Thursday, August 5, 2021

Urbs Rex

There were many beings, in the dark, slouching towards our finish line with torches to light the apocalypse. There were the old titans, the Never-Bodies, the hagfish in the spine of men. But first to light the fire was another. By destiny, or chance, by fickle nature of the universe and all the other layers beneath it. Its torch was orange, made of sodium. It cried pigeons and its belly was made of stone gargoyles. It breathed a low tremble of heat across the angles of the world. It was born in the first nest that insects made, and when we saw it there, its cruelty was clouded in a tiny size. When it was ours...theirs...they made it grow. And they sucked us into it. 

With the beacon of the apocalypse lit, the other racers will soon arrive. Their cars will roadkill the world, but for now, the first arrival is manifest alone. Its name is CaiROme, and LondOs ANgeles, and ShangaiabmuM and toKYOto and BdElhIjing DeDeDe Janeiro.

Its moniker:


Art from the game Let It Die

In the cities of the world, wells have appeared. Whole blocks have begun slowly moving to points wherein they disappear as though sliding behind a mirror. As the cities expand, their hearts are pushed into the wells and vanish. People, companies, structures. The things that disappear go to URBS REX.

URBS REX is algo-rythmic. Deep, and fake. A composite image. Whatever it eats is spliced into the whole as an example of what a city is. What people of a city are. What the layers of a city are. Its archaeological strata are both real and next to real: older layers of URBS REX are intertwined with historical ruins of cities and cultures that never existed.  Did something exist here once? Or did URBS REX put its remains there as part of its grand imitation? There is no answer, only deeper and more duplicitous history to question. The catacombs and subterranean ruins of URBS REX are filled with insane archaeologists and historians skittering and laying their eggs in the dark. They're returning to the first dwellers. The insects.

The people who appear in URBS REX, know they have always lived there. They are also new, in the way that the city is new. Some people make it through the algo-rhythm intact, but this is extremely rare. It is possible to drill holes into the world and arrive in URBS REX. That may spare you the cost of algo-rhythmic processing. But you must enter in a sacrificial bathyscaphe. This is dark magic, and it is dark because you will make others pay your price.


Always Election: In URBS REX, the election campaign for the city's mayor is infinite. Nobody ever gets elected, but while political parties have formed and fallen trying to get someone into that unattainable seat. If you were to become the mayor of URBS REX you would probably be the most powerful person in the world. Some people have gotten very close but saw things that destroyed their frame of thinking so badly they quit the race. Others took their place. 

If you're not one of the big candidates, it's just the industry of politics. But when you get into the big leagues, you enter the Game. A hundred femurs in a tuxedo. A dress that wears a human skin, in a black room with nothing but an Art Nouveau table lamp. They kill your allies in their dreams and inhabit their bodies. Your campaign manager is turned to pulp over lunch. These are your enemies now. Only with powerful dark magic can you survive here. Only with inhumanity can you delude yourself into thoughts of triumph when really, this is just a killing floor.

URPOL: like all major cities, URBS REX has a police corps operating on a bizarre, arbitrary matrix of legislation evolutionarily descended from a combine harvester. However, URPOL is fully ritualised. There is no law or crime in this city, only the act, the ritual, of policing. They are ghostly parades of identical floating frozen pseudo-men. Their erratic invasions have to be warded off using charms, phrases and symbols that resemble legislative material and are sold on street markets. It is dangerous to leave home uncharmed.

They form road blockades, made of chainworks of lead cops, smashed together in tangles that cause traffic to constantly rearrange. The powerful will perform unseen rituals of blood and silver to summon them on their enemies. 

They are made in a den deep in the city hidden from most human eyes. They abduct people and take them there, where they are questioned by creatures made of light, kept in dark cubes, and registered. It is referred to as 'The Station.' Survival is unlikely. To have a chance of escape you must deeply know them.

Because they know you.

The Industry Harbour: Where URBS REX connects to the sea that surrounds it, a titanic mass of smog-belching factories, processing plants and container ships has emerged. It's a constantly rolling tectonic layer, new industry rising from the sea and old being pushed inwards to the city to worm its way between everything and fill the deep crevices inside. URBS REX's supply chain is arcane. Not all companies are real or accounted for. They are only partially staffed by humans- just enough to see one once in a while, but few enough that an invisible substance separates them. The substance is like gelatin. It fills jobs that many of URBS REX's crawling humans would kill for. Taken, to be taken. Unavailable, to be unavailable. Inaccessibility is its sheer nature.

The container ships that enter through the corpulent mist around the city are unmanned: they're ghost vessels, piloted by the substance. From their underbelly hang long tubes that are like intestines or a giant's hair. They have great floodlight eyes. When they unload their cargo, they regurgitate

Fog horns give the harbour a cyclopean ambience. The few humans it employs may be nothing more than spectators to its alien rhythm. Its algo-rhythm.

  1. Dirty grey hail-snow-rain
  2. Rainstorm
  3. Replicant drizzle
  4. Flood rain
  5. Bleeding sunset
  6. Miami Vice reruns
  7. Copper
  8. Tokyo Night
  9. Sandblast winds
  10. Deep-fried Kebabosphere
  11. Pavement barbecue
  12. Smog
Art from Knights of Sidonia, by Tsutomu Nihei


  1. Huh. I remember when I was younger riding my bike in the wrong direction, towards the weird side of the port. The way the cargo containers seemed to tesselate forever... I turned around, and I'm almost completely certain that I ended up back in the right place.


  2. This somewhat resembles to me the memory of being lost in a city I don't speak the language of. Thank you, this is a beautiful text.

  3. This and Bastionland have a nice mental overlap while remaining distinct. Evocative stuff

  4. I'm coming to read some of your stuff for the first time in a while, you are absolutely killing it! The flavor here is so strong and the musical accompaniment just helps to sell it! Bravo!