A man and his lizard
#1
A man and his lizard:
In the city of Ishul you will find a man sitting by himself atop the roof the Peoples’ Palace, he sits there under the silver light of a hanging crescent which illuminates the night sky. On the tiled roof of his home the man gazes into the distance and watches the monorail pass through the weathered walls of the old city and into the new heart of the vibrant metropolis whose life blood of people did not seem the slightest bit affected by day nor night nor weather nor place. Looking across at the old docks where many fishermen depart into the Gulf of Mu’tazlia to fish and many a cargo boat enter to unload its bountiful treasures; he could see the tops of the Velofi mountains on the Kaltanni isle. The waters of the bay reflected the light of the moon and like the thousand glimmering stars, looked like an argent wave that stretched on forever. The man sitting upon the roof is commonly known as Hasan, though some call him eccentric and others, strange. When considering the various places to loaf about it is uncertain whether he had considered the balcony on the second floor of the northern wing of the building, it had a great view of the old city and the scenery was comparable, though one thing is certain, and it is that being alone on a roof top affords a certain amount of solitude and perhaps even serenity that a balcony just could not afford. The Peoples’ Palace was packed in between the new city and the old city, to the west was the old market, its north was an art exhibition showing off the works of many architects and visionaries. To the south of the building was a statue and monument to Umbar Malik, and in the east an endless stretch of mixed development. Unlike the new industrial settlements that were built in the early 1900s and late 1890s, old cities needed to be maximised to be the most efficient both economically and in terms of social wellbeing, residential areas had clubs, restaurants, libraries, gardens and shops intermixed between. The building itself was built under the supervision of and designed by Nikolay Miliutin during the Great Reconstruction and was originally used to house the displaced residents of the city’s old slums before they were demolished and rebuilt, now it acts as a hostel, a hub in which travellers congregate. Most existing cities were redesigned to fit the Sotsgorod model, Sotsgorod itself is the capital of the Triglav region and was the city that started the Great Reconstruction, the prevailing architectural design and redesign of cities is one of maximizing the efficiency of industrial workers, the city was designed such that workers would be housed within 1-2 kilometres of a monorail and would need to commute for around 20-30 minutes to get to work. More recently as jobs shifted to the service industry the subway system and other public transit were expanded, service industry jobs were decentralised leading to the inward and outward movement of labour throughout the day.
 
Waking up to the sound of his alarm, Hasan quickly knocked it to the floor and got out of bed. He had stayed in the hostel for such a long time that the staff had just decided to renovate a room for him, normally a room like the one he had would fit four to six people, but his indefinite stay led to him seizing one all for himself. The Peoples’ Palace was a large building with over a hundred rooms, common areas for socialising and recreation, a communal dining hall and a newly refurbished gym. Hasan’s room was on the second floor of the north wing of the building and had a nice balcony facing the harbour, sketches of people and buildings were plastered on the walls and different computer components and a soldering iron were scattered across his work desk. Getting dressed he picked up his alarm clock to check the time, it read 7:12, he packed the computer parts into his bag and headed down to eat. The same patterns lined the walls, doors opened here and there with temporary workers and migrant workers who had not yet found a suitable home coming out, a few posters for local events were pinned on a board, advertisements for a local concert and an art expose at the art museum. The creaking of the wooden stairs used to be annoying but eventually Hasan got used to it, now it was just a part of the ambience, one of the many eccentric flavours that melded with everything else.
 
The communal dinning hall had rows of long tables and chairs which resembled any cafeteria, outside were a few small circular tables with chairs placed under various trees. Noodles, soup and porridge were served by the kitchen staff to whom Hasan greeted and was greeted back, the fruit section was open for all as was the bread, cheese, boiled eggs, potatoes and cut meat, Hasan snatched two Tamurs [OOC: imagine a large, dried date] and a baked potato, ever in a rush he ate his breakfast on the walk to the monorail station. As he passed through the old market the smell of coffee and pastries filled the air, nice breakfasts and small talks could be observed in small restaurants on the side of the square, about halfway through the market Hasan found himself in front of the old abandoned clocktower that lied on the far side of the old market. Taking a turn and walking onto the main street he was joined with many other pedestrians who were all making their way to work, the sidewalks are covered with the shades of buildings and coloured by the green row of trees that were planted on them. In 1927 there was a government led initiative to “greenify” the city, this had not only taken the form of planting trees on sidewalks, but also the creation of rooftop gardens and intercity greenhouses. Today most neighborhoods will have a communal garden, more affluent ones will even have a greenhouse though those tend to be more common within the inner city. Greenhouses and urban agriculture contribute to a large amount of produce in Jazado, it is estimated that around 15% of food is grown in urban environments.
 
“Hasanabi!” calls a young child as Hasan passes the street. “I brought you strawberries to take to the factory, they’re fresh from yesterday.”
 
“Thank you Mashuka,” he says as he takes the basket, “I’ll be sure to share these with the others, you should be getting back to your parents now.”
 
Most people in Ishul and for that matter, Jazado as a whole, did not use cars, because of this the streets of the old city remain untouched by tarmac and retain the old cobblestone paths that were made centuries ago. Cyclists had their own lanes but most peopled walked, cities were built that way. One of the old towers of the old wall was converted to the monorail station, at the time this wasn’t that controversial having been done in early 1912, its tracks were suspended by new supports that seemed to stretch endlessly into the horizon but now some people find it to be a disturbance to the old city, a piece of modernity that was able to sneak into the heavily protected and preserved old city. Hasan checked the time as he got on the rail, 07:24, munching on a potato he griped the handrail and his day truly started. The car began to move and with-it Hasan was taken further and further away from his abode. Staring out the window the various buildings got smaller and smaller, as the car passed into the newer areas the buildings were taller and the further out it went the higher the buildings rose until finally the car entered where the scenery was best, the greenbelt that surrounded the city, the home of the various polyculture farms that supplied the city with half its food. Looking down he could see farmers still using oxen to till the land, a storage warehouse and distribution center was built on the crossroads of multiple farms, there equipment was stored and also where some of the produce would be sent to the city. The desire to eliminate the distinctions between the urban and the rural finally culminated in 1935 and the 14th 7-year plan where various test on different agricultural methods and the systematic review of various studies and statistics led to the government using peri-urban agriculture as a solution to the problem. Many farmers were moved to the cities, new high-rise apartments were built in stark contrast to the older buildings that were built when housing regulations capped buildings at six stories. The relocated farmers were joined by unemployed workers and cultivated much of the peri-urban farms that are seen in the greenbelt, unlike communities in the inner city, agriculture was the main driver of employment for them and their descendants and they remain extremely vital to supplying the city. Though these farmers were now able to access much of the same amenities as those of urban residents and standards of living have mostly evened out.
 
The monorail finally came to a halt at Hasan’s station, he worked at a recycling plant 20 or so kilometers from the city, leaving the car he proceeded to check in at his station. Hasan had arrived at the Imperial Cooperative of the Alantur Electronic Recycling plant at 07:53, the imperial designation meant that it was an SOE, the job that he worked was manually sorting through the electronic trash that couldn’t be processed or electronics that could be recovered. Much of Hasan’s job was smashing electronics with a hammer before proceeding to unscrew and remove various parts, broken memory discs, processors and more. Normally electronics would go through a giant shredder and have its parts sorted by large magnets but the growing repair industry within Jazado has become rather lucrative in recent years, electronic trash coming from Edofasia, Cenaesia and Candanadium has provided them with a constant stream of broken but repairable parts, the main computer and phone companies in Jazado build all of their products from these parts. Specific models of phones and computers are selected for and are disassembled, their parts are either repaired on site or brought to another place to be repaired. Jazadii products in general tend to last longer due to regulatory laws preventing companies from using planned obsolescence, the Ministry of Industrial Goods and Production acts as the regulatory body that presides over these regulations and every 5 years products are reevaluated and the shelf life they need to have is changed or maintained. Normally at the end of Hasan’s 6-hour shift there would be plenty of parts in the surplus section - many cooperatives allow their workers to take items from their surplus section - and indeed today there was. There was a workshop at the back of the recycling plant for those who had projects that they wished to work on, it was filled with many half-finished computers and phones. As the second shift came in for the afternoon shift Hasan worked in the workshop on his computer, having acquired new parts from the surplus section that could be added. Furthermore, his phone battery had broke the day prior and he had asked permission to take a battery to replace it, spending around an hour replacing his phone battery and building his computer hunger finally forced him to leave work and return home. The cooperative had a cafeteria but Hasan didn’t like the food there, most of the times it was too stale or lacked some food he thought was essential, there was also the fact that around noon time many restaurants in the old market would be showing off their daily specials not to mention the kebab stand that would be brought to the centre of the square and somehow attract more tourists than the monument to the southeast.
 
Hasan boarded the monorail and began his return to the city. He normally left later than most people on the morning shift and so when he boarded the car there were plenty of seats available for him, sitting near the window at the front he once again found himself staring blankly out of the window into the countryside as the rail moved. The recycling plant used to be in the middle of Ishul before it was deemed to be “disruptive to public health and harmony” and moved a safe distance away, now it looked like a tiny island of the modern world found in the vast green sea of nature. A train station was built right next to the plant for its products to be shipped to other parts of Jazado, originally the track cut through the greenery of its surroundings, trees were planted along the railroad recently to emulate that of a riparian buffer, the idea was to conceal the train and its tracks to make the country seem undisturbed by industry. In actuality the area around the recycling plant wasn’t all too green, as a matter of fact the Asorei province was mostly arid planes with a desert to its far east, the mesh of grey train tracks meshed well with the natural colours of the landscape. As the monorail got closer to the city the land transposed from the arid light green and yellow land of the country to a lush and darker green of the various periurban farms that surrounded the city in its greenbelt. The use of polyculture and agroforestry as a method to produce food meant that the use of large industrial machines was unfeasible, this subsequently opened up many jobs to those living in the city. As automation displaced workers, those who were unable to transition to the service industry found themselves working in the various periurban and community farms in the city, normally a shift from a capital intensive industry to a labour intensive one would mean significant cost push inflation but because most of the produce from community farms are produced and consumed by the local community this normally means that they are consumed for free thus negating the effects of increased cost. Periurban farms are able to implement small scale machinery due to the increased land that they have but farmers are also subsidised allowing for surplus produce to be sold at cheap prices. Pastures for grazing lie just slightly beyond those farms, in vast fields shepherds herd sheep while wild cattle and hogs roam the land being hunted by their natural predators or people. In 1967 the Ministry of Meat and Agriculture deemed the large-scale cultivation of cattle to be “inefficient and a drain on resources” as large cattle ranches closed, their animals were once more taken back into the environment or used by periurban farmers in their operations.
 
Arriving back at the monorail station in the old market Hasan first returned to the People’s Palace. The real reason why he was unable to find living accommodations in the various housing units across Ishul was because he had an Inshalti [OOC: imagine a Komodo dragon except its really big and you can ride on it], the staff of the People’s Palace made a makeshift stable to keep it in, it made him quite the attraction in the city, “the lizard man of Ishul” many tourists had heard of it, most people believe it to be a myth. After a few minutes Hasan came out of the stable riding atop his beast, Zahif was its name and as they passed into the old market once more heads turned to behold the reptile that waddled through the square. There was a fountain in the middle of the square and was also the place where Hasan would stop the lizard every afternoon, checking his watch, the time was 15:34, very late for lunch though accustomed to it, Hasan laid out a carpet on the ground but before he sat down he rode Zahif around the square, first going the to the kebab stand to pick up a few kebabs and then passing the various restaurants on the side and amassing an assortment of different dishes. Noontime was also when the stray dogs and cats would get up, but it was already well past noon so by the time Hasan got his food most of the strays were already fed, packs of dogs were lying on carpets and sunbathing in the square while cats ran across the rooftops. Zahif laid down on the carpet that Hasan laid out and Hasan sat on the floor laying his back on Zahif’s side. Taking out a sketchbook and a pencil he once again started to draw the town square, starting from the last two years of his high school education he had always wanted to be an architect or a city planner, something to do with buildings at the very least. However, he found himself lacking the artistic skill required to study architecture or urban planning in university and instead was relegated to learning history and economics at the Asorei Institute of Social Sciences in Alshraq. The labour tithe had employed him as a janitor in the Imperial Cooperative of the Alantur Electronic Recycling plant and after his service he applied to work there. Now he spends his free time sketching the city and dreaming about being able to be an architect. After around 30 minutes a sizeable crowd had gathered around him, it seems that news of a man and a giant lizard has spread, and curious travellers surrounded him. Throwing aside his sketchbook and pencil, Hasan jumped right up, putting on an act to entertain the crowd.
 
“Welcome people, this great beast before you is Zahif. A hatchling of the Inshalti from the dune sea, I, being the brave man that I am, captured him after a great battle with his mother on the edge of the Khajarite wastes. Now he is my mount and potentially someone you could take a picture with.”
 
A woman from the crowd stepped forward and asked: “What do you feed that thing?”
 
“Hogs, the wild pigs that roam just off the pastures east” seeing a Kaltach tourist in the crowd, or at least he seemed Kaltach, red as a tomato and wearing socks with sandals. “I mean the animal not you Kaltach!” he says pointing to the man. An awkward silence filled the air for a second before the two burst into laughter.
 
“How cost four picture?” asked the Kaltach man, his Khitai wasn’t all too good and Hasan spoke with a slight Kalamfadii accent.
 
“10 thaler with the added bonus of Zahif not eating you!”
 
The Kaltach man hands Hasan 10 thaler. Hasan calls out “Yaqif!”, immediately Zahif stands up on his hind legs, the crowd stands back as their eyes fill with awe in the sight of the massive reptile. Putting on of its arms on the Kaltach man Zahif holds his position. The tourist gave Hasan his phone and he took a few pictures.
 
“Taht!”, Zahif lets go of the man and lies back down on the floor. “Friends, friends, you too can take a picture, or if you so desire, it may be possible for you to ride him.” As Hasan saddles someone on Zahif the Kaltach tourist goes to talk to him.
 
“Where best place to go?”
 
“In the city or in Jazado?”
 
“Jazado.”
 
“Sotsgorod, the city of tomorrow, it has the best art and music exhibits. But we all know you people are fat and love food, so I would recommend Pragdanha, capital of Sinhala and they will have the largest crabs you would ever want, freshest from the Yukaghir strait.”
 
“Many thanks”
“You’re welcome, have a good day.”
 
As the sun slowly sets, many of the tourists dissipate and Hasan is left alone with Zahif, looking at his earnings he sees 10 thaler and 121 taels, good enough. He packed up the carpet and mounted Zahif, on his ride back to the peoples palace Hasan stopped at the local butcher. Paying the 10 thaler and 67 taels, he leaves with a pig carcass. Hasan returned Zahif to his stable and left him the pig carcass, Inshalti are omnivorous and during the day when Hasan works Zahif is fed with vegetables. Leaving the stable Hasan heads to the bus station to go the centre of the old city for dinner.
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