If you have not seen the city of Nemus, then do so carefully, and with two bits of knowledge I’ll impart. One: that it is a city of the dead, constructed from the flesh and sinew and bone of ten million carcasses of once living residents. Two: that it is said to be built on a promise, one of the most dangerous sort.
The construction of Nemus is by no means artful. It pays no heed to the aesthetic, the romantic, or the moral. It is a heap of dry flesh, a mountain of bones and bodies at different stages of decay, a monument to the promise that is said to lie beneath, but the best I can say is that that is a popular rumor.
It is said that Nemus covers a city now extinguished–the city of Vedos–built around a spring of eternal life. The city was a haven initially, a secret a traveler might stumble upon accidentally. Millenia passed without a change, the residents of Vedos enjoyed their life. But as things go, it is said word spread of the powers that lie in Vedos, and thus started the conflagration of those greedy for years that did not belong to them.
I would guess then, that this great mass of bodies known as Nemus is built around that very spring, that many clawed and dug and died, assured that some day they would reach it, but instead they became amassed as bricks in a giant necropolis. A city where countless dead are piled, and a handful of the ever-living are forever buried.
Once, on a train, I drank wine until I fell asleep. The conductor woke me up several hours later. He told me we’d arrived in Sevros. If you’d drank a bottle of wine with nothing else in your stomach besides a slice of apple cake you’d found wrapped in paper in your bag, you would have seen it, too.
You would have stepped off the train with me, and seen a dizzying aggregation of images: buildings of all structures, of all periods of design. Classical Roman, Gothic, late Renaissance, early Renaissance, Provincial, Metropolitan, futuristic, a post office you went to when you were twelve. Thousands of buildings stacked on top of one another, and more sprouting out between them, clustered like tufts of hair.
You would have seen its bewildered inhabitants, wandering confusedly among towering duplexes and henges and mazes of aqueducts and squares and circles and straits that collapsed on top of themselves in architectural regurgitation.
You would see me looking about, for a place to steady my vision for a minute, but I would spin out of control and catch myself on a Tudor banister affixed to the ground with adobe and Chicago brick.
The city was drunk with itself, each building drunk with confusion about its place in the world; a spinning, slobbering, mispronouncing battle with balance and beauty. A losing one. But it thought itself quite charming.
If you walk seventy miles into the desert–any one you can think of–you will encounter Propos. Immediately if you’re lucky, eventually if you wait long enough. It will dance across every mile of the world’s great sands in its own time, shedding water, air, light and life, lending itself endlessly to the acrid desert which is the reason for its being. You will see the city tumbling over the sand dunes like a tired elephant. You will see rows of Corinthian arches emerge form the horizon like lips pulling back from teeth, like a smiling friend hanging upside down. You have read about this city in National Geographic. You would be lucky to see it. It moves along like a tortoise, or a snail, or a mountain that decided it had enough one day. But sometimes in the evening–if you would be so lucky to see it in the evening–before the sun disappeared into the belly of the Earth, you would think it looked like a silver blanket of light making love to the ground. It would appear sentient beyond the persistent buzz of its populace, who talk endlessly of their love for the city and for the desert.
You remember a professor in college telling you about Propos, about how beautiful it was. About how it moved. About how he would love to see it, but that it was forever temporary, and that it would one day die: having given up all of its life to the desert it so loved, it would dry up like a puddle in the sun.