Art Pact 234 - Golden River


The Auradoor - which was its proper name, meaning Golden River in the language that had been all but destroyed by the coming of the mesh people - flowed down from the mountain in an utterly normal manner for most of its length. It originated in rain that fell at the top of the mount and washed through the mildly sulphurous rocks that the mesh scientists were so in love with. Then, transformed into the yellowy fluid that it would be for most of the rest of its journey, it gathered in little rivulets which in turn congregated into tiny streams, which they went on to unionise into the river itself, growing and growing until finally they formed the great estuary which stretched almost the width of the colonial town known either as Mesh City or as Morgadsville, depending on how formal the referent was. The native folk tended to refer to it more as Morgadsville the older they were, since it had been their tradition only to name towns after their founders. This meant that for the crucial starting years of a town its name had had at least one zealous protector - that is to say, its namesake or eponymous inhabitant, who being the founder was a creature of some power and influence. But Morgad, the mesh people's spirit of far travel, was either long dead or utterly mythical. The natives did not know what to do with this information. Their own religious or spiritual behaviours had taken either a more or less rational path somewhere along the line, leading them into a sort of non-reifying belief in the spirits of places or things, something that was halfway between an art and a science. The idea that there might be spirits that were agentive, like people but not people, seemed strange to them - although their definition of strange had had to be wildly expanded to deal with the arrival of the mesh anyway. As a result they tended to refer to Mesh City by its proper name only when they were old enough to realise that the mesh inhabitants of Morgadsville took this as a sign of politeness.

For some reason, it seemed, the mesh had got it into their system that the early rebels and disaffected amongst the natives were the ones who had given the town its nickname, so although they were rational enough not to over-react when they heard a young native using the words "Mesh City", it had them slightly uncomfortable. Younger mesh, those not yet so tied in to the mesh itself, then appropriated the name as an irreverent way to poke fun at the shared mind set of their elders, or to provoke or shock. Consequently the name became even more offensive, the whole situation feeding on itself in a spiral. Older, wiser natives knew that it was not a good idea to get involved in the internal politics of the mesh, and so were scrupulous in their use of the proper name.

The river, the Auradoor, also had more than one name, for a strange reason. The natives expelled their waste all together in the form of a liquid slurry, but the mesh people - much to the natives' amusement - had at first appeared to excrete only a pressurised jet of yellowy water that came out of the joint between their two uppermost limbs. At first this had seemed a miracle to the natives. The purity of the mesh people's excretions seemed just another manifestation of their superiority, as though they were so rarified and advanced that they took in food and processed it in some magical way inside their bodies to come out as water - admittedly slightly yellowish water, but the relation to the waters of the Auradoor did not go unremarked upon.

By the time it became clear that this was not the only way that the mesh people excreted, and that the peculiar airless quality of their houses was due to a mild vacuum created within to deal with their other byproduct, the gloss had already gone off the colonists in the eyes of their "hosts". Although the mesh people were by and large sensitive to the effects they were having both on local culture and on the environment, they had their own driving force which seemed to trump all other concerns - their mysterious timetable, which could be invoked by the central colonial government to override protest. The natives understood mesh biology a little better, and psychology a great deal better, than they had initially. The biological matter was that the lines of visible pores along the limbs and sides of the mesh people were constantly dribbling out a fine white powder, the desiccated remains of their foodstuff. This dust, left undealt with, would build up in their houses with toxic results, so mesh buildings were designed to constantly suck the air - and the excreted powder with it - into ducts which collected the stuff, finally crushing it into great blocks which were used for farming and industrial purposes. The streets of Mesh City, over the years, had suffered from this buildup - the warehouses on the coastal side had blocked the sea breeze from running through the town, which meant that the dust excretions of the mesh had built up in their makeshift roads, turning them more and more bone-white as time went on. The mesh initially tried to mitigate the problem with fans, chemical treatment, and simple brushes, but it was too much for them to deal with on top of the demands of the timetable, and eventually they simply gave up, another sign that they were far from all-powerful.

Psychologically, the natives also came to understand that the mesh were just as ashamed of their excretions as the natives were, that they found the marvelous near-pure liquid that they expelled quite distasteful, and the dust as an embarrassing nuisance. Piss, as they called the fluid, was a pejorative, and as the build-up of construction along its banks caused it to flow every more sluggishly and so turn ever yellower, so the Auradoor gained a new name: Pissargo, the great piss.

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