GAMZE AND THE MODRIGELL VISIT CENTRAL CITY
‘I truly would never have visited Central City if I’d known.’
‘It’s your own fault, Jerry. You shouldn’t have won the Hortus Gardeners All-comers prize for the largest Modrigell on record.’ There were times when Joycabelle reminded me about things, quite unnecessarily. ‘You should have read all the rules and conditions before you entered.’ Sympathy and empathy aren’t in her vocabulary banks.
The sand in the cream was just that the prize-giving ceremony was to be held in Central City this year, at the HH Hall. My fellow villagers in Brynn’s Lea very much insisted that I attend in person, when they found out.
‘You must go.’
‘We got to see you on the TriVee.’
‘It’ll make Brynn’s Lea famous, planet-wide.’
They only found out because Joycabelle bragged about my win in the Toggler’ Oop she attends. And she blames me for the trip to Central City. Huh.
Yep – so with all the pressure, we had to go, me driving our big old kosho wagon with the kids lined up along the back seat in age order from the left – Alphy, Betty, Gamze, Deltoi and Epiphy. And my huge prize-winning Modrigell fruit almost filling the back bed where I usually carried the barrows, mini-plough and cutters.
‘It looks like Gamze,’ Alphy unkindly said. Actually, that was true enough, but I tweaked his nasal protrusion to teach him not to be hurtful to his sister.
We started off along the local roads that I’m accustomed to, and it was great. Everybody had banners out, all congratulations and well-wishing. That’s a gardener’s joke; well-wishing means they’re hoping you fall down a well and drown. They’re a bit of a funny lot in the village, but they mean well; or is that a double pun on something?
I pulled onto Highway 6, the south star road, for only the second time in my life. Last time hadn’t been wonderful. That was when I collected my limp – a broken leg sustained when we collided with another vehicle. It was only the third accident ever on H6. Joycabelle’s still the only person on Hortus who still thinks it was entirely my own fault. ‘You must have mesmerised the other driver into steering straight at you, Jerry. I know what you’re like.’ Not that it had anything to do with her sitting next to me with her non-stop yapping sufficient to drive me to suicide, of course.
It was fine this time, though I was a nervy-knot by the time we saw the city spires looming out the distant haze. But, still in one piece and undamaged, we arrived at the overnight hotel on the city outskirts in the late afternoon. The HighSide was directly off the Highway, with its own slipway; easy to find and access, especially with the AutoDrive that had cost me a pretty pengő to have fitted. I’d booked the place solely for that reason – least trauma for me. Serendipitously, it was a marvellous super-tech-style place that the kids were delighted with. That made five out the seven of us.
The bratsquad, loved only by me, Joycy and God, explored the attractions within the place for a couple of hours. Then I unlocked the suite doors and let them back in. Joycabelle and I had succeeded in our first three really High-Rise Bonks ever. And super-high-tech the facilities for that were, too. If we’d come back home straight after, it would have been plenty memorable enough for me. But the outcome of previous such spectacularities was performing a mass clamouring at the doors. So we had to desist from further such frivolities of a carnal nature.
I should have known better – filled with the joys of the newly-discovered high-T hotel, they insisted I accompany them to the spire-top viewing floor. Little pervs – they knew I’d be ill up there. I went, but I really wished I hadn’t – I’m a gardener, not a city-admirer. All it did was make me even more nervous about the day to come – Central City’s spires and globes were all lit up in the midnight blackness.
‘You really expect me to take the Mad Pack in there, Joycabelle? Among all that mass of spikes and spires?’
‘Magfuckingnificent,’ my youngest declared, just before she developed a bruised audiflap.
‘We should all be in bed,’ I told them, nearly widdling myself at the thought of our impending journey into the midst of that lot.
Went to bed, but couldn’t sleep. The kids didn’t go to bed, but slept for the first hour of the city-bound journey in the morning.
It was like an All-kid Auto-Alarm went off when we entered the city limits. They all woke up at once. Bright, alert, and full of Wows, Zoops and Yarroohs. ‘Dad, we got to go up there!’ pointing at a Skyway Ring Road that curved through the sky.
‘No way on Hortus,’ I told them in a no-uncertain tone.
But I did. Not of my own volition. It was the auto-C part of the highway. Central had taken us over. Some algorithm somewhere had total control of the kosho. And whooshed us up a near-vertical rampway in a really throat-sickening heave, and we were up in the high levels of Central City.
‘We’re in midfuckingair!’ Deltoi declared, clearly begging for a fattened lip. ‘Dad! Dad… Dad…’ all the time.
‘Look at this…
‘up there, down there…
‘between them two needle spires.
‘Daddaddad. Them towers are twisting.’
They were – two needle towers reflecting brilliant silvers and golds of the sun on glass and metal. And they were slowly rotating. Yeepers to the Zoogs and back! They were something else. Don’t have stuff like that in Brynn’s Lea.
‘We got the corders on 360-full-go to show all y’ friends when we return.’
‘If,’ I said. ‘If we get back.’ Not that I could ever face peeking at them.
“The azure river sinuously curls through the city like a gigantic writhing snake, cut by smooth-arched bridges…” Ye Zoogs! The city blurb was as vomit-inducing as the sky-high twists and turns, even without the in-situ views that hurtled and whooshed from here to Bedregone. The bridges even had people walking or triking across them.
We zoomed under one at three-G.
Hovercars on curving rails that tangled themselves in knots and entwining junctions. A glass tunnel with power trains that hurtled off like a bullet in a glass barrel. C-City had them all, and put us through them all, every single mind-bending one. Utter torture that the five-strong Death Squad loved. I reckon they programmed my navvy to do the full tourist tour on Automatic.
Neat-laid parks alongside the river… garden patches and assembly areas… mighty statues and obelisks. Shidders! This place had them all, and threw them all at us in spadros.
We came to a click halt in a glass tube, like a one-car station with exit platforms. Sagging in relief, I reached for the latch.
‘No, Dad, we progged it for an extra.’ And that was Betty – turned traitor on me.
“Thrill of your life.” The neon flashed, sickeningly, just as the cab trembled – like something taking hold of us. And up we rose like a screwing rocket – literally screwing a spiral into the sky. Totally independent of rails.
‘It’s the… Tractor… beams…’ the dead-when-I-get’em-home pack gasped their delight.
Joycy was practically on the floor with me. Blaming me, like for the way she brought them up to be defiant little monsters. All I was doing was gulping and gripping as we twisted up and spun over. Fruggerty! We were right above the whole city! Poised. Hung there. And I just knew… We were going to drop and we’d all be terrified – I would, anyway.
Sure enough. A vertical fall – power-accelerated into a twisting barrel roll and a loop between two spires, and we glided to the smoothest of stops beside an alightment platform – carpeted in azure and white – like clouds. It was the hotel. Yes, yes, I confess – I had made the booking myself, for the kids’ sake. Thought they’d like it.
Didn’t think what the actual room would be like – I mean, the foyer reception was normal enough with pseudo-desk and those waify things that hover all round making whispery little sounds… I seen’em on the vids. Creepy, they are.
And our room! It was the top of the needle. The whole floor. Circular apartment. ‘The Owner happens to be a garden-lover – realised you’d won some garden… plant… flower competition world-wide – and thought it would be nice to let you have his personal apartment – there’s only the Sky Garden above it. No – you won’t meet him – I believe he’s in orbit round New Orcan or some such seaworld.’ So said the flunkey in blue and white, looking a right platt.
It was sickening. Dizzying views in every direction. The kids ran round the panorama windows for the first hour while I went up the Sky Garden and loved the creepers – vines and staff. But they didn’t have Modrigells as big as mine – or balls, by the look of’em.
So we had a meal in the main restaurant – all red and gold and not-so-subtle lights, but the music was okoi and the food was out of this world, ‘Well yes, it was this morning, Sir. Just imported from Poller on the daily arrival.’ Thus spoke the waiter who scarcely ceased his bowing routine till he nearly spilled something.
‘With such a limited time here, Sirs and Ladies,’ his fellow server was a creep, too, ‘you might consider taking a NeverDrop pill, and don’t bother sleeping. There are walking tours – just log on at the desk – or I can do it for you – and the moving pavements will glide you anywhere – fixed routes, most popular sights, sky-tours.’
‘Dark, quiet, underground tunnels?’ I suggested
His lip sneered on its own, and the Mad Pack overwhelmed me, anyway, ‘Dad we got to…’ and they were all over the pervy waiter and gave him a huge tip for the idea and the bookings – three separate trips! I was destined for a death of ten thousand high-city horrors.
Evening and all night! Standing on these moving panels that slotted into roads, and they knew where you’d booked for and you could ask for a table and chairs and call for a meal and it was delivered by a fluckerting drone while all these mile-high lit-up buildings slid past and glowed and had tiny cars and trains looping round them – I was smab-gocked. Even the kids shut up for a minin – while they were stuffing food down and trying to get my drink.
‘Fluckit,’ I said and ordered’em their own sixty percent proof drinks. ‘Hoped it might knock’em out,’ I said to Joycy. No chance, not with the NeverDrop pills inside’em.
So some time around mid-morning the following day, we found ourselves at the HH Hall, where the committee was waiting for us – and the other category winners, of course. Treated us like royalty from Reum, they did.
We had a grand presentation, interview on World Vid – with side pics of everybody in Brynn’s Lea cheering us on and we waved to’em and it was so exciting and fabulous. The kids said that, not me.
We had more meals and drinks and talks and laughs with the other winners and hangers-on and groupies – I didn’t know gardeners had fan clubs. I have. Now. Gamze and Betty run it. Gamze was a favourite. ‘How’d you manage to grow a kid that looks like a Modrigell?’ And all that joshing – so of course, she was deliberately putting a couple of leaves behind her ears to enhance the effect.
So. That went on till about midnight and somebody programmed us to return to the hotel and we were all still high as hovercars till we found the waiter with the NeverDrop pills and got the antidote – the Sleepies.
The over-hyped five were nodding in moments – bliss!
Come mid-morning, time to be heading home to Brynn’s Lea and we loaded the still-dozing kids onto the back seat. I got somebody to programme us directly home, no messing and no diversions.
We must have been well onto Highway 6 when they eventually woke up – like after fifteen hours kip.
They were straight into being full of it again. ‘Dad! Dad! That was fabulous.’ I could see the worship in their eyes – I got a good imagination. ‘You going to win again next year?’
I’d been thinking about that. Mostly, I’d been thinking of throwing the seeds and fertiliser away and never looking a Modrigell in the eye again. But this morning, when we bade the hotel staff farewell, I looked out for our waiter friend, ‘You got any more of them Sleepies?’
He had – a wholesale pack-full. They’re on the back tray where the giant Modrigell was. So, armed with them…
‘Well,’ I said to the eager back row pack, ‘Can’t guarantee winning, but I’ll have a go, eh?’