Achilles

In the surreal spirit of Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, I imagine a constantly shifting city named after a mythical man. This is a re-imagining of Calvino’s concept, which has Marco Polo tell Kublai Khan about fantastical imaginary cities all named after women. 

Everyone living in Achilles is a dancer. This was due in large part to the narrow streets which quite randomly rise and fall, twisting in on themselves and chucking bits of asphalt into the air. Children learn early how to sauté, so that they may gracefully keep their balance. Some citizens of Achilles may tell you that the erratic breaths of a dying god under the city cause this rolling landscape. Others place responsibility on the moon for confusing the roads with the tides. Either way, to live in Achilles is to be light on your feet. Every cup of coffee must be carefully sealed, every pile of books must be secured only to its carrier’s movements, lest it topple, and every shoe must be flexible enough to conform to the newest deviations in the ground’s pattern.

In Achilles, chance engagements are a common occurrence as pedestrians traverse the shifting blocks between their residences, school, and work. Lovers often fall in love as they literally fall into each other’s arms, caught off balance by the sudden difference in elevation between the southwest and northwest corners near the bookstore on 26th Avenue.

There are no earthquakes in Achilles, but the roofs of its tallest buildings suffer immensely when it floods. For the undulating cement effortlessly tosses gallons of water back towards the sky, depositing it on rooftops unused to aquatic life. Engineers are busy designing drains which act as mini-dancers for these roofs, waltzing the water towards lower levels.

One never stops moving in Achilles, but that is not to say one feels restless. The opposite is true for the many tourists who tango through the town center each year, feeling calmer the second the ground begins to test their equilibrium. Traveling troupes are quick to download the guides to skyscrapers’ various doors. For if someone attempts to leave from the ground floor exit of the Nypher officer at noon, they will find themself face to face with an impenetrable wall of dirt. Outsiders may be identified by their dependency on loud music to keep their step. Native Achilleans have endless songs playing quietly deep in their hearts.

Those assigned female at birth are the fortunate in Achilles, for their low center of gravity keeps them from constantly tumbling over. Those born otherwise adapt quickly over time, and hardly any citizens ever leave Achilles for the motionless countryside. Natives visiting neighboring “still” towns report unease at the general flatness of their streets and constancy of elevation. There is a saying, that Achilleans only ever trip during their overseas trips. No campaign ad is complete in Achilles until a politician performs their best interpretive dance, proving their willingness to change with the city and its peoples’ demands.

Unfortunately, Achilles can only be seen on animated three-dimensional maps at certain times when every city block is above sea-level. Its food stalls frequently find themselves on the opposite side of the road at the end of each lunch rush, but their plates taste just as good at 321 Cherry Street as they do at 329 Cherry Street.

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