She could still remember the look on his face when they closed the Riot Wall for the final time.
She could barely find him at first beyond the chain-link fence a few hundred yards away. If not for that red-plaid shirt he always wore when he visited her. Standing in the closed “visitor” queue on his side of that wall.
After this day, there would be no more visits. Because this wall was the long-overdue solution to the long-running riots.
Riots meant businesses closed, meant tax payments dropped, meant fewer jobs – even if you worked for the government. And the government jobs were the safest, as they only really depended on sucking up to whoever was in charge at the time.
It was a coward’s way of surviving. But at least you survived.
Beyond the walls were more jobs, but lower wages for them. Still, those people seemed to like it out there. They liked working for themselves.
Rob had promised he was going to take her there. And one thing after another kept making him break his promise.
When the Riot Walls shut for good – that was the final straw.
It didn’t mean her heart wasn’t breaking. And she knew his was, too.
But she had to turn away. Because everyone had to turn away. Someone in power was addressing their “citizens” over the city’s PA system. And they had to listen “attentively” –
If they wanted to keep their jobs, their housing, and what they considered a life here inside these walls…
He told me I should shut my eyes. But when I opened them at last, it was still worse than I expected.
Of course, his warning was about the effects of time-space transmogrification, not what we would find when we arrived at wherever “there” was.
“They call this ‘Cagga.” Joe was concerned about the way my face looked back at him. He’d let go of my hand, but I missed its reassurance. “You’d know it as Chicago in your own time-space.”
“Wow. What a wreck.”
Joe nodded. “Yes, Carol, but people still live here.”
“You can’t be serious?”
He shrugged. “You wouldn’t probably call this a life.”
“And yet you say I’m here to avert a tragedy? It looks like that already happened.”
Joe stayed silent, letting the city speak to that question.
The noises of a quiet city loomed in my ears. Sounds of some traffic, but distant. The elevated train rolled through overhead, on a clattering track, echoing off the high rises to its sides, but loudly.
Some pneumatic piston machines were running in the background, distant. Out of sync, one faster than the other, and only occasionally striking near the other’s beat.
What I didn’t hear was the people. These streets were empty.
A quick look around showed no reason for people to be here. The storefronts at street level were either boarded up or burnt-out shells. No sidewalk diners, no newspaper kiosks, not even street vendors.
In this “Windy City”, there was no one here to complain about papers being blown about, or the grit arriving unwanted in your eye.
A post-apocalyptic mess. Only without the gunshots and sirens.
I had to ask, “Where are…”
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