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The City of Mirrors

Andrei Pambuccian
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Great dissent in the tavern: one of the fanatics on the tavernkeeper's side of a debate bent out of his position for no apparent reason and, the sight taken as a dedicated believer abandoning his cause, lowered his fellow combatants' voices to the point that they could actually hear all said by their counterparts. It took half a minute for this wave to sincerely claim its climax, as two by three, all supporting the tavernkeeper broke their beliefs in vision of their adversaries' sheer wording power. Seeing myself the sole victim of a well-intended jest in which true combat spared belief for diction, I bid the tavernkeeper his last faithful's goodday and instead sought a quiet, sheltered bench to cast away more mundane company and resume bickering with my own self - for what bickering it was! A certain madman by the title of mason had requested my personal build of something so simple, yet so undeniably impossible as the city which sees itself in its every facet, the city of mirrors.

The unaccustomed gentleman might raise his eyebrow for a moment at the thought of such absurdity, much as I would. A city of mirrors, improbable inside most settings, does indeed exist by many forms beneath some masons' more inspired sigils. With such knowledge held, that gentleman would merely be forced to forgive the inappropriate metaphor - the city my reference concerns is not quite a city at all, rather, a world constructed on the basis of a principle followed by its less grand, however existent fellows: each fragment of the city, down to its shortest composite elements, must hold the entire city's reflection upon its face. For whatever reason, amusement, trial for greatness or posing an intellectual challenge, the mason requesting my abilities on this matter had been converted from his skill of architecture specifically for this task to be completed, and no doubt one of such tremendous dedication should be supported with all strenght available, by simple respect for his foolhardy decision if not fear for unfruitful sacrifice. Yet all I could ever expect of this matter would be a failure to equal all before it, with neither a single thought to grasp the problem nor any hand to pull into its quest, likely the reasons behind both my sloth and careless belief in the reader's familiar nature.

My standing, if somewhat outlandish for the casual gentleman, should no doubt be simple enough to explain in a few common paragraphs, give or take any digression I might be forced to place. The scope of my existence consists of an unchartable mass divided into countless worlds, such as this tavern, from which one might travel towards all others linked with it through an instantaneous shift, the details of it all depending on the world's specific coordinator - in this particular case, the tavernkeeper. These coordinators, called "masons" among us jargon-dense gentlemen, have free right to everything inside their own worlds save us architects. Bound to his creation, a mason founds his world's natural laws, establishes all from the number of distinct dimentions of space to the least structure of matter - if his world does, indeed, consist of matter - and rules with an unqestionable power to ravage his own creature with a simple thought. One's eyes might ignite at the idea of attaining such existence, though he would possibly be left in no worse state of sight, having already been blinded by the less glamorous, yet certainly more rewarding state of architect. One might indeed assume that unlimited power over a limited spread exceeds limited power over unlimited grasp, and folly! One would become mason, constrict himself within himself and lose all power - even power of communication - outside his own titanic body, without hope of ever breaking this primordial curse. Even greater restriction comes from a mason's inabilty to cause any shift in his own world without resorting to either an architect or the brutal reestablishment of his universal laws, often impossible to achieve without cataclysmic results, though with all certainty I say this, few masons have ever taken the slightest regret for their choice of existence. Without acknowledging its alleged superiority, I do admit certain advantages of its own over the second being.

Architects such as myself are, in most forms, complementary with our law-tinkering fellows. Our ability overclouds masoncraft, to walk from world to world at will, to commune and enjoy existence upon the foundations others placed towards us, though it often finds itself dwarfed by the pure clutter our minds posess, visions grand and inspiring, knowledge of all worlds, each sight and fragment of knowledge fading with the creative whim of a single mason. In order to affect a world, the architect must spend considerable lenght memorizing its laws, then ever more leading great wonders into that world through law's channels. How uplifting is all the knowledge in the world, for one certain of his findings' decay by casual choice of a mason? Where goes achievement, from constructs washed to build new constructs in their stead? Without transition of his world, a mason's power falls to nothing, yet with it, the architect's own influence deceases. Most often, however, the lack of transition in itself comes to dry the last of an architect's love, as laws remain towards uneasy resolution of his dream-locked creation and ultimately drive him towards establishing his own laws, which may not come to being outside the sacrifice of masonhood. In turn, other architects striving for their own work's achievement attempt its integration inside the new mason's world, most often perverting his own wishes with a more or less subtle hand, until eventually, the sight of their own art's decay tricks some of them to take the mason's path themselves. And so cycles existence.

Most disturbing of all were the missing untouched tables, as architects' claim over all tables would certainly result in one's appearace, though by my gaze none took to delight me in such way. With quarrel left for the tavernkeeper to match that against myself, I set for the one table which wore the least number of captors - for simple reason, that the two gentlemen sitting one against the other looked so queer, even for our extravagant bunch, and perhaps, though I had nothing to support my faith but its own strenght, they seemed as if in their confrontation each would grow greater than either truly was. The first, an unclothed - but for the thick layer of chitin on its skin - and outrageous being, with hair the size of its whole body slithering snake-like between tables, though past semblance a most complex and concealed gentleman, able and ready to become a thousand others still the same. The second, perhaps of even less charming appareil, wore a long, black hood and robe to disguise whatever creature had buried itself inside its face's mask of shroud - one single detail broke doubt of its existence, though by all facts' merging it seemed clear enough that nothing could exist inside the gentleman's black robes. The two, if placed one apart from the other, resembled darkness and the light so fiercely that one would be quite surprised to see their perfect embrace, such weld to prove beyond all question that each was no less than its adversary's complement. Arriving, I had given each the pleasantries of voyage and retreated my presence into a single chair between them, where I resumed my taskmaster's sole quest in silence, believing it rude to disturb the individuals. Great had been my surprise when both of them approached me, questioning my thoughts - for I realize now, their cloud had been raining more upon my eyebrows than the quest's solution - and offering assistance. Four hands, if these were hands the gentlemen extended, thrust themselves deep into my problem after a long and painful explanation of my mason's world and its more subtle properties, which took a great lenght for my own understanding, had now doubled it by my assistants' need.

As I explained, each seemed to burrow trenches far within its chair, to gather personal belief and mix it with the information given. No doubt, each were to give its primal answer rash and erronous, as is apparently the custom among us architects, though my surprise came more from the hood's practically correct response than the speed of its creation. The proposal was so simple, and yet so thorough - in order for the city of mirrors to show the whole of itself on its smallest part, it could easily be broken down into such small element, destroy the rest: the city of mirrors will indeed show itself upon itself. Despite the sincere ideal in this gentleman's reply, I felt it no more than simple jest and turned toward its counterpart - which began arguing for a complex apparatus to produce the reflection. We bickered for quite long on different issues, and it seemed each of them produced a new component in the gentleman's machine - a new component, new solutions for old problems and new problems without solution as well - until eventually it swell to something so outlandish yet so distant from its quest, my hopes of a great lenght's fruit crumbled with my hopes of building the city of mirrors. I began proposing solutions myself, praying that my pair of neighbours would see them from a less familial perspective and judge more adequately than their own creator, though once one gave its answer, the other replied to contest, almost as if their true meaning had been in my capture than that of the problem's solution. I should say that, once a believer of good spirit and cooperation to banish all destruction's forms, my shout aimed at ceasing their wasteful - and visibly enjoyable - combat gave more result than any period of silent thought: hearing my spear-thrust rethoric, in which, though powerful of voice, the polite nature of my well-worded request contained my puzzle's thorough description as well, an architect of somewhat familiar origin beckoned me to approach, and that I did, while slapped with each step by the angry stares of my less gentle and forgiving fellows. The location, though odd for common courtesy of taking seat with entrance, was far more surprising given the being's stance of pressure into a wall-entrenched symbol - a touch by full palm, which should have taken it through, within a mason's realm. Such symbols dotted this wall, as the moths which had been steeping on the lenght of my former neighbour's chitinous crust, each a gateway into the more private worlds of my transfigured comrades - perhaps, denial of such privacy had led the individual to stomp the lenght of this symbol, or perhaps, an argument with the sign's craftsman had severed both relationship and link.

Eventually I reached the person and requested motive: were it all apparent expectation, I would have endured myself to question it over all facets of my problem once its own demands had been met, though the matter which sprang from its first sentence in acrobatics dazzling to both eyes and mind was quick to sword through my polite constrictions and detail, thoroughly and extensively, its own solution - a plausible one, I must agree - to building the city of mirrors, all wedged within a tale of even greater lenght, which for the sake of understanding shall be given its due description. It told me of its own attempt - for had it been more, this account would've contracted to its smallest part - and its moderate, if not inexistent success, all in conjunction with its might of standing upon symbols unbroken into their source worlds. Originally, its essay had been tasked by two masons of good reputation, each holding right over territories they destroyed to create their cities of mirrors, and each missing knowledge of the other's grand ideal. The pair's projects granted experiment within two different worlds, each containing its own system of intricate laws, though the greatest ability at the architect's hand stood neither in the first, nor the second, but upon both. Given all different aspects of the individual world, calculations eventually proved that, had the city of mirrors somehow consisted in a channel - one side, one mason's world, extending its image within the other - individual worlds' principles took no part in any equation relative to the project in any way.

It seemed as though, while one world alone could never become a city of mirrors (unless, of course, pursuing the ideal of the robed individual I had the pleasure of meeting earlier), grouped together, one of the two could easily sustain both within its least element's image, while the other would remain completely indistinguishable. What did prove difficult, though, was that both masons wanted their own city of mirrors to be seen, rather than opting for the more comfortable solution of merging, therefore the architect in question sought a different approach: perhaps through joining of three worlds would allow such city to form, with all masons seeing all masons together. Calculations showed clearly that yet again, the city could be constructed through joining of worlds regardless of their individual properties, and yet again to displease the architect, a single city would remain provider, losing itself through the effect. Such sacrifice unreckoned, incremental pursuit was conducted until a simple mathematical induction evidenced clearly and thoroughly that a city of mirrors, built outside of a single world, would always bind with loss unless it encompassed all of them, without exception.

A city of mirrors of such state would have gone long beyond whim of replicating, in fact it would have driven this tavern obsolete, granted its keeper's shift into a mason of true extension, though far from all, the greatest achievement, it would have allowed every individual world to become the entire, achieving total existence though kept within the borders of its own reality. A beautiful concept for one detracted towards witness of a single world within great lenght, during which all could have delivered their knowledge upon me. It would have granted each distinct architect limitless ability, clear sense over the entire and constant refurnishing of knowledge. All would've been towards my caste, if not for a single miscreant whose name I commonly associate with such uncreations as remain locked within an architect's wild mind.

The individual, resounding of the title "tavernkeeper", had been first among masons to receive proposal of the city's building, and perhaps only among masons to refuse such act - none may ever know, save the architect now chained within the tavernkeeper's bounds, as mason void of strenght, yet retaining knowledge which no mason may ever destroy in sweep of perishable ideals upon a single space. One might dare question wether this tavern is indeed a stricken form, if holding such vessel within, though my greatest intrigue had been tied by creation of the city within one mason's fief. Would perhaps a simulation of the entire, contracted in one world, allow it all to see itself in its least facet? "Yes it would", the architect replied, "you just wouldn't be able to see anything".


The City of Mirrors © Andrei Pambuccian

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