The Slideway People Mover

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Of all the aspects of Heliopoli, the nexus, the catalyst, the encapsulation of the entire city resides in the Slideway People Mover.

Nowhere else in the city can one find the sense of progress, of modernity, of forward progression (yes, literally), of comfortableness, of sussurant silver contemporary grounding in a promised future more than in the Slideway People Mover.

And there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

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Photos: ACF

The Balloon Ferry

Heliopoli_Full_EX42It is rumored that the excavation of the city of Heliopoli will cease operations on Oct. 4, 2009, exactly two years after its start. Though I can’t confirm this, it is true that nearly all the major structures have been unearthed and described, excepting the Lightworks,the Slideway Shopping Mall and the Museum of Futoria. There are plenty of details to explore, however, so it is hard to say whether this record will merely change slightly at that time, or become its own archeological artifact (and we have wandered from our course occasionally anyway). Certainly there is a great amount of cataloging to be done given the amount of mood rings, Uncandles, Fidgets, fiber-optic lamps, and bean-bag chairs that have been found, not to mention the necessity to pay tribute to the color lime green.

At any rate, more major structures might be uncovered as the excavators redouble their efforts, or merely stumble upon them. Take the Balloon Ferry, for instance.

As mentioned before, Heliopoli is a circular city that never lacked in transportation. It is ringed and trisected by the monorail and honeycombed underground by the Metro. It sports slideways and pedways, and its citizens make use of the ubiquitous uniped single-wheel transport. So why would the city need a Balloon Ferry?

At opposite ends of the city lie platforms that are now known to be stations for hot-air balloons. These were at first thought to be unfinished monorail stations until excavator Theronomous Moon wandered past the city into the desert and found sprays of color just under the sandy surface. These proved to be buried portions of hot-air balloon fabric. The rest fell into place.

As a transportation system, hot-air balloons would be quite efficient; as an aesthetic experience, unparalleled. One floats above the city; there is no wind, since one is traveling with it. This aerial view can make one appreciate the city’s design like never before. The city’s own citizens can then apprehend its circularity, its aesthetic aplomb, its radial symmetry, its shining wonder; and there is evidence that the pedways surrounding the Central Plaza create a certain pattern, a symbol, that can only be ascertained from above. Besides, to travel from one end of the city to the other could not be achieved faster than by hot-air balloon.

But no. The theory doesn’t work.

The gondolas that have been found attached to the balloons can hold at most two people. This is hardly an efficient transportation system, or cost-effective for any other purpose — if the purpose was to carry people.

So now we know, and know that there can be other reasons for the city’s need for a Balloon Ferry than just what lies at the surface:

The balloons of Heliopoli were not for looking down from but for looking up at.

There would be at least two or three balloons aloft at any given time. Carrying only one or two attendants, they decorated the air with a looking up, a striving to.

At any hour of the day, a good portion of the citizens of Heliopoli were shading their eyes and gazing into a rainbow sky.

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The Rainbow Tower

Heliopoli_Full_EX48The first day of spring is hardly ever the First Day of Spring. It rarely falls on March 20, or 21, or whatever the official date is. The real first day of spring is the first day of the year when you feel or hear that buzzing in the air. The temperature is different outside, but there’s something that goes along with that, more than just a change in Fahrenheit. The sun is a tad brighter. Perhaps you’ve spotted a single bee, or a fly. There’s “something in the air,” as the saying goes, and it seems to go best with the first day of spring. It’s a feeling, but also a sound, and more than just seeing a flower somewhere.

Which of course brings us to the Rainbow Tower in the city of Heliopoli. There’s something inside that structure that has to do with spring; the excavators have described it. The Rainbow Tower has that feeling, that buzzing, when you walk inside it. There’s “something in the air.” And it’s preserved throughout the year and still there through all these years.  Remarkable, really.

Now, the official season of Heliopoli is autumn — it’s always autumn in Heliopoli — and the chief archivist, for his part, is stupendously unpartial toward spring, to put it mildly; but that one real first day of spring is kinda nice.

And in the Rainbow Tower, the first day of spring occurs 365 days of the year.

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The Botanical Geodesic

Heliopoli_Full_EX67Needless to say, no foliage planned or planted in the city of Heliopoli survives to this day … almost.

There is evidence of plazas and parks in which trees and shrubs figure prominently. There were boulevards of trees planned for the city. Trees are highly evident in The Poster. Greenery was to be an important component to life in the city, but it couldn’t survive being buried in the desert sand. There is, however, the matter of the recently discovered Botanical Geodesic.

According to Wikipedia, a geodesic dome is an almost spherical shell structure based on a network of great circles (geodesics) lying on the surface of a sphere. The geodesics intersect to form triangular elements that distribute stress across the entire structure. When completed to form a full sphere, it is known as a geodesic sphere.

Though not the original inventor, R. Buckminster Fuller investigated the concept of this design and named the dome “geodesic” from field experiments with Kenneth Snelson and others at Black Mountain College in the late 1940s. He popularized the idea and received a U.S. patent.

The geodesic dome appealed to Fuller because it was extremely strong for its weight and because a sphere encloses the greatest volume for the least surface area. Fuller had hopes that the geodesic dome would help address the postwar housing crisis.

The Botanical Geodesic of Heliopoli is a geodesic oasis. Plants and flowers have survived here, flourishing, protected in their sphere. There is something to be said for a strong, jewel-like structure, geometric and protective, transparent, a dissipater of stress.

Because Heliopoli was constructed in the 1970s, there is an inordinate amount of marigolds and spider plants within, but that’s OK.

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The Long Road

Heliopoli_Full_EX52As has been said one too many times, Heliopoli is a circular city. Its outer edge is bordered by the monorail system, and this creates, if not a physical barrier, then a mental one. You can stand beside a pylon of the monorail with the city at your back and look out over a vast, empty expanse of desert. Though the city is 10 miles in diameter, there is a limiting factor in such a boundary, since it ends so abruptly; it creates an impression of a bubble that must be burst.

The architects of Heliopoli took many psychological factors into consideration, including this one. They constructed a single road out of the city, perfectly straight, toward the west. It is nonfunctional, but only physically so. No cars or unipedes run on it; neither trucks nor rails mar its surface. There is no need. Stand by the pylon now as the sun sets, your hand above your eyes, and watch the road soar to the very horizon. The effect is exactly the same as if you are at the beach, standing where the waves lap your feet, gazing to where the sky meets the sea. It is just as sad, just as satisfying.

Instead of feeling that Heliopoli is limited, boundaried, there is that piercing road out, one way. Your soul is not circular; it is an arrow. And though the sun sets every evening near or on the road, there is one day of the year when it kisses its exact center and pours golden light into the city’s heart, turning the glass buildings copper, your companion’s eyes auburn.

When this happens, the feeling instilled in the inhabitants of the city can only be translated thus: “We are here; we are happy.”

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The Chronotower

Every great city requires a tower of time, and Heliopoli is no exception.

Whether it is a clock tower that ticks away the minutes or a bell tower that chimes the hour, any city must root itself in time as it does in space. Fine examples are Big Ben, the Belfry of Bruges, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Dom Tower of Utrecht, the Torre dos Clerigos, the Swan Bells of Perth, the Cathedral of St. Agustin in Texas, and the Chronotower of Heliopoli.

The Chronotower of Heliopoli is a soaring single spire, a paroxysm of minimalism. Take note of how sunlight sparks off of it; listen to the sound it makes as the wind blows past. The sound is not of bells, however, nor the ticking of gears. There are no bells in the Chronotower and no clocks. There are no mechanisms in the tower that record time whatsoever. The Chronotower indicates time by its very structure.

The architects of Heliopoli sought a dynamic marriage between the very old and the very new. Look up, look down, and you know the time — except at night.

The Chronotower of Heliopoli is a 555-foot-tall sundial.

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The Monorail

Well, of course.

Except, perhaps, for the Sun Disk Monolith, nothing is more iconographic of the city of Heliopoli than its monorail. Circling the outside of the circle-shaped city in a complete circuit as it does, it is estimated that the entire length of the monorail track is 80 miles, given that the diameter of the city is perhaps ten.

Try to imagine a more joyous occasion than to step into the air-conditioned hum of the monorail car and sink into its plush seating, beige on beige. With the shimmery desert on your right and the glistening city on your left, the thrill and swish of the speeding monorail train imparts such a feeling of self-possession one must catalog it as its own species of a unique kind of meditative state of bliss. The windows are crystal clear. The interior lighting is bright.

Where are your worries now? Whither your concerns and cares? Did you leave them behind at the last station? The employees of the monorail in their starched shirts and smart caps are adept at losing such baggage.

The monorail of the city of Heliopoli describes an enormous circle around the entire city, as we’ve mentioned. Didn’t you mean to get off at that station? Weren’t you to visit the museum, the Chronotower, the Lightworks, the Balloon Ferry, the Solarium? No? Then you are riding the monorail to ride it; the journey is its own journey, and why not? No need to stop. You will come round to your starting point again, eventually, and that’s all right; you’re probably different now, or not.

Regardless, you may continue to ride, and the circuit is never boring, because you will find something different this time around; it is, after all, a different time of day. You were never concerned with repetition as a child, were you? How many times did you see that movie? How many times did you listen to that song? Maybe your starting point is your end point, when all is said and done (and does not the monorail travel counterclockwise?).

It is highly recommended that you ride the monorail with your arms crossed, lest your heart burst with joy.

Welcome aboard.

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The Wishing Room

wish3The Wishing Room does not exist in Heliopoli. It does not exist anywhere. The thought of the Wishing Room, the concept, comes from a series of blueprints found in the city, buried and torn. From these can be extracted the design of the room, if not, completely, its function.

The Wishing Room has beige carpeting and beige walls. There are no windows. It is lit with candlelight. There is no furniture. Through the doorway of the Wishing Room, anxieties and worries cannot pass; there is no room for them, although the room is comfortably large. Notes on the blueprints, in that style of handwriting reserved only to architects, hint at this purpose.

There are no walls in the Wishing Room. Each wall is a window, and since the room is situated near the top of a tower, one can feel, when sitting on the floor, as if floating in the clouds, with blue sky just out of reach, touchable.

This dichotomy, whether the room has walls or windows, cannot be solved through the blueprints alone. It seems to be no dichotomy at all, that a technology was sought to make the windows opaque and resemble walls, and make the walls transparent and become windows, through the flipping of a switch. This technology did not exist when Heliopoli was built; it is doubtful that it exists now. As for the room’s doorway, it is not known whether such a thing could ever be made.

The Wishing Room is a wish itself, and simply wishes itself to be.

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The Incomplete Stair

Many people think that Heliopoli is finished, that all its structures are complete, that nothing in it is not perfect. This is not necessarily the case.

On the west side of Heliopoli stands an unfinished staircase. Hundreds of feet in height, it shoots straight into the sky, unattached to any building and braced by little support. It is concrete, straight and true, and its steps and risers are unmarred and unbroken. Its underside is crumbling, however, exposing rebar and chunks of dusty blocks. It has no railing.

Heliopoli_Full_EX32There is no clue to what it was intended to attach itself, where people were supposed to go once ascending it, what journey’s end it was to deliver its travelers. The topmost step is a little longer than the rest, as if a landing.

Climbing the staircase now, if one is brave enough to weather the winds, one can enjoy a fantastic view of the entire city and embrace the blue dome of the sky. One experiences the uncanny feeling that there is one more step to take.

Perhaps it is finished after all. Perhaps it is meant to be incomplete, or appear so. Perhaps it does deliver travelers to a journey’s end, of a sort, since all good stories, once finished, let the reader spin out the rest of the tale in his or her imagination, larger, always, than what is on the page.

This structure could be described more accurately as the infinite stair. It has all the incompleteness of a shooting star, or a song that ends in a minor chord.

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The Cornerstone

Heliopoli_Full_EX53The cornerstone of Heliopoli has been unearthed.

It is a simple block of granite into which is carved the following: August 8, 1971.

Is it any wonder, then, that the city of Heliopoli is dramatic; fiery; creative; exuberant; loyal to a fault but sometimes unforgiving; given over to passions great and small; and is often perceived as foolish when it merely has, always, its head in the clouds?

The city of Heliopoli is a Leo.