Knot – Alex Kies

Our city is changing. I’m not sure how or why. I’m not entirely certain when these changes take place. I hate to admit it about the place where I was born and raised, the only city I’ve ever truly loved, but the truth of the matter is that something about our fair city is different. The only way out is to die, we know that much for sure. The living cannot voluntarily leave the city limits. There’s always something in the way…a raging river in some places, a stone wall in others, even a thicket of untraversable underbrush. We’ve gotten used to that by now, just as we’ve grown familiar with the city itself. So you would think we would notice when something had changed. But the opposite seems to be the case…you only notice the differences after a while. It used to be the sun that sharpened itself on the edges of our city was a fluorescent white, but the other day, it occurred to me that it was red now, and had been for some time, but I didn’t remember the transition.

Another example—they’re always digging sewers here. They always have. They have always supplemented and complicated the existing system of tunnels—it was what earned our fair city the dubious honor of being the sewer capital of North America. But over lunch, my friend G… asked when the last time I’d seen one of sewer tunneling crews drive by in their practical aluminum omnibuses, and I couldn’t give him an answer. They were just gone.

Our city is changing. I’d never seen someone eat somebody else, let alone outside, until just last week. “We can do so much better!” I yelled at the cannibal, who sucked up a generous sliver of marrow and retorted that I was unfamiliar with his lived experience. I kept on moving.

This city used to feel like my city, like our city. But it’s stagnant now, like a still pool in the middle of the forest. The city wasn’t dead by any means, but it wasn’t growing, it wasn’t thriving. Not like it used to, anyway. You couldn’t get lost anymore. No matter where you went, you knew where you were. When I was younger, and not that much younger, mind you, you could wander until you starved or worse and never see the same alleyway twice. But those proud souls who wandered our streets until they died without asking for guidance, they didn’t get us down, instead we wondered at these noble fallen, and their plight inspired us to explore this world to its fullest extent.

But now, we have. Our city has changed. This used to be a cultural capital full of cultural capital. The greatest artists and thinkers swarmed here like moths to a light. It was here they let their imaginations run wild. No one knows where they went. Everyone else has stopped dreaming. I mean everybody. Not even nightmares remain. Ask them. Ask anybody. To a one, they’ll say “You know what? Come to think of it, I haven’t had a dream in a while” or something along those lines.

The city, our city, is knotted, and the harder we pull on it, the harder the knot becomes, the more inextricable our predicament. And there’s no leaving. Not alive.