It all begins with a mattress…


This one stained and torn, propped up against the remains of a low concrete dividing

wall of a destroyed house. Jumping up on it and then the crumbly exterior wall with

mangled reinforcement bars protruding out of it, I run along and jump to the adjacent

roof of an unassuming single story building.


This marks the threshold between the intended explorable environment of the map,

and the exterior usually inaccessible backdrop of the landscape beyond.

Once on the other side there is no return. Leaving the map here traps the other AI in

stasis in the car park of the broadcasting station gingerly peering out from cover in a

constant state of anxiety before returning to their positions, unable to proceed with

their mission.


But I’m tired of fighting.


I’d like to explore this nameless land and better understand it. What are the limits of

this place? What are its quirks? Can it be called a space if it only exists in pixels? I

digress.


From the vantage point of the roof I see plumes of blueish grey smoke smouldering

into the sky beyond the ridge with the not quite cylindrical water tower sitting on it.

Near the wreckage of a burnt out car lie a trio of shiny, bulging bin bags that look like

miniature Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin sculptures without the dots.


Walking up to one of the dark windows of the broadcasting building, i try to catch my

reflection in the glass but find none.


The texture of the ground is like elephant skin, stretched out across an undulating

mass that seems to slip under, rather than up to the overly polished façades of the

the houses scattered around.


A plume of smoke emanates from the middle of an empty tarmac road leading down

from the town.


Green billboard with white lettering and a picture of a flower reads ’Nouveutes Rose’

- Literal translation: ‘new pink’


Helicopters circle above constantly in pairs making long sweeping loops of the area.


A parcel lies undelivered near a house, the name and address on the label illegible.

It would appear that delivery drivers make equally little effort here too. Nice touch.


The surrounding hills stretch off into the distance on dubiously angular planes.


Two blocks of identical flats sit on a hill overlooking a concrete canal. There are

candy striped awnings above the windows, and extraction units that come straight

out of the window panes, obstructing a large part of the view for those inside.


Over the crest of the hill lies dockyards with warehouses and shipping containers.

Some tyres burn in a pile on the pier.


There is a steep incline down to the quay which levels out abruptly. The point at

which the contours meet form a pie chart, each segment resembling varying degrees

of zoom from a satellite image of a desert.


Turning back to face the hill, I am met with the dissection view of the ridge, floating

unsupported as if someone has cut away the surrounding ground and folded it to

keep its shape. The hill ascends along a series of angular lines, the point at which

the rest has been cut away ascending into the sky like the crest of a wave, casting a

long shadow on the rest of the flat surface immediately to its left.


At the furthest end of the quay the sea stretches out into the distance, but comes up

against some invisible wall on the right hand side that gives the impression of being

in a container. The water is opaque and shifts back and forth robotically, as though it

were an oil spill on the surface. One jagged point from the hill juts out into the sea,

disturbing the otherwise ruler straight coastline.


Three helicopters fly in a V formation banking at exactly the same time, but as

though caught in the act one promptly changes course and flies away in another

direction.


The noise of a Jet can be heard flying above, but the skies are clear and

unchanging.


At the entrance to the docks lies an empty guard box with two fold out chairs

positioned facing the sea.


Sign above long rectangular single story building at end of pier reads ‘international

pharmacy’.


A corroded wheelbarrow with bright blue and orange rust sits next to three identical,

jagged piles of rubble.


Now visible out at sea behind the the smouldering oil rigs are a fleet of more

helicopters heading towards land. I watch them for some time. Their rotors seem to

be moving but they never get any closer.


A grimy, dented car is parked under a pair of poorly rendered gazebos with brilliant

white roofs. The sun seems to shine right through them and they cast no shade

beneath.


A chainmail gate floats floats slightly above ground level at the side entrance to the

pier. Set away from the rest of the fence there is a large enough gap to exit

unhindered.


Walking back inland a row of concrete two story houses sit along the ridge line. Over

the balcony of one some washing is hung: a white towel, a striped blouse, a green

and a yellow long sleeve shirt.


Battered plywood painted sign on the back of the tower blocks reads ‘by far the

finest’. The blue paint is cracked and a large part of the image is missing.


Around the corner a set of double doors open up out from a substantial height on the

building with a sheer drop.


Several burnt out cars lie piled in and around the canal nearby. They don’t seem to

take health and safety very seriously here as there are no fences or barriers despite

being in the immediate vicinity of the flats.


I attempt to cross a plywood bridge over the canal but fall straight through it into the

water.


The water resembles mercury and reflects light sources that are unapparent to me. A

fridge lies perfectly still on its back on the surface of the water, which shimmers with

the same rhythmic tide as the sea earlier.


Climbing out on a low bank on the other side I head back in the direction of the

broadcasting station, passing a low building with no front door.


Huge yellow cranes tower in the distance ready to jump into action on sites that will

never be built. This whole area feels as though it sprouted out of the ground from an

oasis in the desert, expanding outward from the TV station that dominates the area

physically. Despite the cars there are no visible roads out of here, and the few blocks

of flats outside the perimeter of the main town seem desolate.


In the window of one of the houses lining the road from the docks to the TV station, I

catch a ghostly reflection of another crane silhouetted by white billowing smoke, but

when I look round this is nowhere to be seen.


Surrounding the glass frontage of the TV station is verdant green moat with a line of

spiky shrubs and trees. Suddenly from behind there is a large rumbling sound and a

tank column appears along the road, their turrets turning to point at me before driving

off and disappearing into the distance.


Following them, I pass a building on the left with no visible exterior wall, revealing the

outline of a dark interior space. The only objects discernible inside are a cork notice

board with various scraps of coloured paper and photographs pinned to it, and a

smashed tv screen, both suspended in the darkness.


The road itself ends abruptly, floating above the barren desert landscape that slopes

and seems to run down below it. Shadows cast by a crane stretch below the surface

but the tanks are nowhere to be seen. The tarmac ends like an L shaped Tetris block

awaiting the next adjoining piece to fall into place.


A TV arial floats in mid air near the corner of house facing away from the

broadcasting station out into the desert, searching for signals or any other signs of

life out there.


I turn back toward the TV station. On the right is another discarded fridge with blue

smoke coming out of the rear. Maybe its heavy goods collection day here?


Above the town birds of prey circle at different heights but in the same turn circle, as

if all attached to a mobile hanging in the sky.


The helicopters are still flying round in circles above me, ambivalent to their fuel

gauges which must be running low by now.


Small scraps of paper fly towards me in the wind that I mistake for butterflies. The

concept of nature feels so abstract here that I’m genuinely shocked and tricked by

this.


An actual oasis pool appears to the left and I make my way toward it, but

approaching its edge the ground falls away and i find myself on a large black

rectangular expanse beneath the map. Above me cars, trees and other architectural

elements float above like a blueprint where the once solid ground was.


The shrubs near the oasis pool reveal themselves to be constructed from flat

sections of images, and the numerous palm trees float rootless along the contours of

the once terra firma.


The walls of the TV station have now disappeared revealing only floating contours of

the building. Door frames float in the sky and twelve satellite dishes can be seen as

well as a single lonely vending machine, dispensing to no one three stories up.


Back towards the sea between the vast black square and the sky that appears

beneath the mountains in the distance is a rectangular patch of mercurial liquid that

glints as another plane below the surface, only visible from certain angles. Perhaps

this black liquid is the source from which this strange place grew from.


White concrete traffic barriers float in a line along the curve of the street above, their

shadows coming into view on a wall beneath the maps surface as I approach.


Facing out at the edge of the black rectangle the compass points NW, but what

bearing do traditional forms of orientation have in this place?


Peering over the edge reveals the sky mirrored below, the clouds forming a loose

ring as though painted on the interior of a ball. I feel trapped in a snow globe.


What would happen if I were to step off the edge? Which sky would I be falling

towards? Will I finally crash against a hard surface or fall indefinitely? Taking another

look around at the surroundings my hand slips on the controller and i plunge into the

blackness.


Balls.