Staring Out Over Cyber City

The bright lights of Neo-Osaka circa 2062.
The bright lights of Neo-Osaka circa 2062.


It’s 2062 – After hours. You wind your way steadily through the back-alleys of the glowing metropolis, glancing casually at the human wreckage they contain with the cold, practiced gaze of someone used to seeing bad things and not feeling too much about them. You’re heading for The Heights – a windowless concrete cube a mile square that towers over the nearby ‘scrapers – a fixture of such immensity you can almost hear the foundations screaming in a frequency just out of reach.

The cube contains its own civilisation, similar to, but very distinct from our own – a microcosm of human vice and sin, condensed and contained inside walls thick enough to render those within, utterly alien to those without. But there are ways inside of course – openings invisible to most, but easily found to those with the right enhancements. You slip silently in through a maintenance hatch, savouring the recycled air that’s already circulated through a million ailing lungs before it reaches yours. You taste the diesel, sweat, fresh noodles and effluent it carries; the flavour of chaos.

You’ve penetrated the outer rim – cut through the solid crust to the dense, pulsing core. You’re part of the crowds now. Free space is at an all time low as a you’re swept up in a deluge of limbs so numerous, they transcend count altogether and function as a singular heaving mass. You need to gain height – not by elevator though – the cars all lie smashed at the bottom of their shafts, their cables hacked to ribbons – they’ll never be repaired. You consider using a Riser, but it’ll attract attention, so you settle for the stairs. Old school.

Already you’re tired and not even halfway up. You take a rest underneath an Eye and take a second to catch your breath. It doesn’t matter if it sees you, they’re not intended for security – merely wired to an AI, who picks and edits the most exciting footage from the tens of thousands installed by the TV company, and edits it on-the-fly for broadcast to the outside world, live 24/7.
You’ve seen it a few times before. It’s usually not so thrilling for the participants, and no-one ever seems to clean up the mess afterwards.

Your energy somewhat replenished, you climb the rest of the way and emerge near the summit, your breath ragged from exertion and body slick with the sweat that slowly trickles slowly down the back of your legs and onto the floor, probably sustaining the curious orange moss that seems to grow there. The roof is off limits, but that’s true of many places. You emerge back into the open air, surrounded by the sensors and satellites that clutter the building’s apex, making traversal a chore. You manage as best you can, picking your way round some, climbing over others – probably knocking out someone’s shopping channel in the process.

You finally make it to the edge, your toes dangling over the precipice, touching the void below. Gazing outwards brings The Sprawl into focus – a glowing, vertical parallax of human endeavour stretching from coast to polluted coast. You ponder the hive of activity taking place within the limits of your constrained vision – bodies coursing through and within the rising monoliths, each a digital repeat of the last; a tide of nerve endings responding thoughtlessly to the urban stimuli – rivulets of human traffic, slowly coagulating inside the city’s failing arteries.

It is pretty though.

You capture the image with a thought – your mechanorganic cortex effortlessly transferring chemical to binary. It’ll be on a server somewhere now – already seen by a thousand prying eyes with watches on the lines. Not that it matters, you know how to avoid trouble.

And tomorrow you’ll be somewhere else.

It’s November 30th 2016 in Kita District 北区, Osaka 大阪. You’ve made your way there after spending the day in Minoo 箕面 with some recent acquaintances, and everyone agrees that viewing the city at night from atop a tall building would really be quite something, and cap the day off nicely. The Umeda Sky Building is the destination – an ’n’ shaped glass and steel statement of intent that promises a worthy view from the top. You pass through the atrium? garden? at it’s base, pausing to consider the immense Christmas tree already erected there. It’s not even December yet.

You climb flights of stairs, trailing in the wake of a caravan of other tourists who arrived before you – they’re excited at the prospect of a good view too. You get in a glass elevator with a pane exposing the outside world – it ascends rapidly, leaving the density of the lower city behind, making it somehow lesser. What seemed all-encompassing down below now becomes insignificant, receding into the vertigo inducing distances.

You arrive – almost at the top. You see posters of the spectacle that awaits, but payment is required for access to it. Other travellers have seen the view and decided it was good- the market has reacted.

You hand over the 1000 Yen somewhat begrudgingly – you were here before just days ago – you’ve already seen it, but your companions haven’t, and you don’t want to loiter on the lower levels until they’re done. You step onto the mechanized stairway to heaven. A purposefully slow escalator, encapsulated in a glass tube that probably ascends forever. You think God lives at the top.

God doesn’t live at the top – but a smiling lady in a souvenir shop does. A glass-encased plastic model of the very structure you’re occupying sits nearby, alongside a cafe that serves tea flavoured ice-cream. Every wall you can see is covered with windows – some have futuristic furniture with elegant sweeping curves set near to them – the kind that look more comfortable than they actually are.

Turns out access to Paradise is ¥1000.  They accept Mastercard just as readily as anywhere else.
Turns out access to Paradise is ¥1000. They accept Mastercard just as readily as anywhere else.

You approach the glass, taking in the spectacle – a city condensed into a vista – a sight so vast your eyes can barely contain it as it strains against the edges of vision, exerting visual pressure against the pane through its sheer magnitude. You take out your camera – its dark so it’ll need a long exposure. You’ve not got a tripod, but it’s okay – there’s a narrow ledge you can use to keep it steady. You let it set its own shutter speed… No, too dark. You change it yourself, overriding the machine’s opinion – 1 second… Click. You check the result.

The view is good – but it’ll be better with Photoshop.

You’ll probably publish it as a more experimental piece, accompanied with some fictitious pseudo-dystopic bullshit in the present tense, before applying the same writing style to an actual account of what happened, providing contrast, more grounded in reality.

You’re happy with the result… For now. Give it time though.

You’ll grow to hate it.