The Seventeenth City

The things that I tell in the next few pages are all grown from the seeds of truth.

They have their roots in the past, the alpha past, the one which we accept to be the historical, empirical past, the one that would stand the test of time. Most of these things actually happened. Most of these words were actually said. Most of the things I claim to have done, and claim others have done, I have really done, or were really done unto me. In a sense, this piece could very well be taken at face value as entirely accurate – should be taken that way, as a matter of fact, in order for the full impact to be attained – and had I not explicitly admitted to embellishing my language, only those who know this story almost as well as I do would know that, quite often, I have lied.

But I would imagine the reader has by now figured out that some parts of the story are fabrications – that word "most" is so astoundingly vague for only four letters. Perhaps they did not exactly happen in the same circumstances as I present them, but in a different place, or in a different time, or with different people. Perhaps I've exaggerated or diminished the reactions of people to the situations presented. Maybe I've even added in or removed a character for dramatic effect, or to protect an involved party who does not wish to be involved, but must be anyway for the sake of the pursuit of truth. Not all of the things I will be forced to tell will be wholesome or even entirely legal; some of them are certainly not things to be proud of, under any circumstances. Since in the eyes of the law I can only speak for myself, I must take certain precautions to protect those who have survived the tragedy that takes place in this story and still have something to lose.

And what, indeed, of this "tragedy"? This is the account of the rise and fall of The Seventeenth City, the greatest city to have ever thrived upon these plains over which I once controlled, but have long since grown wild and free. There have been several cities before it, certainly, and each city was a universe unto itself, a living character, a dynamic population, a definite culture, with definite problems and needs and merits and faults. It was only The Seventeenth City that came farther than any of its predecessors could have imagined, however. I can make such a claim undeniably, for I am the only one adequately knowledgeable of the tale enough to make those kinds of judgements. In the end, my assessment is the only one that matters anyway.

Yet, somehow, despite all its achievements, even The Seventeenth City had its fair share of problems – that, as a matter of fact, is a painful, shameful understatement. I suppose The Seventeenth City had its fair share of problems because of its advancements. Unlike its weak and disorganized predecessors, however, it was the both the best equipped to ward off its problems – and the weakest against them. And for it the City suffered, and from its suffering would it rise anew and ascend to ever-higher levels of enlightenment.

Though I share this story nestled well into a year in which the remains of that once great City are but rubble, it will defy linear boundaries of time and diverge repeatedly, skipping around the timeline as things come back to me. The Seventeenth City lasted an average amount of time in relation to the Cities before it, for sure, but then only The Seventeenth I can claim traces its roots back to all the other cities before it. In a sense, then, this is a tale of all the Cities. It should not surprise anyone, then, that I am still unsure as to how I will go about telling such a massive and dangerous tale, apart from copying out every single thought that has passed through my head. Clearly such a thing is not physically possible, nor am I confident enough in the disguise provided by these words, which lay in a plane apart from me, to write down every stupid, sickening, silly thought that passes through my head.

I confess that I only endeavoured to make this account under a significant amount of duress from a close acquaintance. It was never something I wanted to do, both for the immensity of such a task, the time that it would take to complete it, and for how close it is to my heart, something that, after years of having its battlements bombarded, hangs in a state of relative fragility. Some of the things I will have to tell I never, ever wanted to tell. Some of them I wanted to shout to all the world. Besides this, however, there are also dangers in telling this story. I am hidden safely in the story's future, surely, but that may not stop someone from coming to deliver justice upon me.

Furthermore, I cannot guarantee that parts of myself will not slip into the parts that are supposed to be factual – that in doing this I won't be ripping out parts of my soul and putting them on display for everyone to see. In effect, that's precisely what I am doing. My personal perception has skewed some of the facts to suit my tastes. History is shrouded in a fog of bias created by the one who tells it, and I am no exception. I cannot tell the thoughts and opinions of others as this tragedy progressed beyond the little I have been told, and can recall.

The ensuing story has its roots in truth, but it is guarded by a battalion of lies. It is as much a retelling of the tale as it is a pursuit of the truth, mostly in myself. I have no doubt that things will become clearer to me as I tell them – as in telling them I will reach an understanding of them previously unattainable. This is as much my attempt to recall the glory of The Seventeenth City as much as it is my attempt to make sense of how something so perfect could have failed, what remains of the former bastions, and where I am now that it is no longer.

One thing is certain, though. Every confession I have made is true in essence, in meaning – the part that actually counts, where I have disguised the things I want to be remembered, which will soon be forgotten with the turning of time.

This is the story, laid bare. Unabashed. For any to read.