangerous as the rest.
The Dom – Unlike the others, the Dom’s strength originally stemmed from her appearance instead of any talent or gift. Widely acclaimed as the fairest woman in the White City, the Dom was a playful flirt who caused heads to turn and jaws to drop. A debutante who reveled in the finer things in life, the Dom was never without resplendent jewelry and clothing. A spoiled brat, she may have been, but not mean-spirited. Out of boredom, she joined the theater guild and rose quickly in popularity (more because of her sensuous beauty than her acting skills) until there was scarcely a performance put on without the Dom in whatever leading female role there happened to be. Men would come to swoon and lust over the enthusiastic vixen, and the women would come to glower and wallow in their envy. After awhile, the Dom’s heart became tied to one of her many adoring suitors and in secret she acquired him as a husband and gave birth to his daughter, her pregnancy passed off as a malicious case of Mono followed by the H1N1 virus. When the death of the White Monarch came to pass and the Great Migration commenced, the Dom lost everything–riches, her fan-club, the guild, and (surprise!) her husband and daughter. Hell hath no fury like the Dom abandoned; she rose from the ashes like a phoenix enraged, new persona tailored and cut to every curve of her voluptuous body. The loss of her lavish lifestyle and the attention she craved on a daily basis turned the Dom into a demonic dominatrix, inflicting her wrath on whoever and whatever she could get her hands on with terrifying force and scary intelligence.
The Machine moved quietly, robotic armature imbuing her with innate stealth and grace, against the degenerate palor of crumbling pillars and eroding acropolises of the White City. Had her metal body cavity possessed lungs and had the Inventor programmed her to draw breath, she would have held it now as she slipped amongst the ruins, anxious and curious; her cheeks would have flushed beneath the weight of the merciless sun and the efforts of her hunt. But because he had never finished the Machine, she lacked these humanistic qualities as she crept quickly in the wake of her target.
She followed the fleeting shadow, careful not to get too close, but allowing herself enough nearness to glimpse her target from time to time as it moved through the abandoned structures of the city, it’s arms laden with brown bags filled with–if the Machine guessed right–fruits and vegetables.
The Machine noticed they were taking what was a rather roundabout way to get to one of the entrances to the Underground. Her target must be paranoid these days.
Her movements slowed and then ceased; she peered with hawkish eyes from around the corner of a deserted marble building. She observed brown shoes leaving tiny footprints in the dust, a grey cape swishing about slim legs as pale as the marble she hid behind, and a shock of white-blonde hair kept untidied atop a small head. The Machine watched in fascination as, after looking around suspiciously, The Girl disappeared into the Underground.