Monday, 9 November 2015

What if? Metropolis - Travelogue of Sendsel

Looking upon the city of Sendsel from afar on the cliffs, it would appear the rocky outcrops are somehow miraculously floating on the surface of the sea, bridges strung about to keep the many sections from drifting apart. You reach Sendsel by small wooden boat. It is the only way inhabitants and visitors can cross from land to the city, to swim it would be too far, and larger boats would catch and hulls be breached on the city's foundations just below the water level. Once rowing out to see, looking down to the water below, it now seems as though how the city has come to be completely juxtaposes as it seemed before, as if, instead of floating, the entire mass is sunk into the sea, to be inhabited by fish, with only the very tips breaching the ocean waves. However, neither of these situations are true. The city you see below is the city that has not yet been inhabited, the city that will one day rise up out of the ocean as the current structures have, pushed up from below by the ever growing tremendous coral reef that lines the ocean bed, to be carved and hollowed into the new buildings of Sendsel. 

You alight on one of the smaller coral islands that serves as a dock for the boats from the mainland. A nearby dock-man hurries over to help tether the rope to one of the many dry rocky outcrops that run the edge of the platform, hewn from the long ago calcified colossal creature. The city ahead of you is chalky and matte, but its brightness still strains the eye and you wince at the light bouncing from the coral forms and its reflection glinting in the crystal water. The once vibrant colours of the reef now light and pastel, bleached by the sun over the years of standing proud of the nourishing seawater.

The city's mass is comprised of many coral outcrops, breaching the surface of the water for miles around, each one differing in spread and height to the next, and all interlinked by networks of roads and bridges, some held up on struts built upon the rocky foundations not far below the surface, others hewn from arms of inter crossing corals, with driftwood and seaweed suspension bridges creating pathways in the higher levels of the city, precariously strapped and tacked into the hollow structures. 

The city is packed, busy and bustling. From afar the quick, scurrying movements of the inhabitants trying to avoid the burning glare, dipping in and out of the shadows, create illusions in their brightly coloured clothes, as is the fashion, of the fish that once inhabited the coral years ago, meters below. The inhabitants are rarely seen in entirety, as despite dressing brightly, this is to bring colour to their faded city, they themselves however prefer to stay out of the light, preserving their pale skin from the scorching suns' glare and heat.  

You descend into the city of coral husks, the buildings growing larger and more close knit the further you go. Every inch of the exposed calcium carbonate skeleton of the miniature creatures that built it is put to some use or another, buildings in all shapes and sizes, towering pillars of off-white in the midday sun. On the larger islands buildings are stacked high one atop the other, different forms flaring out and fighting for space. The sea level streets are thin and winding, shadows are thankfully cast in most places, even in the height of the day, shielded from the burning sun by the great splays of flat growing coral that now serve as high above walkways, balconies and roofs. The buildings are created from these rocky forms through the chiselling of doorways and windows into the thick coral exoskeleton. It is not uncommon to see a new doorway or pathway being hewn into the side of a structure by a troupe of workmen, Sendsel is constantly evolving, the inhabitants endeavouring to find new ways to get around the multi-levelled city more efficiently, creating a mass of interweaving pathways across the levels. Sometimes spiral staircases line the outside of columns too thin to be hollows for houses, with driftwood banisters to keep the unwary from falling in some cases many storeys down to the hard rock below. Despite their obvious skill with a pickaxe and chisel, decorative stone carving work is uncommon in Sendsel. The inhabitants are unwilling to exert themselves too strenuously in the heat of day for a work they know will be worn away by the constant battering of the elements, heavy rain downpours, when they come, wind and waves. Because of this the windows of most buildings are small and square, with driftwood shutters to keep out the sun in the day and protect from the harshness of the elements in the case of a tropical storm, when large waves come crashing down on the thankfully sound city, and anything not protected within the strong, rocky city walls or firmly secured is washed away to sea. This however starkly juxtaposes the curving, natural shapes of many of the buildings, the only clue as to them once being very much alive, despite appearing as no more than rock now. 

The inhabitants of Sendsel put to use any and all materials they collect and scavenge from the ocean and that wash up at the edges of the city. The marketplace stalls boast roofs of large clam shells, dredged from the ocean floor in search of pearls and other treasures. Driftwood and dried, woven seaweed are staple building materials used throughout the city, forming all kinds of items, from the slats and ropes of the bridges stretched between buildings high above, to the woven baskets of shrimp and small fish being sold in the marketplace. Lamps made of dried "mermaid purses", shark eggs, and puffer fish are dotted all around the city, providing light in the shadows where the moon cannot reach at night. They hang from roofs and are strung along the bridges and the smaller, more decorative coral columns, sometimes fondly referred to as trees by the locals, due to the clusters of dried mussel shells adorning their tops, like dark, petrified leaves. Occasionally you will see small, brightly coloured flowers brought over from the mainland blooming in the hollow vessels of the huge barnacles that encrust large areas of the city. These are not only bought here for their colour in this stark city, but also for their fragrance, the efforts of the inhabitants wishing to muffle the overpowering smell of salt and fish, unavoidable almost due to the thin crumbling sodium chloride crust covering nearly every surface, always brought back through evaporation of the ocean spray. 

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