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  • Writer's picture老贵阳

The Sea Horse Thoroughfare, part II

After a long break, we pick up right where we finished the last time. If you haven’t yet have time to read the first part of this Trail, I recommend you give it a go before we continue; there were, as always, old brick buildings and tiny alleys, the crimson red of the food tents and the smell of damp walls. You can’t even read these tiny paths well on any map, and so, led by wrong sense of direction I chose the wrong fork and ended up right where we start now.

5. The Hanging Gardens of Semiramis

Who would have thought! To find this ancient wonder, long lost in the ebb of time, right here in the City. I have always spoken about how things here keep phasing in and out, so is it not possible for these magnificent gardens to have appeared in the middle of the Black Land? Perhaps they have undergone some curious transformation, but it is them, all the same, layers on layers of green going down deep below, to the bowels of Earth. The whole place is buzzing and vibrating with life, the myriads of pots of different sizes housing plants I could not even see in my dreams. They’re arranged neatly on both sides of the majestic bridges hanging above the crevasse. I feel like I want to stay here forever, enjoying the view of the distant hills from this magnificent place. I quickly discover I have taken a wrong turn, and cannot pass any further. The temptation to remain grows stronger - it must be a trap, set by the lonely Queen of the age long gone, now residing in her gardens of silence. Yet, I cannot stop, as the trail is far from over.

6. Spiral Stairs

This time I’m on the right track - before me lays one of the longest flights of stairs I have ever encountered, zigzagging between buildings as they climb higher and higher, into the inner circle. I must now be at least half way up the hill. I can still catch a glimpse of the hanging gardens below, and the cascades of wild overgrowth continue on my left-hand side until I finally find myself on higher grounds. There are a few locals here and there meaning that this place does in fact lead to the main road - I never thought I’d say it, but sometimes, when in doubt, it is indeed wise to follow others (unless they’re just about to enter their house just round the corner and you end up looking like a weird stalker). I soon find myself in what - from above - must surely look like a peculiar spiral. Now, when I’m writing these words I recall all the other stories I’ve read that included this particular shape and I’m feeling uneasy; on that day, luckily, I could not remember any of this and decided to continue uphill, towards the heart of the mountain.

7. The Inner Circle

It is not uncommon in the City to find the narrow roads continuously winding up and up until they reach some sort of viewpoint, or a restricted area. In either case, it’s always wise to look for alternative routes down, as you don’t want to go wasting your day walking back the exact same road. So, I keep walking as far up as I can - I pass these moss covered walls of the cold brick houses, prettier than anything else in the world, on this very moment, on this very sunny day. I contemplate on how it is, that I can see something that others can’t in these decrepit and hopeless pits, their only fate to be demolished one day and make place for the future. If I could explain it - that is - to put it in words as accurately as I feel it inside, I’m sure you would understand, Dear Reader. I think about it often, and the only thing that comes to mind right now is that it is much, much easier to see the beauty in obviously “beautiful” things (obviously…), than it is to capture it in ugliness, which per definition is the exact opposite of beauty; and yet, I t believe it is impossible for an “ugly” place for instance to be fully devoid of the quality we call beauty. The way I see it is that places, buildings, even people, everything in this world is an existence, more than a two-dimensional picture with certain characteristics we can attach certain tags to, such as “pretty”, “old”, “ugly” etc. I will certainly want to write more on that, as this is a subject that occupies my mind often.

8. End of the World

That’s how I like to call it - approaching the dead end. Before me lies a gated neighbourhood located precisely on top of the mountain. It says it’s a community dedicated to the “migrant population” which is just a nice word to use for the poor, unskilled workers coming to the City for work. Well, obviously, how would that look if they were to live anywhere else, god forbid some proper and modern place like the Empire of Evil bullshit or other? That would certainly ruin someone’s day. The blood and sweat of the City, the hands that pick up the cigarette butt or a can you throw down on the floor of the lift, the hands that water flowers in your community so that it can look posh and pretty, the hands that toil long hours to prepare food you can later buy so cheaply. They only exist in places like The Sea Horse Thoroughfare, separated from the rest by illusory walls you’ll never cross. It’s in places like this, however, that you can feel the pulse of the City the loudest, throbbing, as they pump the blood into her countless veins. It might be the end of the world, but it is also the heart. I have reached it.

9. Down the maze

It is a dead end, and I do not like to turn back. There was a group of children in front of me, just moments ago, that disappeared in one of the narrow openings between the sides of the building. I decide to take a look, and as expected, there is a maze-like flight of extremely steep stairs slowly leading down to the lower part of the Inner Circle. I dare not think how to navigate these stairs at night, or in a rainy weather. I thread very slowly, thinking a fall could leave me badly bruised or even wounded. It took me at least a quarter to climb up this last section of the spiral, and now I’m back down again in five minutes or so. There’s only one way to follow now - down the main road and down the mountain, out of the Sea Horse maze on the opposite side. In truth, I didn’t cut through to the street actually called the Sea Horse thoroughfare, but I assume it’ll have to wait for some sequel episode when I’m in the area? I slowly leave the mountain as I blend back into the usual landscape of the City. I decide to keep on walking, as there’s one more section on the other side of the First Bridge that picks my fancy. I will speak of it more in the third instalment of this trail.

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