Block Party

The object appeared early one morning, disturbing the slums below with a muggy blast of displaced air. It hovered in silence, a mile long expanse of black suspended a few hundred meters above the dirt. When dawn broke, the locals emerged into an unearthly shade. Fearing it would come crashing down, the majority fled in terror, flooding into leafy middle class suburbs. The government intervened by lunchtime, forcing the escaping residents back via a traditional army crackdown.

The Americans and Chinese arrived twenty four hours later, expressing an interest in the name of science and humanity. Leasing air bases on opposite sides of the city, they paid vast sums to secure immediate access to the area. The Russians weren't far behind, nor the Europeans, who, to save money, sufficed with sharing the French embassy.

The object looked on.

The city buzzed beneath a symphony of airlifts; a soundtrack of foreign troops and equipment pouring into the area. The Americans accused the Chinese of importing nuclear weapons. The Chinese counter-accused, producing photos of US attack satellites manoeuvring overhead. The UN warned all parties not to make provocative gestures. The Europeans observed from a safe distance, sipping iced tea served daily by a nice lady from the local neighbourhood.

The object looked on.

Fabriano Brillo, a billionaire Brazilian entrepreneur, declared he would live beneath the object until contact was established. The army, together with dozens of bulldozers, erased half a mile of slums in less than a week, forcing the locals to relocate again as real estate values shot from zero to millions overnight. A vast concrete wall was hastily erected — twenty meters high and topped with razor wire, it made the West Bank look benign by comparison. Luxury apartment blocks sprung up from the reclaimed land beyond, reaching up towards the object above. Thousands toiled to complete the builds in record time, arriving in convoys of bus, crane, and truck.

The object looked on.

Ranya, a local mechanic, had plans. Rigging together a seat, an electric motor and some helium balloons, he floated off one sticky afternoon, rising above the stink and sweat of the streets into a sky dominated by the visitor’s dark mass. The media caught the story, and soon the entire city paused to watch a solitary figure drift up towards the object. The Americans panicked, terrified that the man’s actions would be considered hostile. They fretted over how to respond, arresting a junior officer who suggested firing anti-aircraft weapons, such was their fear of accidentally hitting the object with shrapnel or shell. Ranya was only minutes from arrival when a decision was reached. Re-calibrating a point defence laser, the American’s swept a low powered beam across his balloons. Despite assurances of sufficient buoyancy, the man fell moments later, plummeting back towards the city, trailing a stream of brightly coloured tatters like prayer flags in the wind.

The object looked on.

Holy men and missionaries formed camps around the zone’s periphery, preaching to an ever growing throng of followers. Their voices boomed across the urban landscape, proclaiming salvation, doom, or a combination of the two. When a fire broke out during a makeshift concert, dozens were crushed in the resulting stampede. The government looked the other way, reluctant to become involved: the money flowing from the organisers was too good to refuse.

The object looked on.

Fabriano’s grand apartment was complete. Reaching more than halfway towards the object, the glass and steel structure rose from a surrounding sea of tin-roofed shacks. He threw a party to celebrate, inviting the loftiest echelons of high society, greeting them personally beside a private helipad. Standing on a viewing platform, the gathered congregation raised toasts and took selfies, careful so as to include the object in frame. Later, a local boy served prawn canopies alongside professional waiters — a gesture of thanks to the district’s community.

At approximately 9:26 PM, the object disappeared with a pop.

Despite lengthy investigations, those fateful last moments still remain a mystery. Several party-goers later described hearing something akin to a cork being released from a bottle of Moët & Chandon Dom Perignon. When the object left, the air rushed back to fill the vacuum, bringing the stink of the city with it. Inundated with swathes of rubbish sucked from below, the party quickly turned to chaos. It was only by chance that a guest noticed the now famous poster floating down through the maelstrom. It arrived lazily, a single A3 sheet, similar in design to a million others found plastered across the city’s walls: a garish collection hawking movies, clubs, and DJs. Landing amongst the party goers, the poster settled in the middle of the viewing platform. Upon it was a four armed human-esque figure, standing behind a quad record deck, holding a hand to its head in a gun like gesture. Beneath the image lay a single phrase written in bold:

<< YOUSE IS EFFIN MENTAL! >>

Theories circulate to this day as to the meaning of the message. Many dismissed it as random trash deposited by the squall, despite no further posters of that design having ever been recovered. Others, however, suggest it came from a higher power, and that it holds potentially sinister consequences for us all.

With the object gone, the city soon returned to relative normality. The Americans and Chinese packed up their gear and personal, filling the skies once more with the roar of airborne transports. The Russians moved out too, as did the religious and concert groups. Only the Europeans remained, sitting on the terraces of the French embassy, depressed because the iced tea lady was on sick leave — she’d been hit by a car during the rubbish storm.

The original inhabitants slowly reclaimed their former home. Using stacked piles of waste, they clambered over the compound’s exterior walls. Inside they found a deserted complex stocked with Israeli watermelons, Russian caviare, and Scotch single malts. Climbing the glass tower, they took up residence within its floors, planting the seeds of a new community. The dwellers there have a saying now, a prayer they utter before going to sleep:

Come back any time. Our skies are always open.