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A Stroll through the Cities Within: Part 1

 

Waves crashing gently against landscape rocks. Razzle Dazzle from Chicago the Musical playing distantly in the background. Buzzing from atop. Airplanes? Big Ben chiming. That wasn’t his alarm clock. Groaning, he opened his eyes and found himself near the shores of an ocean, mist covering the horizon. He stood up and stared blankly, before slowly turning around. He was in an outlandish environment. Parts of it looked like a typical urban core, littered with skyscrapers, coffee shops, and metro station entrances. Other areas encompassed strips of farmland and high mountainous regions, subdivided by futuristic themes of cyberpunk architecture. Speechless, he began walking towards the district, where the Great Bell of the Palace of Westminster stood majestically in the open. He was convinced he was in a dream.

“You seem lost. Do you know where you are?”

 

He turned to his right and saw a young woman sitting on a park bench. He couldn’t pinpoint her age as while she appeared young, her facial expressions and deep blue eyes depicted her as one with experience, maturity, and profound knowledge.

 

“You should know this place quite well, but you haven’t been here for some time. Let me refresh your memory.”

 

She stood up and started walking, pacing out of the square and onto the streets. Almost drawn by her words, he found himself chasing after her. She guided him across the central business district, navigating through intricate pathways and away from the noise and flamboyant city billboards. He didn’t know where she was taking him and the changing sceneries only continued to bewilder him. They arrived at an open courtyard and seated in the middle, almost presiding as a modern monument, was the Kaplan Harris Residence.

 

He knew this building very well because it was what kept him restless at night for the past few years. The man was a promising architect and the Kaplan Harris residential project was something he had big dreams for, but it never came to fruition. Instead, the building was re-designed and rectified with minimal exterior changes and lackluster interior layouts, garnering satisfactory – almost dismal – reception from the client. His career started heading south from there. What he saw in front of him, however, was exactly what he fantasized and envisioned in his mind when he was first given the lead role for this project.

 

”We were never able to get into this much detail for the façade,” he said, eyes widened by the marvel of it.

 

“Why was that?”

 

He opened his mouth to respond, but hesitated. He was teaching part-time at a university, which kept him busy. His brother was away from the city, so he had to take care of his dog. He could list a bunch of reasons. Deep down, however, he knew these were only excuses that he repeated to himself in order to justify his case of failure.

“I gave up. I didn’t believe I could do it,” he said with a cracked voice.

 

“Touch the building. Take a look inside. I know this feels like a dream right now, but it doesn’t really matter what this is. What matters is this could’ve been reality.”

 

He caressed the white-painted bricks slowly, scrutinizing the glass box elements, the transparent structures, and the open layouts. It was flawless in his eyes. It represented his utmost creativity and understanding of design as an architect. It was how his dream house would look like, nothing like the real Kaplan Harris home he created back in New York. His initial reactions of awe have by now dissipated, replaced with despondency and emptiness.

 

“Someone once told me the definition of hell; on your last day on earth, the person you could have become will meet the person you became,” he chuckled disappointedly, head shaking.

 

“This building reminds you of that quote because it represents you in a way,” she said, as if reading his mind. “It is the best version of what you could’ve possibly been, but in reality, this didn’t transpire.”

 

He didn’t respond, and simply gazed into the distance, in utter silence.

“I had no idea where I was since the moment I woke up. So, is this hell?”

She laughed. “No, this one of the millions of cities that you created. It is a city within your mind.”