The City was a collection of things, a place of either great freedom or a marked absence of sense. Its apparent diversity was seemingly unorganized, but operational nonetheless. Its inhabitants were strangers working together, shaping it through daily transactions. Buildings in the city were containers of its living fragments, paradoxical in their ability to remain static through time, even as their occupants constantly changed them.
The building called B-17 was one such container. It looked like buildings that ware-housed labor were meant to look. Its occupants were the working class: they dressed and spoke accordingly, members of a community that looked alike, did alike, felt alike. Like its occupants, the building was ordinary too. There were steps to climb up and down in the front, followed by crumbling identical cells that were linearly arranged, which would repeat and repeat up to detached communal toilets and bath. Along the seemingly unending central passage, creaky doors faced each other, as meagre windows within, looked outward to the city. There were balconies, bells and broken chimneys and a clock on the facade that hadn’t kept time since time immemorial.
The blind eye of the broken clock gazed upon the outsider on the street, as he looked back at B-17. He folded out a tear-stained piece of paper. ‘B-17/29’ the paper said. His refuge. The Gentleman hurried on.
He passed the street-facing stilts that allowed the informal encroachment, went up the staircase which carried casual strollers. Upstairs, a doubly loaded wide corridor, that allowed opportunistic interactions, hosted playing children. He ducked under the dull polka-dot dresses and pinstriped shirts that hung from ropes tied along the long length that the passage offered. Neither did he see the detached toilet and the queue of chatting men that it had collected outside it, nor the voyeurs gazing out of tiny windows into proximate openings of the adjacent building. The privacy of the closed doors masked sights of domestic disorder and hushed love-making, but not the smells of incense and flatulence that wafted out. He paid no attention to the cripple who leaned against the broken railings, and the bottle of old monk lying outside the door of a cell, which could very well be the modern abode of the mountain hermit. He walked past all these things to the locked room, the one that was never used, which no one entered.
Opening the door, he caught the first glimpse of the space inside. “It isn’t quite right, that room,” said a voice behind him. It was a hunched old man, who looked as broken as everything else. “It has the remnants of a mistake. It doesn’t let anything happen.” The outsider regarded room 29. It was like the others, but for a large wall that ran diagonally across its center, breaking its orthogonal geometry into two unequal halves. The room could not be used because of the wall. He wondered whose mistake it was.
He had to take it apart, he was certain. He pulled out a large hammer from his satchel, and struck the wall with all his might. As a jagged crack ran up the mortar joints and the first broken bricks crashed to the ground, it was as if the whole building reverberated with the sound. The Outsider hammered away, oblivious to the outside, where something was happening. B-17’s static architecture was slowly defying the breakage, as walls and columns grew in passages and stairways, in cells and toilets, breaking and blocking in all ways and directions. When an oblique pier pierced through his door, the Gentleman paused hammering and took notice. A weird accident certainly, but breaking the wall was important. He struck another blow.
It was then that the incident happened. Ripples of distortion rose from the very foundations of B-17, and engulfed it entirely. Its familiar elements crumbled, parts of its stark
geometry liquefied to fluid forms and melting balconies dripped onto the street below. The staircase twisted upon itself into a distorted knot, the passages stretched like rubber pulled by invisible hands. A fissure ran along B-17’s midsection, splitting it into two, blurring the in and out. Pixelated windows let in desaturated light, cells left their places and rose against gravity, the railings multiplied a thousand times. Columns shifted from their place. Squares and rectangles became smudges and fragments, the cardinal axes broke down along with space, sense and orientation. Architecture had come unraveled, as if resulting in a glitch. On what used to be the front facade once upon-a-time, the broken clock ticked to twelve, for the first time in living history.
Uncertain, the gentleman rushed out. The inhabitants of B-17 were left stirred as their habitat transformed. Casual strollers were trapped in the Mobius staircase, going up and down in loops, unable to exit at the shut-off landings. In the passages, a small crowd had gathered to watch a levitating cell, pointing excitedly. Doors had shifted, leaving openings askew, mildly annoying chatting aunties. Unsuspecting people had started spilling to the ground at the central fissure, as passers-by marveled at the spectacle of the melting balconies. All shutters had shattered: lust, vice and violence were all exposed. A wall of preposterous proportions had blocked the way to the toilets, leaving chatty men stranded on the bridge. There had to be an explanation! It must have been an earthquake. Perhaps, the bachelors had partied too hard. Surely, there was an issue with the plumbing. Only the old man offered no opinion, he knew there was no point. “Each explanation is more ludicrous than the other!” the Gentleman lamented. Was it he who was to blame?
Aseem Deuskar, Prashant Chavan, Rewa Phanslakar, Vinit Dharia
Competition/ Blank Space _ Fairy Tale.