Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction challenge : #floatingcityandme


Painting by Makis E. Warlamis


It appeared overnight, a city rooted in the clouds hanging above our own city. People poured from offices to see it, phones pressed against their ears. They shuffled out of shops and supermarkets, basket in hand, unpaid for cans of beans and bunches of bananas squashed against the wire netting.

Photos of it went viral, countless teenagers sharing videos of themselves, the city lined up behind them so it seemed to perch on one shoulder – #floatingcityandme.

My neighbour set up his telescope, zoomed in on the shimmering glass, the pristine marble bridges and piazzas, fountains with water falling in rainbows, white driving pods arcing over terracotta rooves, plunging into banks of cloud like riders on a log flume. ‘It’ll be the Russians,’ he said. ‘Or the Chinese showing off.’

As the days passed I watched my fellow citizens change. Shoulders humped deeper, heads ducking behind upturned collars despite the summer heat. Slurs and curses were muttered under the breath or not voiced at all, a whole city scared of being overheard and watched, a whole city muted.

A TV sweaty evangelist said Jesus had arrived. That he had towed Heaven with him and was waiting patiently amid the clouds for the Chosen to join him. Though the evangelist stayed here, readjusting his polyester wig, hand to the screen, waiting for your call.

Probes were sent, drones with cameras and dials and measuring equipment humming like dragonflies over a pond, and returned with nothing but flattened midges and dirty ice crystals.

One night as I returned from work, my neighbour beckoned me over, pointing to the telescope. Through the lens I saw the floating city’s now smog smeared glass, the fountains clogged with oil and plastic packaging, the driving pods bumper to bumper, a tailback looping round the cloud three times as if congestion and pollution were diseases we had spread, contagious through the atmosphere. My neighbour just shrugged and screwed on the lens cap.

The next day the floating city had vanished, leaving only cloud behind and after a week or so of watching the sky, the city returned to normal, collars turned down, car horns and music and shouting and cussing floating to the gap where the city had shimmered.

And we were alone again.


Written for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. See the pic and be inspired. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

The painting reminded me of a news story last year, where a city appeared in the clouds above a city in China. Scientists have said it was a mirage but  of course, the general public had other, more sci-fi and millenialist interpretations. See here to find out more.


22 thoughts on “Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction challenge : #floatingcityandme

  1. I really liked the twist on this, as depressing as it was. Most speculative fiction asks what will happen to us if we encounter the magical or the alien, so the idea that the “other” would be damaged just by being close to us — and that we would become increasingly jaded to the point of not caring — is an interesting and believable (if, again, depressing) change of pace. Nice use of the prompt!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Joy. Yes, sadly it feels believable, even if I hope it would never happen! We do become bored and easily distracted so easily, don’t we? Thanks so much for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Agree with Joy’s comment, and the painting really primed my imagination nicely (seemed to complement or inform the image you described too). Liked the pace and compressed detail. Coming around to this format I think.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Bill! The painting triggered memories of the news report and those weird, Independance Day special effect-like images over China. Some people wanted to think they showed a gateway to another dimension, so that got me thinking. Thanks for the notes on the compressed style – feedback always welcome 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. All the stories so far have been strangely non-utopic. They all have some not very pleasant twist to them. I like your idea and how you don’t get bogged down in the whys and the wherefors of the floating island, nor do you speculate on where it went. Keep the mystery intact 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do like this sometimes, the not knowing. Sometimes it’s really not necessary to know the details and this was really about what our reaction might be, how we’d take something so huge for granted or twist it to our own ends – and how as a race we poison anything we come into contact with. Thanks Jane 🙂


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