After enough repetition of stepping off the expansive porches built outside each geodome and onto one of the connecting suspension sidewalks attached to them like mini intersections, I began to get my sea legs and soon figured out how to walk with the swaying of the bridges and not fight against it. Eventually my pulse settled down and I became able to hear Ande’s tour notes without being interrupted by my racing pulse.
“Some people who visit think that us Katharians are de-evolving by living in the trees. Those are the ones who think we live like the primates. We prefer to think, instead, that we have risen above the cultures who dwell the ground and are this much closer to the peace that lies out there” he said, while gesturing with open arms to the iridescent sky that could be seen through a break in the dense canopy.
“That’s very pleasing to hear,” I said, being on a respite from the “daily grind” of back home, “but I actually meant to ask what brought your people here, geographically?” It didn’t seem an out of place question to me, seeing as how the rain forest the Katharians dwelled in was in the heart of the Congo and yet Ande–and so far as I had observed through the clear plastic window panels in the geodesic homes we had passed by—the rest of the citizens living in the suspended community were more or less Aryan.
Ande nodded, and said understandingly, “Ah, you want to know our origins.” He leaned forward, pulling his resting body from the side of the rail and setting the bridge in a strange wobble that set me fumbling for something to steady myself on. “That, you see, is a question better answered by one of the members we will find in the Commons. My guide specialties revolve around the mechanical and architectural facets of Kathar, not the historical or sociological tenants of it. I do apologize for this knowledge gap; I’m afraid I’ve only given a few other tours, and to men much less open than yourself.”
I assured Ande that there was no need for apology, and told him that I looked forward to hearing the background of their organization whenever it would be convenient. We continued on and, as we stepped onto the 360 degree porch of a dome that seemed empty, I took the opportunity to wrap a knuckle against the building’s skin. It have a dull thud, almost like when one beats on the rim of a drum.
“What sort of synthetic material is the covering made out of” I asked, studying it closely.
“You must have been too ill at ease during the start of the tour to hear that, Mr. Kuhns, Ande answered with a kind smile. He flicked the beige film himself before answering that it was made of recycled plastic bottles. “And the metal skeleton,” he started, giving a tap on one of the numerous spars that made up a myriad of triangular panels, “is all reclaimed as well. Mostly aluminum from the aerospace and automotive industries, but with more than a few stray beer cans thrown in as well you can be sure.”
“And the windows?” I asked, running a hand across the clear plastic skin that made up the upper half or so of the geodome
“The same as the rest: plastic bottles that have been reheated and formed into large sheets. But where the privacy panels are hashed from colored bottles, obviously the light panels are formed from clear. Each equilateral panel is replaceable as well as reconfigurable, so light panels and privacy panels can be interchanged to suit the mood and desires of the dweller.”
Such simple concepts that were executed so brilliantly. I couldn’t help but think of the pedestrian ways my own society tried to use such trash; I remembered a television segment on a home built of old tires stacked and stuffed with aluminum cans. It seemed like cave man innovations compared to what I found here.
Enjoying the sure footing of the geodome that was suspended from a mighty and ancient tree whose leaf I could not identify, I stooped to study the bridges’ planks. I had at first thought them to be something like whitewashed lumber, but Ande quickly enlightened me to the contrary.
“Recycled e-waste plastic, remember, sir? Remolded into grooved boards that can be strung together like beads with our cable, made from re-smelted scrap steel. Also from e-waste.” My flushing cheeks betrayed the fact that my terror had prevented me from remembering this aforementioned fact.
Standing back up, I took a quick survey around and realized that I was lost. Each geodesic building, nearly identical in construction though with some variances in size, was exceedingly disorienting. I had always felt I had a pretty good sense of direction, but as it appeared to me now I was a creature of visual reminders such as turn left at the big rock, if you see a yellow house with green shutters you’ve gone too far, and what have you. But as sure as I knew my way around the City by a sense of familiarity, so too did Ande continue our tour.
“If you’ve seen enough of the residences, Mr. Kuhns, I’d like to take you to our community center.” It was getting to be twilight.
“Certainly,” I agreed, and, without much further difficulty, followed Ande over bridge and porch, bridge and porch, bridge and porch until we came to a massive form hanging from the biggest tree in the forest that I had seen so far. All of the panels were of the clear plastic variety, and light was emanating outwardly; all I could think of was the ball at Times Square on New Years.
“This is the Commons Hall,” Ande said. “Next door is the Central Hall, on the other side is the Citizens’ Center, and just beyond us is the Supply Bank.”
“So this is downtown Kathar,” I said, shaking my head in amusing disbelief.
TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER
Upon entering the Commons Hall I was reminded of a social reception the likes of which I was similar with from my own culture. Rows of circular tables featuring dinning and socializing citizens looked inviting enough, their warm smiles and waves of welcome to me, a perfect stranger, made the atmosphere warm, yet mysteriously awkward at the same time. Walking through the center of the expansive room that, to my eye didn’t betray that it was a mere wedge of a largely circular structure, we made our way down a gently curving corridor until we found the office Ande intended to take me to. There were numerous glass doors with etchings that revealed their purpose. Game rooms, conference halls, and presumably some semblance of local officials’ offices as some names had but a single name upon it. As we continued to walk, with glass office doors to my left and light panels showing the encroaching night immediately to my left, I nearly bumped into Ande when he stopped suddenly in front of the only door whose glass was not clear. Instead, this door was frosted for privacy, and there was no name engraved upon it.
“This is Mr. Sanyu’s quarters. I’ll introduce you to him and let him answer the remainder of your questions.
I couldn’t help but harken back to my days of waiting outside the high school principal’s office as I approached an imposing looking man of about 60, seated behind a massive desk that must have been hewn out of a single massive slab of an ancient fallen tree. His smile was warm, but still I was uneasy. They all seem nice in the beginning I thought.
“Ande! Do introduce me to our new guest,” Stepping out from behind the desk I awaited to see what cultural greeting they embraced. To my surprise it was the hand-shake and one-handed hug we often give good friends back home. It was a ping of familiarity in a setting where it seemed out of place.
Ande scampered away hastily, I assumed him eager to join the masses in the dinning facility we first came across.
After being kindly offered a seat, Mr. Sanyu slowly lowered himself into the intricately carved chair whose massive size could only be in proportion with the mammoth desk it was pulled up behind.