Far above, near to where angels fly, a city lived in the clouds. Its inhabitants were varied and diverse. Tall, lean skyscrapers could be found next to rows of townhouses and warehouses abutted one-story storefronts. Brick housing units mingled freely with industrial steel hangers and though they had their differences, everyone embraced the variegated landscape of their city. No matter their exterior cladding or number of stories, the buildings celebrated efforts of self-expression and individuality. It was a harmonious island aerie. New arrivals to town took to the generous spirit of the town and so the city grew calmly, always making room for those who joined its environs.
One day a multistory condo arrived to town, seeking a place to live. The residents, in their usual openness, invited him in and made him welcome. He was rather boring, they thought, with his flat face and plain glass front, but no matter, everyone finds their place in the city. They waited for some sign of his interest in his surroundings but he showed no desire to integrate and remained detached from his neighbors. They invited him to block parties and committee meetings but always he turned them down. His boxy façade sat heavy as an anomaly on the landscape. When he petitioned the city council for a permit for a cousin, though they were hesitant, they could not refuse him his kin.
Soon the city was littered with his extended family. Like him, very little physically distinguished one from another, but even more disturbing, they had no interest in the conversations of their neighbors. The plain gray glass fronts could be seen all over town, aloof in their unwillingness to assimilate into the good will of the city. They even began pushing out the smaller residences, demanding more room for their larger footprints.
At first the city tried to slow down the new arrivals in lengthy discussions concerning the considerations of long term planning, but newer technologies made it easy for buildings to install in months instead of years and cousins started arriving at a pace no one could anticipate. The newcomers only valued speed and height and they raced one another to build faster and bigger, rarely stopping to examine their surroundings, never thinking to survey the land before planting down a careless footing. As their number increased, it became harder to stem the flood of new appearances and soon their gray facades dominated the landscape.
When a seventy-unit condo ate the modest five-story townhouse in its way, belching up brownstone, everyone looked the other way. Two siblings competed for attention by raising floors in the darkness, over night, so the other would not suspect. The hastily added levels jutted precariously beyond the existing steel framework, causing the buildings to tilt and sway in a strong wind. Condos crept into low-lying neighborhoods, planted themselves into the narrow lots and when no one was looking, shot up thirty or forty stories above their neighbors.
The city was growing wild beyond reckoning. They piled on top of one another, vying for space. Large skyscrapers pushed at their smaller brethren until the city began to resemble a haphazardly planted jungle of brick, concrete and glass. It was impossible to check the rampant growth. This continued for some time, buildings massed heedlessly on top of one another, until, one day, the city cracked from the weight of its buildings.
The buildings started falling off the edges of the city. The smaller buildings, no more than two or three stories, already bullied to the edges by the larger multi-story units, were the first to go. Next were the ones who had grown too quickly on unstable foundations and concrete formwork that had not adequately dried. Structural steel built with improper welds gave way and building after building tumbled down. Even the limestone mansions, who had moved away from center city, thinking themselves safe on larger parcels of green, risked their lives at the forested limits of the city as it began to crumble.
They fell helplessly, tossed by clouds and wind. The larger buildings, or what remained of them, unable to manoeuver through the skies, resigned themselves to the heaviness of their masonry. Even the smaller, more nimble structures were prone to facades shearing off, their cantilevered additions toppling over as roof beams splintered. Entire structures plummeted off the disintegrating city into the sky below.
Down they fell, concrete slabs cracking apart, splitting skyscrapers in half and careening widely into masonry bearing walls. Office building curtain walls shattered, hurtling outward. Neighboring rowhouses tried to stay together in the chaos but the forces tearing apart the city proved too strong and one by one they plunged. No one was immune to gravity.
Some landed in the eager limbs of predatory trees. The vertical wall of dense forest swallowed the buildings whole in a landslide of branches and broken material. Still others fell into the sea, tossed about the waves until they could no longer stay afloat. They drowned in its churning waters.
A handful of buildings fell to the safety of land. They were few in number. For a long while, through the passing of several seasons, they lay where they had fallen, in silence, too traumatized by the fall to move. The landscape, originally shaken by the impact of new structures, gradually reclaimed their growth, weaving in and out of the broken windows. Another decade of inertia passed before the buildings slowly roused themselves to motion. They woke to a land barren of life. All around them were their own broken foundations and half salvaged walls. Desolate and heartbroken, they retreated into themselves and were never seen again.