Issue #020 Published: 25-10-2018 // Written by: Sun Meng

Going Under #03

For a while I lived in a Wagonplatz. A couple of the well established places had withstood the first Big Water. No small achievement. Wagoners were resourceful, stubborn and conniving. Their folk kitchens, gardens, skills-sharing workshops and theatres were welcome initiatives and emergency infrastructures in the aftermath of the Floods, winning them much local support. But these were fickle times.

The Wagoners were scavengers and so they kept a close eye on what went on by the River. They noticed everything and they could keep a secret if it was in their interests to do so. But when squeezed, do river rats squeal? No-one wanted to find out. At least not yet. 

Then the Second Pulse hit, decimating the communities who had precariously clung onto the shoreline. The Wagoners had wanted to rebuild, but The City would have no more if it. Its Bureaucrats insisted they move to higher ground and offered them a small patch of precious Real Estate. Officially it was a long term lease, promised to be ‘in perpetuity’ with ‘token’ rent payable.  Smelling something fishy, the Wagoners instincts were to decline, but with their community in distress, their homes destroyed and their resources depleted, they were persuaded to accept this once-in-a-lifetime offer. It was, of course, a show of benevolence; a politically-minded act of graciousness in troubled times. As soon as the Wagoners moved on, The City promptly reclaimed what it could along the shoreline and offered it up to Developers. The Wagoners literally lost the ground beneath their feet, first to the River and then to the Market.

For some time after the Second Pulse the Ruins along the Riverbank remained. Sure, they were sketchy, hazardous, but to our advantage unguarded. The Developments were on hiatus until finance could be secured and rumours were that after the last flood The City had gone bankrupt.  
Security is a luxury. So, carefully picking our way through the rubble, little-by-little we wormed our way in and began to discreetly rebuild (and regrow). 

For a while, we went unnoticed. Then once discovered, tolerated. The City Bureaucrats had much more pressing problems to deal with and as long as we didn’t make a show of it, they preferred that we were Occupying the rubble rather than their streets, plazas and parks. Looking back, it was a Golden Age of sorts. We were organised. We lived relatively autonomously. And finally I had space for a garden.

Although it’s been like this for decades, the heat remains a novelty. The Old People thought at first it was a draught, but then it began to rain in regular short, intense bursts. Some people described it as Nature’s revenge. If so, Nature has a sense of humour. Rainbows often follow the downpours, making light of the Alt Stadt’s austere architecture. Over the seasons algae blooms have stained and choked its serene waterways. The New Climate has certainly affected the attitude of the place. The City became a little more, how can I say it? Less up-tight? Laissez-faire? Tropical? The green spaces are more fecund, feral even. Try to imagine the jungle creeping up on the forest. In some ways it is also tragic. It doesn’t suit every living thing. Thick ropey vines are slowly suffocating the evergreens, releasing a mass of oxygen, like collective deep breathing. If you thought the wasps were mad in summer, then the clouds of mosquitos at sunset are from hell. Having raised fears of disease, The City council workers donned Hazchem suits and began to patrol the streets with sprays. Thus, City dwellers were conditioned to not linger too long outside admiring the sunset. Along the Riverbank we manage with plants. They enable a common understanding between the mosquitos and us over which we negotiate. It’s a blood economy of sorts. Communications are often emotional and tense. Sure, we take a few lives in the process, but I’m sure the insects extract more than their fair share and over the long term who knows whom the death toll will favour. Overall, the humidity suits the Medicinals and I’m sure it’s the plants who are getting the better deal. They are, afterall, the most manipulative species.

Given time, our unorthodox biological community among the Ruins thrived. I earned a reputation due to the Medicinals and their integral role in the rituals I would regularly host, held according to the cycle of the moon, the positions of the stars and the subtle influence of the Universe. When the waters were high and the Riverbank thick with life, we would gather. Sitting in a circle under the night sky we would begin with an intimate ritual; blowing a powdered mixture of dried leaves, bark and herbs high into each others nostrils, purging the head and sharpening our senses. Being chemically aligned makes it easier to become attuned to one another and our surroundings. And then, the chanting would begin:
We come up with the rising sea
Jalan ABC
No Guilt, No Geld, No Propriety
Jalan ABC
From Freetown to Karl-Marx-Allee
Jalan ABC 
Jalan ABC
Jalan
Jalan