by Ariel Kroon
Things tend to disappear, these days.
Take the road signs, for example. Dougie lives in the old van parked on the corner of Main and Eltshire Street, and the sign had always been there, pointing the way to the cathedral or to the mall, if you wanted to go that way. Now, though, it’s gone, and Dougie swears he heard kids talking outside the night it disappeared.
I told him he’s crazy; there’s no kids left on the streets now. Only the nobs and gene-hackers can afford to have kids; only their kids will survive. Jeannie used to be a nob, before the War, and she says that they have special air filters and everything. That’s why Jeannie can still run for more than a city block, but she tries not to lord it over us. She’s good like that; sometimes you can almost believe she’d been a junkhead, just like one of us, her whole life.
In any case, the signs gone missing aren’t too much of a bother; we know the neighborhood well enough by the buildings. It’s more of a problem when the buildings themselves disappear. It doesn’t happen as often as the signs, but when it does, it’s just as mysterious. Sure, the buildings are pretty run-down in this part of town, but just ‘cause they’ve got a couple chunks out’ve the concrete shouldn’t mean they can just all of a sudden cease to exist. No, there should be noise; there should be commotion, like in the old days when the nobs tried to get the corporations to clean up the downtown, and the wrecking balls went nonstop for days on end.
But silence is more the thing now. Sometimes it hurts to speak, so we don’t. The buildings have caught on: they disappear without a sound, leaving behind an old graveyard of debris, bricks, stonework, metal and concrete. An office chair here, a rusted metal elevator door there, broken stairways still trying to go somewhere. There’s never enough left over to reconstruct the original building; the bulk is gone. The body, the stuff that made the building a building has left, leaving behind what it thinks to be enough to fool anyone who’ll pay attention. We junkheads know better than most, though. We were here when there was still green on the trees, when the graffiti on the buildings was art, not mildew gone out-of-control, when the nobs still thought we were worth the effort of their attention. Now they ignore us until they become us. Jeannie says it was hard to stay a nob at first, because the kids grew up and inherited, and all the money in the world isn’t enough to go around when you’re rich.
It’s gotta be easier now to stay on top. Kids aren’t easy to come by anymore; kids cost. There aren’t any kids down here. They disappeared, just like the signposts. Maybe they all grew up, like Dougie and Samir and I. We were kids once, I think. But every once in a while I find myself wondering if it’s really true, and maybe the kids really did just disappear. Gone like the signposts, like the buildings, like the birds and the dogs and the butterflies. I can’t even remember the color of real pigeons; it’s all fuzzed over with the clay-brown of the spliced sparravens. Dougie says all the originals are extinct, and that’s why we don’t see animals any more. They died off and left us.
Maybe that’s what’s happening to the signposts and buildings. Nobody cares about street names anymore, because we don’t need signs. So the names are dying, and the dead ones have disappeared. Soon the names will be extinct. The buildings too; nobody lives in the ones that are disappearing. People seem to sense when a building is on its way out, and they move out. Then the building dies and disappears. It’s not needed; it’s not wanted.
We don’t need signs. We don’t need apartment buildings. We don’t need pigeons, or butterflies, or trees. If you ask around, everyone’ll say junkheads don’t need children anymore.
Ariel Kroon reads and writes science fiction in Waterloo Canada. She is a masters student and occasional contributor to Paper Droids magazine. You can find her on Twitter @arielletje, or browse her articles at www.paperdroids.com.