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2005 04 01
Mnemonic City-Fragment 3
imageI hail a pedicab and the kids back on my adopted homeworld, with their accusing, angry words and stares vanish from my mind. The cabbie is about nineteen and muscular as hell, legs like treetrunks, clipped into the pedals. A flywheel spins between him and me, and his brakes store his momentum up in it every time he slows. On the two-hour ride into downtown Toronto, he never once comes to a full stop.

I've booked a room at the Royal York. I can afford it -- the stipend I receive for the counseling work has been slowly accumulating in my bank account.

Downtown is all foam now, and "historical" shops selling authentic Earth crapola: reproductions of old newspapers, reproductions of old electronics, reproductions of old clothes and old food and other discarded cultural detritus. I see tall, clacking insect-creatures with walkman headphones across their stomachs. I see squat, rocky creatures smearing pizza slices onto their digestive membranes. I see soft, slithering creatures with Toronto Blue Jays baseball hats suspended in their jelly.

The humans I see are dressed in unisex coveralls, with discreet comms on their wrists or collars, and they don't seem to notice that their city is become a bestiary.

The cabby isn't even out of breath when we pull up at the Royal York, which, thankfully, is still clothed in its ancient dressed stone. We point our comms at each other and I squirt some money at him, adding a generous tip. His face, which had been wildly animated while he dodged the traffic on the long ride is a stony mask now, as though when at rest he entered a semiconscious sleep mode.

The doorman is dressed in what may or may not be historically accurate costume, though what period it is meant to represent is anyone's guess. He carries my bag to the check-in and I squirt more money at him. He wishes that I have a nice stay in Toronto, and I wish it, too.

At the check-in, I squirt my ID and still more money at the efficient young woman in a smart blazer, and another babu in period costume -- those shoes look painful -- carries my bag to the lift and presses the button.

We wait in strained silence and the lift makes its achingly slow progress towards us. There are no elevators on the planet I live on now -- the wild gravity and wilder windstorms don't permit buildings of more than one story -- but even if there were, they wouldn't be like this lift, like a human lift, like one of the fifty that ran the vertical length of the bat-house.

I nearly choke as we enter that lift. It has the smell of a million transient guests, aftershaves and perfumes and pheromones, and the stale recirc air I remember so well. I stifle the choke into my fist, fake a cough, and feel a self-consciousness I didn't know I had.
[email this story] Posted by Cory Doctorow on 04/01 at 08:41 AM

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