October 23rd, 2005
The back of the postcard says “please don’t give up.”
She lives on the seven hundred and thirtieth floor. The elevator takes nineteen minutes to reach the livingfloor, when there is no one else getting on it, which has only happened twice. Otherwise, it takes an extra twenty four seconds at each floor, plus three seconds to resume its maximum speed. Today, it takes twenty seven minutes. She does not mind. She watches the red numbers of the digital clock count off milliseconds.
There are clocks everywhere, so she always knows the time.
The city is an ancient forest of metal and cement, with thick trunks made sooty with exhaust, windows blackened. No one lives on the bottom level, of course. The air down there is toxic. She had been there once, on a field trip, with heavy breathing equipment that gasped and wheezed oxygen into the helmet of the protective suit. You needed a flashlight down there, even in the daytime. If you stood on the surface and looked up, you couldn’t see the first livingfloor, much less the current one.
The current one is the eighth, she knows.
Today she sits on a metal bench in the park, staring down through the Plexiglas shield to the seventh livingfloor. It is hazy in the grey fog. Above her, the levibots are working on the ninth, which will be completed in four years.
The levibots are not operated by people. People do not operate anything anymore.
There is no one else in the park. There never is, really. People do not move as much. Their rooms are small and white. They can touch the walls with two hands outstretched, usually. If they stretch the other way, their fingers reach the keyboard, which can be pulled onto their lap. The richer people have windows, but windows are seldom necessary. The sky is always dark, this high up. The sun glitters in a puddle of navy blue. The atmosphere is thin. It gets thinner every year. Every foot of altitude. They are climbing to the point where the air disappears.
She finds the postcard between the metal slats of the bench. On the front, there is a picture of a lake that stretched to the horizon, sky smeared with rust as the wide flame of the sun dips into the orange and blue water.
This must be the ocean, she thinks.
Please don’t give up.
She ponders the scrawl, thick smooth swirl of blue ink. Ink, from a pen and not a printer, letters curved and organic. She loves the way that the letter E’s each look different, the way they slip up as the line thins and then vanishes, reappearing at the start of the next word with a fresh fury.
She glances around, but the park is still empty.
She hesitates before climbing to the top of the bench, balancing on the backrest as she reaches over the seven-foot plastic shield and lets the postcard slip from her fingers. It spins, past her face and past her torso and past her feet, down past the livingfloor and into the thick soupy grayness, still falling and falling.
She wonders how long it will take the card to reach the hard surface. She wonders if there is wind down there, tearing through ancient roadways, catching the thick paper and floating it, like a prayer, to some great ocean where the sun still sets.