The Fog-bidden City (2014)
by Dawn Lim, Fabian Fan and Fiona Tan
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” – Nietzsche
2046: Beijing has become the most densely populated city in the world. She is under pressure to maintain her position at the forefront of unparalleled growth as well as providing for the basic needs of her inhabitants – the most elemental of all, is the very air we breathe. Years ago when blue skies first became a rarity, inhabitants of Beijing were forced to evolve to adapt to breathing under their thick blanket of smog. Soon, people found themselves diverging into 2 distinct tribes. “The wealthy ones”, have grown so dependent on smog that they crave it all the time. It has become their addiction and indulgence; it is their morphine, fueling the delirium of acknowledging this waste as their lifeline. As for “the ants”, smog is their currency. They are the ones who push Beijing’s new economy along, cubic metre by cubic metre. They embody the savviness of being able to transform anything into something profit-generating. They have experimented on their own bodies, engineering new self-sufficient beings able to live on whatever pure air (now generally regarded as of lower grade than smog) is left. They are the ones who have retreated, literally, into the old walls of Beijing. Within the walls, hidden from sight, “the ants” labour on, developing technologies to harvest and produce more smog. The smog is first exported (other cities are now buying “air” from Beijing), and what is left s is funneled back to the city. The density and quality levels are kept in check by electromagnetic technology that keep the smog close to the ground, for ease of consumption by “the wealthy ones”. Even the city’s ever burgeoning number of cars now run under the walls so no particle of the fumes produced will be wasted since they can be channeled directly to the perimeter of the walls for quick distribution. Now the only smog-free areas run above these old walls of Beijing – the very walls that once kept out conquerors; that distinct societal classes. These walls are once again the city’s fortification; standing guard of the complex network within that is the engine for her survival. Beings from the 2 tribes cross paths only during those fractions of a day when “the wealthy ones” hurry to get above ground after exiting the subway. At the threshold, they catch a glimpse of the elaborate system within the wall that keeps them alive. But they think nothing of it, and carry on with their smoghelmets that help them take in their daily dose, and they watch their smogmeters in case they need more from the smogxygen tanks, or a shot from the smogeedle. At lunch, they treat themselves to a smogacola. Otherwise, by nightfall, they indulge in some smogcohol. From forbidden to fog-bidden – this could really be her future. After all, that which does not kill us makes us stronger – Nietzsche.