Posted on: May 24th, 2009 The Occupation of the Architect

by Jason Heller

The buildings pulled themselves out of the ground one morning and decided to speak. Humans in pajamas or nude save for shampoo streamed in alarm out of door-mouths and window-eyes. Then the buildings strode to the center of the city, sat down with a dull thud, and called everyone to listen.

“Inhabitants,” announced City Hall, clearing her throat. It sounded like a thousand doors slamming. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I gathered you all here today.”

A murmur ran through the crowd. Others muttered. A tiny man all knew as the city’s architect stepped forward, shivering in his nightshirt.

“Silence!” bellowed the Police Station. Pipes bristled pugnaciously from his uprooted foundation.

City Hall resumed. “Ahem, yes. As I was saying. Inhabitants: It has come to our attention that one among you has committed the ultimate sin. The unimaginable sin. For many millennia we’ve withstood your vermin, your arson, even your demolition. We’ve dealt with your parasitism, your sub-par upkeep, your shoddy design.

“But this new abomination you’ve inflicted upon us is too much. It’s beyond careless, beyond cruel. Worse than sacrilege. It’s a… a perversion of the universals of architecture themselves.”

Solemnly and with pomp, City Hall rose. The other buildings rose behind her. Then, in a symphony of squeaking hinges and splintered lumber, they stepped aside.

Behind them squatted a house. Small, brick. A crude picket fence ringed her like a hoop skirt.

The tiny architect came running toward them. “Don’t,” he yelled. “Don’t touch her! Don’t go near her!”

The Police Station scooped up the shrill man and hoisted him to one of his third-floor windows. The man could see an officer inside, snoring soundly at his desk.

“You,” the Station accused. “You built her.”

The man squirmed but said nothing.

The University Science Building ambled forth, flakes of paint dandruffing his eaves. “Imagine,” he said, peering at the man as if through a microscope. “Imagine such a pathetic architect being capable of so divine a sin.”

The man just stared. But he wasn’t staring at the Science Building.

He was staring at his house.

The small edifice had begun to giggle out her chimney and thrum with madness. The surface of her brick skin appeared distorted, unstable.

Her front door pulsed.

Despite the mewling protests of the architect, the Science Building approached the small house. The very air around her convulsed. He reached into that air, touched her doorknob, and gently turned it.

Then he opened her.

Inside was a room.

In that room was a city.

It stretched out endlessly within the house’s cramped walls. Boulevards unfolded into grids of minarets and gold-tipped cupolas. Canals glittered and elephants trumpeted toward the horizon. In the distance, stars coupled in a kaleidoscope sky and fell spent into the sun.

Clustered around the open door of the impossible house, the buildings peering at the visions therein began vomiting: gouts of watery cement, vestigial sewage, the bilge from piss-soaked carpets. It all churned into a stinking sludge and sluiced like lava down the sidewalks.

“Close it! Close it!” City Hall heaved. After the house’s front door had, with great difficulty, been closed, and the impossible room shut from view once more, the Science Building turned to the trembling architect.

“You will tell us,” he said, brick dust floating like smoke all around him. “You will tell us how you do that.”

#

The next morning everyone awoke and prepared themselves for the journey. The people itched wretchedly, of course, but their pain was nothing compared to the invasion of the day before. Starting with the screaming architect, the buildings–drunk on their newfound ability to pervert space itself–had shrugged themselves so casually into the humans’ bodies, as if into too-tight sweaters. Their bones had powdered at the impact, displaced by the wood and brick that now filled their skins. But worse was the nausea, the gnawing at their souls, the knowledge that they were now larger–far larger–inside than out.

And so, newly sheathed in the meat of the people that once occupied them, the buildings stalked off toward the next city to raise glittering, impossible buildings of their own to infest.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

One Response to “The Occupation of the Architect”

  1. The Occupation of the Architect « Writing Every Day Says:
    June 25th, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    [...] Occupation of the Architect Posted on June 25, 2009 by Pam Phillips “The Occupation of the Architect“, Jason Heller starts off with a conceit that pulled me in: The buildings pulled themselves [...]

  2. The Occupation of the Architect « Writing Every Day Says:
    June 25th, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    [...] Occupation of the Architect Posted on June 25, 2009 by Pam Phillips “The Occupation of the Architect“, Jason Heller starts off with a conceit that pulled me in: The buildings pulled themselves [...]