By Alain Mercieca
Condominiums, apartment buildings, call them what you will. Rectangular box friends that protrude out of most every modern, urban centre. They had for quite some time now made their giant chocolate bar presence felt in suburban regions.
Toronto was no stranger to the condominium phenomenon. A mecca for these residential beasts, shiny steel-like windows, balcony belts wrapped around every floor. The older ones rotted away, rents fluctuating, crime escalating, a blight to the urban community. However, the urban community itself was one huge blight.
As times would have it, an elite unit of wealthy condominium dwellers had formed a secret society. They screened all residents who innocently wished to become tenants, slowly introducing them to a world within a world. If a resident disagreed with this secret society’s plans, they were evicted immediately and sworn to keep their mouths closed. If one spoke out, they would soon find themselves in an unmarked grave.
The city itself moved into a decrepit time. Stricken with rampant homelessness and poverty, a certain level of darkness had swarmed most neighbourhoods. Airborne viruses ravaged those who did not have the money for proper treatment. Seclusion, enclosure, gas masks and all the usual paranoia fare had become the dominant way of things in Toronto.
The condo dwellers were no exception to this new found paranoia. Yet they had a system. They sustained themselves entirely from condo to condo. Small air buses traveled from rooftop to rooftop, never having to touch the ground, yet keeping the tightly knit community together.
All waste material continued to be placed outside of the condominiums. It was simply launched from the side of the buildings and out into the external world. With politics and infrastructure awry, the external world enforced very few universal laws. There were no social services, the police were a gang and so the waste piled higher and higher.
As for the hideous view these mounds of garbage provided residents of the condos, that was all taken care of. Windows in all the condos could be programmed to present any image of any society ever, citizens of Rome could be hustling and bustling right before your very eyes; or if you preferred, the vast boreal forest could stretch for eons before you. On top of this the windows also screened the usual media, when requested by the resident. Condo dwellers never had to look outside, in fact, they could never look outside even if they wanted to. The society wouldn’t have it. Once things got extremely bad outside in the real world the windows shut down the traditional function of the window entirely.
The society of condo dwellers had thirty-six buildings under their total control. The three palatial, original condominiums were cement, painted white and consisted of forty-five floors. These three were about fifty metres apart and connected by covered bridges. The base of each one was wider than the top and they resembled upside down megaphones without handles. The area surrounding these condos was noticeably barren, even more so then most of the other areas where condos were. Abandoned roads, highways, and entire neighbourhoods had crumbled away. The landscape and the sky all blended together, and all of it blackened more everyday. Skeleton trees with dry black bark were the only lasting signs of vegetation. The region was abandoned long ago as urban people migrated to the suburban and rural areas, the violence in city centres had escalated and airborne viruses scared most people away and the remaining simply looted or died as unkempt homes disintegrated because the air was contaminated so thickly. The icy winters cracked the concrete in the fury of its -50 celsius temperatures, but the condos remained the invincible fortresses their makers had intended them to be. The three palatial buildings stuck out like three white rabbits in an oil field.
Dispersed around the Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario were the thirty-six condos, each with a specific role, the whole distant community acting as a unit under the guidance of the three white towers recently spoken of.
One building was the junior academy, a school for children up to the age of sixteen and another condo acted as the senior academy. One condo was a hospital, four were indoor genetically modified organism farms, two were military research facilities, one was an entertainment complex, one was a science facility and another was simply an emergency complex, used for all kinds of troubles. The rest were traditional condominiums for residential purposes. Then of course there were security systems in all buildings. Lasers, rockets, missiles, and even jets could be deployed from nearly every condo.
Those who inhabited these sealed off canisters of human life were the most dedicated and patriotic people. The endless hallways and identical doors were all perfectly functional and normal. They knew the alternative and wanted nothing to do with it. Some residents brought art and change to the otherwise grey-scale colours of the condominiums. Those inside would die for their cause and they were armed to the teeth. Decades of sporadic fighting plagued the Golden Horseshoe regions and this only further secluded those inside.
The fighting escalated but the condo defense system was effective and impenetrable. Any missiles or planes heading for them were immediately assaulted from every angle, even the air buses had defense systems. And the screening process ensured no defectors could enter with unregulated arms.
A bearded vagabond who lived near the palatial condos saw regular attacks from and against the condos. He would always reflect on the situation with his highly deformed son. They had no names, they had each other and so when one talked, the other had only the other to listen and so they never had to distinguish because their was no one else. They were both constantly ill but survived despite the hellish conditions they lived in. A boil on the boy’s forehead covered half his right eye, his hair was thin and patchy. He had nine teeth and hair on his lips. They were both emaciated, and limped about the rubble searching for rats, dead or alive, that made up the bulk of their diet.
“Tell me, what’s it like inside?”
“It’s a bunch of nazis.”
“What’s a nazi?”
“A person who hates others.”
“Don’t you hate them?”
“Nope. Just don’t understand them is all.”
“Aren’t you jealous?”
“Nope. We’re going to the same place.”
“Where you going?”
“The death world.”
“I don’t wanna go there.”
“No one does. Well. Maybe some people do.”
And they talked and talked, wondering what it all meant while trying to survive in their canopy of trash.
The youngster’s eyes were his most unique attribute. One was extremely large, the size of a baseball, and the other was a normal human eye. His forehead had a lump half the size of his entire head protruding diagonally upwards. The father had punctured it in hopes of diminishing its size, but it remained the same. They enjoyed killing rats with their machetes, and climbing in empty tall structures, so they could see the view of the entire greater Toronto area. On one such day they saw a deep red on the Western side of the sky. And higher above was a deep black.
“Is that a fire?”
“Looks like it.”
“We should go.”
“We’ll head towards the lake, sail away.”
So they trekked twenty miles to the shore of the lake. They loaded the hull of the best boat they could find with some dead rats and put together a makeshift sail. In three days their thirty foot yacht was ready. They even built a lookout halfway up the mast. And before they set sail to the dark green waters of Lake Ontario, they climbed up to that lookout one last time. The elder smoked a pipe, the sky was half-filled with an ominous red-black.
“I can feel the heat coming.”
“Yup.” He puffed away and winced hard at the oncoming fire.
A distant thunder shook the sky. Suddenly the ground rumbled heavily and they grabbed onto the rim of their lookout. In the distance they could see the three palatial buildings detach from the ground. The base of their buildings were huge rocket engines. The buildings hovered above the ground. Then, to the East, thirty-three condos were visible like tiny black dots. But they got closer extremely fast and soared across the sky, their bases all burning red orange, a majestic sight. The fleet remained in a perfect but awkward rectangular formation, as the palatial buildings roared into the lead, and all thirty-six of them increased their speed together, heading for the heavens, disappearing out of sight, high into the sky and leaving behind nothing but a burning world.
Awestruck, the father and son sat in their lookout as the last tremors from the condos’ flight rocked the boat. The father puffed his pipe.
“We better untie the boat and head on.”