A ladder leans against a Chase Bank. You climb up the ladder to the rooftop.
Peering over the edge, you are astonished by what you see.
You gaze at the waves of green, the flapping green leaves, waving “Hello!” to you from below.
Standing on the rooftop, you survey the cityscape, which has now become a junglescape. Covering the tall buildings are semi-translucent, branching, short-stalked green leaves. Out of the windows some tenants have propped signs—signs that are illegible, so immense is the spreading furry leafage. You hear the whirring of sirens, the reports of radios, as the National Guard trundles through the city with flamethrowers and scythes. Scything and scalping and sickling and burning the vines. And then there is the vigilante corps—they slice and shear and shred the vines. And yet every time a bamboo-culm is severed or a vine-stem is amputated or a stalk is dismembered, a new one sprouts hydra-like in its place. You hear someone on the street below say that cutting the vines is inadvisable—simply let them overrun the city and wait for them to wither and brown in the winter. The vines, however, do anything but cringe—they creep forward, they coil, they wind, they vigorously thrust themselves upon the surface of the city. Cut them down, they reshoot. Tear them out, others grow in their place. Destruction leads to mass-multiplication. Uproot the plants and the city will be even more tangled in bamboo and strangled by vines. Every attempt at extirpation results in mass-replenishment.
And yet you see a squadron of police officers, hatcheting the trees with their red hatchets. The thicket is impenetrable and is becoming ever-more stiflingly impenetrable. The police officers hack away uselessly at the branches. They hack away at the branches, and new branches grow in their place.
Surveying the plantscape, you see a young boy playing with a purple-reddish flower, and you recognize that plants are very much like children—without adults, their growth will be stunted or stultified—but is this really the case for this new species of plant, if it is “new” at all? These plants seem to require no one. They certainly do not require human beings for their growth, maintenance, or sustenance. The plants that are overtaking the city seem indifferent to humankind in general. You could easily imagine the city devoid of human life and yet still a vast mobile garden that grows and grows immeasurably. In the winter, the plants will wither and die, of course. All that one must do is abandon the city now and return, perhaps, in the winter. A state of emergency has been declared, and evacuation is mandatory.
And yet where would you go? Perhaps all of North America is besieged by the monstrous, lustrous plants.
Look below: fast-growing, dense, evergreen shrubbery, frutescent growths bedecked with white flowers and five-lobed green leaves. Human beings roam across the thistly carpets of green leaves. You hear the cries of patrolmen, aiming their flare guns and firing at unseen targets. You hear the roaring of lawnmowers and the buzzing of chainsaws.
What is happening here? Is the entire city of Chicago reverting to a vegetative state? If this is the case, there really is nothing for you to do but watch as the city descends into green carnality, into a vegetative orgy.
Not merely Chicago.
Swathing the planet, you imagine, are gardens of all kinds, and animals are roaming these gardens untrammeled by human misery.
Looking down, you trace the patterns of the streets with your eyes, surveying their half-erased contours. The grid of the city is being reallocated. Streets are blocked by massive trees that sprouted overnight. Egress and access, everything is greened over.
You are suffused with anxiety. What if the new city were to become as boring as the one it is supplanting? What if this concolorous city, this city of green, were to grow every bit as monotonous as the human city?
(Concolorous = of one color.)
The new city will be one in which there is nothing but mindless predation—a city devoid of complexity.
You listen, somewhat absently, to a few stifled human screams. The jungle is filling every empty space, stultifying human movement, strangulating human life. You cannot even see the buildings anymore. Good riddance. Encircling the city is a mobile wall of green growth, a coliseum of greenery.
The sky is yellowing. The yellow sky irises the vegetative metropolis. Welcome to the Garden of Earthly Delights.
THE CITY OF CHICAGO IS RENEWING ITSELF. IT HAS TURNED INTO A JUNGLE. NOT A METAPHORICAL JUNGLE, BUT A REAL THROBBING JUNGLE.
What strikes you most about the jungle is its aliveness. This is not a mere city congested with weeds, some decrepit, post-apocalyptic ghost town. It is an alive city, a city bursting and bristling with aliveness, a city more living than ever before.
Focusing your vision on the ruins of the city, you see new growths everywhere sprouting through the rubble, transforming the rubble into something other than rubble. You fix your vision on the green grottoes that have formed where pizzerias once stood, on the lush waterfalls that are blossoming where there were once video stores, on the up-thrusting gardens where there were once tattoo emporia, on the groves where there were once hospitals, on the oases where there were once nightclubs, on the springs where there were once post offices. If this is not paradise, then nothing is paradise. If this is not the Garden of Earthly Delights, then there is no Garden of Earthly Delights.
You see the portico of a white house enveloped in green leaves. The Latin School is greened; the cinema is greened.
You see humans scrambling about. Against the ever-thickening greening, humans seem all the more pitiful, almost impalpable, as if they were holograms superimposed on the vegetative landscape.
Hundreds of feet beneath you, on the street: A bald girl. She stops and looks up at you. She stares blankly. With waxy skin and no eyebrows, she seems to have shaven off all of her hair, a Pierrot in the Garden of Earthly Delights.
Large, heavy, leathery leaves balance on walking stalks, stalks that walk down the greening streets. Their spathes enclose lush inflorescence—blooms that will soon unfold in a rainbow of undreamed colors.
You see a spavined CTA bus stalled at the intersection of Clark Street and North Avenue, which is now overgrown with raspy weeds. There are weeds growing inside of the bus.
Where is the ladder? The ladder is gone. A seagull studies you puzzledly. No ladder, no door—only bamboo tree tops sticking up.
Slide down the bamboo trunk. You remember that, technically speaking, the bamboo is not a tree, but a grass. An invasive grass. How could a grass support you? A grass is not climbable.
You extend your arms and embrace a slender bamboo trunk, your face against the fragrant yellow bark. It is flimsy and yet solid. You cannot scale downwards.
You plunge, your legs, like the legs of a koala, wrapping the trunk. Will the bamboo trees cushion your fall?
A tree lifts you on its branches, you scramble in the air, they are snapping, you grasp at the branches, they are splintering, you flail your arms, they are collapsing, you flounder, they are capsizing, you flutter, they are folding and they are falling, you fall downward with them and plummet to the ground, the shards of shattered bamboo forming a thorny, thistly bed.
Falling on a cushion of leaves and twigs, a nest for a human bird.
Hit the ground. You are descended.
You will continue your journey. You will rebegin your journey down Clark Street, which is immersed in a thin film of milk. Your legs are getting wet. Your hair, legs, back, chest, and arms are wet with milk. Exotic birds are released into the wind.
You raise yourself and scythe with your hands, cutting a swath through the wildness of the wilderness.
Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia