Bewildering Stories

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The New City

by Charles Richard Laing

We built the new city directly over the smoldering ruins of the old city. Working days and nights for months without a break, and employing a massive army of highly skilled laborers that would have brought tears of envy to a pharaoh's jaded eyes, we erected ultramodern steel and glass skyscrapers for as far as the eye could see. We put up rows of quaint traditional brownstones. We built theaters and restaurants. We built stadiums and arenas for six different professional sports franchises. High priced luxury condos and depressed crime-riddled tenements were raised in separate but equal neighborhoods.

The new city grew. There were three red-light districts. Two cathedrals. Subways and sewers. Parks and mailboxes and fire hydrants.

When construction was finished, we filled the new city with people and we filled it with pollution. Pigeons roosted on every ledge. Rats ruled the shadows. We made the new city pulse with life.

Then we waited.

We didn't have to wait long.

* * *

The new city was open for less than two weeks when it happened. As we hoped, the creature -- drawn by the bright lights and pulsing life energy -- once again crawled out of the dark cold depths of the ocean. A giant mutant sea slug the length of four football fields, it dripped with a thick radioactive slime that killed on contact. Without hesitation it headed for the heart of the new city on a direct path of death and destruction. It announced its terrible presence with a high-pitched shriek that shattered every window in a twenty-block radius. It crawled along slowly, lashing out with its enormous tongue to lick up hordes of helpless citizens fleeing for their lives.

We couldn't stop it. We didn't even try.

Hundreds of thousands of poor souls were killed and eaten by the creature before it reached the heart of the city. Once it reached the target area, however, we were free to act. Averting our eyes we pressed the button, knowing the cameras were there to capture the image of the glorious mushroom cloud. Later, at the party, we would all watch the film.

The trap worked. The operation was a major success. The creature was dead. Once again science had triumphed. Hands were shaken and backs were slapped all around the giddy control room.

* * *

We built the new scientific research center around the mouth of the massive tunnel that had mysteriously swallowed up the old scientific research center.

Then we waited.

Copyright © 2005 by Charles Richard Laing

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