The City We Became (Great Cities #1) by N.K. Jemisin Read Online (FREE)
Read The City We Became (Great Cities #1) by N.K. Jemisin online free here.
See, What Had Happened Was
I sing the city.
Fucking city. I stand on the rooftop of a building I don’t live in and spread my arms and tighten my middle and yell nonsense ululations at the construction site that blocks my view. I’m really singing to the cityscape beyond. The city’ll figure it out.
It’s dawn. The damp of it makes my jeans feel slimy, or maybe that’s ’cause they haven’t been washed in weeks. Got change for a wash-and-dry, just not another pair of pants to wear till they’re done. Maybe I’ll spend it on more pants at the Goodwill down the street instead… but not yet. Not till I’ve finished going AAAAaaaaAAAAaaaa (breath) aaaaAAAAaaaaaaa and listening to the syllable echo back at me from every nearby building face. In my head, there’s an orchestra playing “Ode to Joy” with a Busta Rhymes backbeat. My voice is just tying it all together.
Shut your fucking mouth! someone yells, so I take a bow and exit the stage.
But with my hand on the knob of the rooftop door, I stop and turn back and frown and listen, ’cause for a moment I hear something both distant and intimate singing back at me, basso-deep. Sort of coy.
And from even farther, I hear something else: a dissonant, gathering growl. Or maybe those are the rumblers of police sirens? Nothing I like the sound of, either way. I leave.
“There’s a way these things are supposed to work,” says Paulo. He’s smoking again, nasty bastard. I’ve never seen him eat. All he uses his mouth for is smoking, drinking coffee, and talking. Shame; it’s a nice mouth otherwise.
We’re sitting in a café. I’m sitting with him because he bought me breakfast. The people in the café are eyeballing him because he’s something not-white by their standards, but they can’t tell what. They’re eyeballing me because I’m definitively Black, and because the holes in my clothes aren’t the fashionable kind. I don’t stink, but these people can smell anybody without a trust fund from a mile away.
“Right,” I say, biting into the egg sandwich and damn near wetting myself. Actual egg! Swiss cheese! It’s so much better than that McDonald’s shit.
Guy likes hearing himself talk. I like his accent; it’s sort of nasal and sibilant, nothing like a Spanish speaker’s. His eyes are huge, and I think, I could get away with so much shit if I had permanent puppy eyes like that. But he seems older than he looks—way, way older. There’s only a tinge of gray at his temples, nice and distinguished, but he feels, like, a hundred.
He’s also eyeballing me, and not in the way I’m used to. “Are you listening?” he asks. “This is important.”
“Yeah,” I say, and take another bite of my sandwich.
He sits forward. “I didn’t believe it either, at first. Hong had to drag me to one of the sewers, down into the reeking dark, and show me the growing roots, the budding teeth. I’d been hearing breathing all my life. I thought everyone could.” He pauses. “Have you heard it yet?”