CONGRATULATIONS to the WINNERS of CHALLENGE 5 - There were many outstanding entries!
~ IMAGE for Challenge Number 5 ~
When one of my favorite Viners asked the name of the city in Challenge Number 5's photo, I felt bad when I had to put off telling her so as not to unduly influence the authors' submission content. But now I can reveal all ... it's Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!
And now ... THE WINNING SUBMISSIONS ... and this was difficult ... there were many good submissions - the most for any one of the five challenges to date!
Life During Wartime
The sound of gunfire, off in the distance
I'm getting used to it now
Lived in a brownstone, lived in the ghetto
I've lived all over this town.....
Since the lights went off on the Promenade, there has been almost total darkness at night, with the exception of candle lights in the windows of the brownstones. The heat from the asphalt still generates at night so there is no relief from the summer. I barely sleep at night. I lie in bed and try to remember back to better times, as my body sweats and soaks the sheets. In the morning I will start to make plans to get out. This takes much planning, since the "New Party" took over. Who would have ever thought that this would have started with an oil leak at the bottom of the ocean.
In any case, I'm not safe here any longer. The New Party says that there will be enough water to get us through the summer, but I am doubtful. The wait on the water lines grows longer each day and there are an increasing number of bodies with the sunken in faces of dehydration. The loud speakers from the trucks assure us that these are victims of SARs and just to keep our faces covered. But you can't cover up those eye sockets, can ya? I'm pleased with myself that I started to stock pile water from the beginning. One of the smartest moves I've ever made. In the morning, I'll gather the others.
Transmit the message, to the receiver
hope for an answer some day
I got three passports, couple of visas
don't even know my real name.....
I've been constantly sending the message asking for the directions to The Village, but no response yet. I know others have gotten the directions and have left but I don't know if they made it. I'm ready when it comes. I have my have my passports and visas packed and ready to go. I haven't used my real name now for over a year, and no two people know any of my alias. Heck, even I have even forgotten my real name; a side effect from the drugged peanut butter the New Party was supplying. Still, this bothers me less than not knowing who to trust. I think this group is solid. I hear that it's a long drive to The Village. I am sure that we will get to know if there are any weak links among us.
Heard about Houston? Heard about Detroit?
Heard about Pittsburgh, PA?
Finally, we received the message with the GPS to The Village. The news we got was worse than we thought. According to the underground, Houston, Detroit and Pittsburgh are over run with people fleeing the coast line, looking for water from the cities more inland. The New Party has been cracking down and has been blocking cellular service in all metropolitan areas. Because of this, we were given locations where we could uplink our computers and tap into the phone lines. But I can't help worrying about being caught doing this. Punishment is death, and I'm concerned that we are not harboring a sleeper.
Tomorrow we leave. We'll spend the night packing the car with food, water and basic medical supplies that we'll need for the journey. Also packed are gas masks, in case we come across a road block. We were warned to do this. It seems that many have been caught this way. Oh, better not forget the bag of costumes, hair dye and scissors.
Trouble in transit, got through the roadblock
we blended in with the crowd
We got computers, we're tapping phone lines
I know that ain't allowed
We dress like students, we dress like housewives
or in a suit and a tie
I changed my hairstyle so many times now
don't know what I look like!
Just as warned, we ran into a few road blocks. Thank goodness for those gas masks. At night we stopped and rested. It also gave us the time we needed to change our look to match the various ID's. This was necessary, when we got into the big cities so we blended in with the drugged out peanut butter heads. The New Party was quite cleaver to assign each city an official outfit, hair cut and color, so that if one of the "citizens" could be easy to identify. As we got closer to our destination we move at night and sleep during the day. As the cities under control of the New Party grew further apart, they patrol by helicopter. We can hear them off in the distance, and by traveling at night, we have time to hide. We only have about 300 miles left to go. We should be arriving at The Village sometime after 3 AM. As we get closer, we meet others like us. They share stories they have heard about the Village. How it's beautiful with clean water and plentiful food. How the people are freely under the Constitution. It sounds too good to be true. We'll know soon enough. Now we sleep.
I'm not sure about a life after this
God knows I've never been a spiritual man
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river
That is runnin' through the promised land......
As we drive, the ground gets gradually lower, until we began to see water and lights, first dim then brighter and brighter. Bridges seem to be coming from almost everywhere, all leading to an island, with a beautiful city skyline, unlike any I had seen before. It was better than the stories, like a perfect photograph of a perfect city. As we crossed a bridge we were greeted at the other side by the warm smiling integration guides. They directed us to the information center, where we would be assigned living quarters and given a stipend till we could be matched with a job. I knew we were home.
Life During Wartime, The Talking Heads, 1980
River of Dreams, Billy Joel, 1993
The Most Beautiful City on Earth
Andrew Antico stared at the city for quite some time. After all, he had a full hour before he had to go to bed. He marveled at the bridges built by engineers long ago and was especially fascinated with the high-rise with the obelisk at the top of it, staring out at him directly across the river. Next he stared at the long, lighted ribbons extending throughout the city and on some of the bridges. Cars and trucks, he thought. He wished he would be able to drive one. More than anything, Andy Antico wanted to be able to drive a car.
He imagined how the water would feel, lapping gently at his ankles as he stood on the bank of the river. He thought about how the traffic would sound, and the smell of the city at night. He daydreamed of police officers cruising their beats, and boats patrolling the river. The city at night would be a truly mysterious and perhaps ominous place to be.
Next Andy thought of helicopters gently humming around the city. His view of the city was panoramic and high in the sky, so one would need a helicopter to view the urban sprawl as he was. He wondered how many helicopters would fly around on any given night there.
Then there were the houses. Andy could see the lights from apartment buildings and residential homes far off in the distance. He wondered what it would be like to live in one of them. He supposed you could take the city bus or a taxi right to your house. There would be no endless flights of stairs to climb, and no elevators to take you right to the top.
"Andy!" called his mother from the next room."It's time to get ready for bed."
Any obliged by going into the bathroom and getting his toothbrush ready. After he had brushed all twenty-eight of his teeth, he got the floss out and proceeded to delicately maneuver the tiny thread between his teeth. Then he rinsed with fluoride rinse for good measure because cavities were a huge problem. He put on his pajamas with spaceships on them and padded back to his room, where he resumed looking at the city.
This time he noticed some tall buildings off in the distance with domes. He was sure that something fascinating had gone on in those buildings and perhaps that's where the government convened. The thought fascinated Andy, because he was interested in how to govern people and make them do what you wanted. He wondered what sources of power they used to make the city run smoothly so bridges could be built, the river maintained, helicopters to fly smoothly and large, tall buildings with domes and obelisks could be built. He was studying it in school but was still unsure just what made other people listen to and respect those in government.
Before he knew it, his mother appeared at the door to his room. "Good night, Andy" she said soothingly. She noticed that he had been looking at the city again. "Did you see anything new tonight?" she inquired. "No, Mom," Andy replied."Nothing new. Do you think there are fire-trucks there?" he asked.
"Yes, Andy," she said somewhat disconcertedly. "I'm sure there are."
"Great! Maybe someday I can ride on a fire-truck!" Andy pleaded.
"We'll see," said his mother. Maybe someday you will."
"G'night, Mom." Andy said sleepily as his mother tucked him into bed. Soon he was sawing logs.
Andy's mother sighed softly to herself as she took the photograph of the city off of his desk and put it away in the drawer, just like she did every other night since they had boarded the ship under Executive Order Number 3551, when they discovered that a large solar flare was headed to Earth. The planet had been evacuated. All residents were asked to board large spaceships built by NASA to take them away to Outpost 35, located on Mars. They had taken as many Doomsday Arks as they could fill with information, plants, animals and people to possibly terraform the planet into something habitable. If nothing else, they would build biospheres to sustain the population once they arrived.
Andy's mother quietly wept as she thought of that picture of her home city, Philadelphia. Andy was so young when he had been put aboard this ship that he really had no understanding of what had been on Earth before the solar flare burned off the oceans and stripped away its atmosphere. They had watched it happen from space. Most people wept as they watched their home being stripped and burned away.
Now, all Andy's mother could do was pray that the 9-year journey to Mars would not be in vain. She cried over what the future might hold for them.
And in his bed with his spaceship jammies, Andy slept, quietly dreaming of fire-trucks.
The Night that Changed my Life
I'll never forget that last day at work, didn't know it then, but it came to me when I got home. I searched my closet for the simplest of clothes, a few articles I could get the most use of, just to save space. The space in my head was so full, the lighter I packed, somehow, made me feel better already. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't think, but that day, my actions went on auto pilot and I was moving. Moving where, I had no clue, but I was leaving, and leaving for good. I wanted to be dead. Dead to those I knew and dead to the life I wasn't living.
No thought of what I would do, or where I would go, but something was brewing inside of me, I knew. My backpack in hand, I threw the last of the cash I had made in a pouch and hid it deep within. I threw the keys to my place outside, secretly hidden for my friend I would give. Nothing more would I take but my life and my soul. I grabbed my bike and set out. Still not knowing which direction I'd go, but I left anyway. I approached the station, unafraid, a peace inside me, said "follow" your heart and go. I was on the verge of being free. My brain now opening up to anything, finally.
The Greyhound station is where I landed. I never planned it, nor did I think it ... and there I was, unafraid. I approached the ticket stand and bought a one way ticket to the Big City. No refunds, no turning back and I felt "relieved," like I had never known. I was but 20. I felt, for the first time in my life, I had finally taken that huge leap of faith. A plunge into darkness now lay ahead, and I would be safe, finally. I gave my bike to the attendant, and I asked, "Have you a child you could give my bike to?" And he replied, "I have three, and we would be very happy to take this off your hands, for you." He offered me money and I declined. I wanted him to know, it was purely from my heart, and I wanted to leave all of it, behind. He hugged me hard and off I went.
I landed in New York City, about an hour and a half later, not knowing what was in store. To those I left behind, I would be dead, and I for once knew I was alive. The oxygen now flowing through my veins, like I had never known. I was even more excited as I stepped off the bus and I looked up. The buildings were so tall and so many, how many I couldn't tell. I felt a bit swallowed up, but the privacy of intimacy engulfed me, and I somehow felt safe, me, in all of it's anonymity. I could stay here and be lost, but not to me. It was so consuming, it just felt right. I walked a few blocks, it got all confusing, but then I saw the place I would stay for the night. It was beautiful and old, and it was so tall, like I could touch the stars. I went inside and asked for a room, one with a nice bath. I handed the attendant almost all that I had. I didn't care. This would be my night to start anew. When I got to the top, as I climbed the stairs, an overwhelming sense of relief came over me and I started to care, more about me. I took my bath and I bought the nice robe ... then I stepped outside, onto the balcony.
The stars I thought were so bright and lovely, and I realized, the lights from the city where beaming over me, like a heaven on earth, that I was so in need. I turned on some music and I started to sing, from my balcony, I cried out all of my pain. I had never known such freedom, so lit up now inside, just like the night, it beamed all around me, every light. Millions of them it seemed, like angels looking over me, warm and full of life, life I never knew. I found my hope and I felt confident, that the lights would never go dim. I had made the best choice, and here I sit today, I won the fight. The lights of the city, they pointed towards me it seemed, and they spoke to me. My mission had just begun. I will never forget that night, it changed my life forever. Out of the darkness I came, and into the light, I would now remain.