12th June 2198
I know I deceive myself in writing this. Just as the stone towers around me have crumbled to dust, this page of text will eventually be consumed, by microbes more potent than creatures a million times larger. Still I write, for the infinitesimal chance that it will be found before it is gone.
Deep inside me, there is pain—pain, like a malignant crab, spreading it claws through my systems, tightening its grip every second. In my blood, I somehow know that my future has been set in stone. Tonight, I will offer my soul to the cosmos. Tonight, a young woman will complete the sonnet of her life, and give up her last breath for a thousand new poems to begin.
For though I will die, I will never truly cease to exist. My body will feed a few generations of bacteria, a bloom of fungus—and they, in turn, will be the food of another dynasty. The wheel continues to turn, and I am an inexorable part of it.
Deep inside me, there is pain—pain, deepening still. But it has offered me a small mercy, left me lucid and mobile. Thus begins the very last, silent monologue of my life. I am no stranger to monologues; they are the only conversations I have ever made.
All around me there is a familiar tension, stringing the grey edges of the sky together. The wind is awash with static. Heaven has spread its dark curtains, and storm winds brush the dead vine banners far away.
No doubt, it is already raining in my hometown, Lenora.
Ah, Lenora. Do I miss you?
Again, the wonder of a passing notion captivates me, catching me by surprise. The world is amazing. Throughout my life, it has been surgically altered a million times over. Each modification brings only good, it seems—new technology, new developments, new knowledge.
The road has been long, and somewhere along it, life came to the point where it learnt to manufacture itself. At this very moment, scientists in the distance of Lenora are engineering and arranging amino acids in laboratories, creating life with gloved hands. They are magicians performing beneath the whitewash spotlight, the eyes of the world scrutinising their every gesture.
Their spotlights: the brilliant laboratory lamps. They dazzle me, though they are twenty miles away—electric angels that brought heaven to humankind, and lifted us to the pedestal of God. Within those sterile rooms, we learnt to be immortal. We cured every ailment, mechanised our bodies’ functions, halted our deterioration.
Humanity has become virtually permanent. One can now buy death in a syringe. “Death”: five seconds of numbness, and oblivion thereafter.
It was a day a hundred and fifty years ago that the table was prepared, and the operation began. The notes had been taken, the tools sterilised. It was the day that Lenora—christened “City of God”—opened its gates to the world.
Dusty, dingy, poverty-stricken Akela—she had been my home for twenty barren years. Life in famine had reduced us all to half-dead skeletons, skeletons too dry to shed any tears. Then rose a brilliant star—a lady named Lenora XXVII, who had found the key and would now unlock for us a new world.
“The city of Lenora will be opened for habitation on the 21st of April, 2043.”
The instant these words soared over the airwaves to our little town, Akela was swept by feverish excitement. That night, we threw parties, drank till 4 a.m., slept fitfully. The following morning, we stuffed our bags full and commenced our pilgrimage towards this Promised Land—leaving our barren soil, our brick buildings, and our histories behind.
“Welcome to my Utopia!”
She proclaimed these very words, as she opened the gates to her white city. I roared with the crowds, raising my fist—for I was convinced that this was my every dream realised.
Then we were whisked into pale snowstorm—thrown into swift, flawless existence. Like rumples smoothed out of a blanket, our inconveniences were banished. Science dealt its hand in everything—recreation, health, sheer subsistence. The world ran like a machine on divine clockwork.
At the outset, my new life seemed like heaven. The world had only just begun, and I was still accustoming myself to the brilliance of the City. I remember the soft old couch in the lounge, remember sipping from a can of tea late at night, listening as my hostel mates hit the repeat button to watch the opening ceremony again—night in, night out.
Lenora’s most famous words thus ingrained themselves into my mind. Sometimes, I still hear phantom echoes of them: “Welcome to my Utopia!”
The things before me now bear no semblance to that world. The remains of a coffee table are scattered at my feet, woodlice scurrying in the rot. At the far wall, the window glows with storm light. Beneath the shadows lies the frame of an old harp; absently I reach out to strum the cords. The ghostly notes swim through the dust—only a shadow of the sonorous melodies they used to be.
In response to my tune, the sky thunders. The lightning is jagged in the window, wild tendrils strangling the broken grills. There are weeds where the carpet used to lie—ah, that beautiful Tunisian carpet—and within the dusky light, the ornaments on the mantel are dust. I have not seen these for a long time—useless items constructed of organic material. In Lenora, such items are simply not made.
That is enough; I must hurry. Like a ruthless swordsman, disease continues to hack at my weary organs. There is almost no more time—I must finish my monologue, before my ink runs dry.
Lenora has truly transformed, beyond my wildest projection. It began a beauty, a world where our old problems could be lost in pure whiteness. But slowly, the perfection ate the beauty away. Pale skyscrapers engulfed the roads. Thousands of laboratory blocks sprang up like weeds. The maiden became a gnarled witch, frosty and heartless, bitter with pride.
One day, as Lenora fell through the heavens, I caught a glimpse of the city skyline. Where clouds once frolicked, white buildings now obscured the sun, great shadows flung across the city—tyrants asserting their authority over the streets.
“Welcome to my Utopia!” Lenora XXVII’s jubilant voice flooded the cracks of my heart. Deep in my belly, the snowy loss brimmed over.
They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Now, I understand. The instant I was welcomed into heaven, I began to miss the evils of the earth. Weren’t those the very evils that once chased me out?
I lay upon my bed, gazing at an old postcard. As my eyes crossed the washed-out photograph of the ocean, a memory suddenly moved deep in me—of something that had been wrenched from my grasp, a hundred and fifty years ago.
How has your life been?
I blinked at those words, those pictures imprisoned in time—and for the first time, I tasted the true bitterness of loss.
There is a terrace house on the slopes of southern Akela, where the sky is bluer than the sea. It brims with songs, songs waiting to be sung again—a broken harp lying in shadows, a sweet wind sweeping through light lace curtains.
I returned five days ago, in search of that perfect sky. But my body succumbed to the viruses it was never allowed to acquaint itself with. Against my will, I was scourged and tossed upon death’s road with the burden of the world on my shoulders—the price I always knew I would pay.
Within the excruciation, I was confused. Why refuse the perfection of the City of God, I finally asked myself. Why desire a broken, rot-riddled dump instead?
I know I regret it not.
Though the sky here has long faded to monochrome, I swear I still see little patches of vibrant cerulean, scattered across heaven. I am home again—home, where I spent spring mornings lying in the grass; home, where I drew the curtains wide, welcoming summer into my room; home, where I flew through the scented rain, crying in the arms of the night.
Home, dear reader. Is it not worth forgoing perfection, to be where I am now?
I recall my hostel mates back in Lenora, eyes glued to a glowing screen in the lounge. The thought makes me smile. They can survive in their clockwork world, impervious to death and disease. They can sleep in suspension, love machines, walk within cages of light.
Look around you now. Look at the vines in the window, the roots shattering the roads, the fallen towers far away. They are so queer, so magical, in the shimmering shadowed rain. Don’t you think so?
This is a perfect world, reader. This is a wild dream. Welcome to my Utopia.
How has your life been?”
My life…has been amazing. I leave it now, with no regrets.
I am aware that I could have made a one-way trip to the clinic, and taken a jab to die. I am aware that my existence could have concluded in five seconds of numbness, rather than five dark days of torture.
But this I know. I don’t want to die from a potent chemical in my blood, my body subjected to ruthless sublimation in a laboratory, for hygiene purposes.
I want to die the way my ancestors died, the way we were meant to die. I want to return myself to the rich soil of life, to the breath of eternity, to the foundations of the sky.
I want to keep the wheel turning.
It is time, and I can feel it. In the air, I smell the gentle, distant scent of fresh rain—a scent which tells me that the storm has ended, and that the little blue fragments of sky are blooming overhead.
Fare you well, dearest reader; thank you for sharing these minutes of your life with me. And do not mourn my passing—for though I have died, I will never truly cease to exist.