entering Wonderland again
|Alice believed she would meet these folks who walk with their heads downward if she keeps falling. Write your own adventure of discovering such a place. (<1000 words)
It was all my fault. Well, not all. If I'm being honest, it was the housing crisis that started it.
Too many people and not enough places to put them, especially when legislation was passed that added bedding to the constitutional list of things that were inalienable rights. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and a place to sleep. It seemed reasonable when the people cried out for it.
Then came the part where the legislation had to be turned into reality.
Oh, it wasn't difficult at first. Tiny homes. Apartments. Tenements built on the government's dollar and filled to the overflowing with all who needed it. Yes, there were problems and crime and people who refused to be helped, but within five years, everyone had a bed. People were crowded together based on age, which brought young people together I was born then, to parents who met across a crowded dormitory on government provided bedding.
I had a happy childhood. Plenty of friends who were the multiplication of children from my parents' friends. Our housing block had a school and playgrounds and little beds surrounding each family bed which we carefully ignored as much as possible. Privacy considerations were ancient news because everyone slept together. Generation upon generation.
In twenty years, even that space wasn't enough—too many people had too many children while too many grandparents lived into multi-great-grandparenthood. Cities bulged at their seams and spilled buildings everywhere and still there wasn't enough room for everyone to sleep.
So, they gathered the geniuses, the engineers, the dreamers, looking for more space to cram in people. I was there. I listened to the debate.
“There isn't room,” they said. “We've turned walls into honeycombs of beds, as tight as coffins. We've placed beds so that there is no room on the floors for people to move between them. We have packed people so tight that when they sleep, they catheter themselves so they will not need to use a toilet. Where is there room for more?”
And my small voice from the corner said, “The ceilings are still empty.”
Laughter—two beats of it. Silence. Wonder. More laughter, this time with the giddiness of impossibility made necessary.
It took a year and a day for all of us, working unnaturally long hours on government wages, to defeat gravity. Suddenly, there was room because there was twice the capacity. Every bed gained an upside down mirror populated by a random stranger, and privacy lost all the potential meaning it had left. In the coffin like honeycombs, now four could sleep in a pod, one on each surface.
It was difficult, that first night, sleeping in a pod with three other people. I had what had once been a ceiling, and I woke in fits and starts at the nonrhythmic snorts and sighs of other breathing. We learned not to meet each other's eyes, to give an illusion of solitude. Solitude no longer could exist, of course. But I learned to sleep in the warmth of others' breath.
The practical implications were seen first by the construction industry, of course. If gravity was only limited by which way a person's feet pointed, than every surface must be strong enough and smooth enough to be floor. Security walls were replaced by domes, because any surface could be breached. Children raced across walls and ceilings which had to be raised so that people would not bump heads while walking at cross purposes.
Paths now could twist and wind in Escher-esque madness, guiding people from here to there, over and under and through. Public transportation doubled its passenger load. Hats and high hairstyles were considered rude because of their potential to interfere with another person's right of way.
And I lived it. I climbed walls and danced ceilings. And one day, I met eyes across my pod and smiled at him and he smiled back at me and we found joy together.
It has been ten years. The ceilings are growing more crowded still. My children must dodge feet from every angle as they run and play and learn. And soon, they will call me back again with the rest of the dreamers and engineers and geniuses to find a new solution. A new impossibility to make real.
word count: 713