All the Buildings Look the Same
By Sydney Johnson
I’ve always been interested in world-building, so for my project, I’ve mapped out and explored the stories of four key places in a world I will use to explore nuanced identity.
All the buildings look the same. The houses, too. There’s a tree planted in each front yard, every family has a pool. When you walk along the sidewalk, there’s absolutely no trash. Gum is rare, but everybody has a stash. Where has the fun gone?
Each day, as the kids of Capcine go to school, this is what they sing. Down the street, lined up, and walking. It’s for fun, but also for direction. Every house they walk past looks the same. The song has always been a map, but it didn’t always have those lyrics.
August 23, 2035. Capcine’s Department of Housing and The Department of Child Development released a statement.
Housing Plans and Addressing Directionality
The expansion of Capcine requires that more homes be built. The city’s Department of Housing proposed and cleared a plan with the larger government to build upwards of 2,000 homes within the next year. Our longtime collaborator, Paradise Properties, has graciously offered to work with the city once again on this expansion. The work will be done on the land recently purchased by the city, and will follow after the model of Division 8 of Capcine. Plans include a park and new locations of multiple fast food establishments.
Concerns regarding this expansion from the city’s parents have been brought to the Department of Child Development’s attention. To address the concerns, namely “frequent occurrences of children getting lost due to the design and uniformity of Capcine,” Capcine Department of Child Development will implement a commuter system. At 6 in the morning, the child of the house farthest from school (we will identify and contact this family) will begin their commute. The Department of Child Development has worked with a large music company, Harmony and Chorus, to produce a song. The length of the song corresponds with the distance between the houses on every block if the children are walking to its BPM. Each child will be picked up by the larger group when the song arrives at their house. The implementation of this system will get rid of the children’s need for directionality. Safe and fun travels to school are guaranteed if each child plays their part and sings the song in perfect time.
The original song went like this: Oh how great this city is. Its parks too. There’s a tree planted in each front yard, every family has a pool. When you walk along the sidewalk, there’s absolutely no trash. Gum is rare, but everybody has a stash. All the fun is here! But five years ago, there was a student at the city’s most notoriously strict school, Mann High. She rewrote the song, wore her hair out and dyed it every week. Questioned her teachers at every turn and talked about nothing else but getting out of Capcine. And she did it, she got out.
Not much more is known about her. Her name, her initiatives, her departure, all have been forgotten. The school did a very thorough erasure of her. But the children remember.
They sing her version of the song every morning; they scream it through the streets. They wear horrible color, and spikes; the kind of clothing the principal yells at, spends all day in her office trying to get rid of, goes to sleep thinking about, soothed by thoughts of uniformity. Clashing schemes, they walk and stay together. The adults don’t know what to do.
And one day, lodged in the corner of a locker during clean up day, a student at Mann High found a piece of folded paper. Opening it was tender, careful work. The paper was a couple years old, and it was ripping. But when the student finally opened it and saw its contents, they went straight to the president of Mann’s Art for Change club. And the president of Mann’s Arts for Change club organized a school wide town hall and read from the paper to the entire school body. It was an essay. From the student that escaped conformity. Her name was Michael Brown.
Can We Get Some Personality?
I wrote a mock poem the other day, making fun of the song the Department of Childhood Development wrote with the same music company they use to get the kids early. I spread it through the halls of my school, and got sent to the principal’s office for it. She seems to think I just like terrorizing her. She’s not that far off. But I also cannot stand this city. And I wasn’t lying. All of the buildings really look the same.
This city has a serious problem with dissatisfaction. Adults do almost everything they do out of perceived obligation. None of my friends, and honestly no one at school, is engaged in our learning. Our older citizens get sent to nursing homes where they are not allowed to decorate their rooms. And everyone wonders why we are so restless, unengaged. It is because all of the buildings look the same.
Uniformity takes the joy away from all aspects of life. If my house looks the same as every other house next to me, how do I know it’s mine? How can I share it? If I can’t identify with anything, how can I live? How can I become attached to anything? How will I want to invest in my home and community if I cannot connect to it? How will any of us do any of these things? How will we do them together?
The city designs all of the plans for the layout of our home. We need to demand connection to the land and to each other. We need to gather and demand personality.
Fantasy worlds that explore identity and systems in the real world have always been intriguing to me. I started developing a world in which I could explore these concepts about a year ago, and wanted my multi-media project to be a starting point for a much larger project. I worked really hard on developing topical tones for each piece of this series and had a lot of fun playing around with the map creation website Inkarnate to put visuals to my imagination.
Sydney Johnson is a long time reader, inquisitive writer and student. She loves listening to and making music, her houseplants and the visual and written arts. Her goal as a writer is to have the ability to guide her readers into understanding even her most complex thoughts.