The first sinkhole appeared on a Tuesday in November and it swallowed City Hall. A raw and gaping darkness, spattered mud and jagged stones replaced the marble columns, wooden doors and framed diplomas. Stunned crowds hovered at the edges, hoping to wake up.
The Mayor climbed the rubble. He was mostly boils and bluster, having grown to manhood without a single book or proper hygiene. Still, he had a bag of tricks–false promises and sledgehammers, loaded guns and heavy sticks. He had purchased brand-new teeth, large and white and blinding.
“Follow me!” he bellowed. “City Hall was just a swamp!”
The crowd split. Some put the Mayor on their shoulders, not objecting when the guns went off or when his boils leaked pus.They led a boisterous parade.
Others gathered in a back lot, on the margins. They brought canvas, wire, bolts and poles. They started to assemble.
The second sinkhole took a mosque, and the third one ate a black church. In rapid fire, the City lost its crisis center, food bank and the women’s health clinic, all to gouging chasms. Journalists braved the fragile pavement, sending back reports, until they vanished too, a bleak and utter silence.
“Your fault!” the Mayor shouted. “No more! Sad!”
No one understood exactly what he meant, but he waved his hands and pointed fingers and soon enough, the hunts began. They rounded up the critics, then the doubters and the skeptics. The hunters photographed themselves, transposed the images into mandates, and took what they could take.
The margins seemed to shrink, to lose their air. A suffocation made of fear. As they built the bright machine, they heard the hunters’ boots, the shrieks. Stitch the wings. Compose the platforms. Tighten bolts. And breathe.
The colleges went next. Then the libraries, which was just as well since the hunters burned the books. Sinkholes guzzled music halls, museums and archives.
“What is history? Poetry? Truth?” someone whispered. Sails fluttered in the wind. Hammers quickened.
In the space left by the sinkholes, people starved and fought and hid in shadows. The hunters put up fences, threw the bodies in the holes.
The platforms were too small. Some argued for a lottery. Others cast their eyes against the weakest. But then the children said, “We will climb the masts. We will huddle at the junctions.” And the adults were ashamed. They widened all the platforms. They reinforced the wings.
The sinkholes gained momentum, like an avalanche of ruin. From their narrow island refuge, the Mayor and his hunters saw the builders haul the rigging, hoist the sails. They watched the rippling wings.
“Escape!” the Mayor howled. “Get me that!”
But there were no bridges left. He had burned them all.
At last, the refugees rose up and saw the devastation fade beneath them, growing smaller like the small man who, even now, spewed insults, clenched his fists. Then, across the sky ship’s bow, they found the long horizon, unwavering, intact. And their hearts broke into hope.
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