You see the real name for the Corpsewine is the Minerva. Just everybody calls it the Corpsewine. There is a good reason for this, further down the river, there was an old winery. This winery had been run by one family for generations – started up from the hard work of Dutch settlers, the Van Schaafes. They built the whole place from scratch, struggled with poverty, bad seasons and disease to produce a fine wine. Their unique blend made them icons. And for two more generations, they were still reaping the rewards and accolades within the wine industry. This all came to an end, when it was discovered that human remains were found in the wine. The story is that the stress to succeed drove the Van Schaafes mad, and they began to experiment with different ingredients, including using human parts, even entire bodies in the wine, to give it “a full body of flavour”. Much to the anger of the rest of the city, the Van Schaafes were driven out of town, never to be seen again.
Of course, that is just a story. Myth is always more popular than the facts. Chances are that someone had decided to take the plunge off the Sorrows. A good few days of rain will see these canals on the brink of flooding, and their current becomes more rapid. A human body would easily be carried over the course of days right into the river where the winery sits. At this point in the century, the river wasn’t so polluted, so the winery would have easily used water from the river to supplement the production of the wine. Even a small piece of the body could easily contaminate the entire fermentation process. Goodbye wine business. Rumours about the Van Schaafes easily spread and now their descendants live under a different name. And the river would become the Corpsewine. Regardless of the scale of the tragedy that you believe in, if you have a Van Schaafe wine in your cellar, then you’re set for life.
I pass by the ruins of the Matriarch Hotel. No one has built here since the Valentines Day Massacre that happened almost a decade ago. It was the day before the lockdown of the entire city. Everywhere couples young and old killed themselves, each other or died together. They cut themselves open, jumped off buildings, leapt in front of moving vehicles, gassed themselves, shot each other, and countless other tragedies. The body count was astounding. However, the Matriarch Hotel was where a few believe was the “ground zero” of the whole terrible day. This former five star business was a vibrant retreat for lovers, seeking to awaken their desires and explore their fantasies. So Valentines Day comes around, the entire hotel is fully booked and late into the night the entire building is one fire. Every room has been set alight. It looked like a lighthouse from hell. The fire crews came, but they would not go near it. Not because of the heat of the flames, but the fact that the occupants were leaping from the windows, their burnt human wreckage crashing to the ground. Even to this day, the price of the land where the Matriarch used to stand goes down, but no one buys it.
Our city is strange. Born under a bad star and built on corrupted ground, this entire place feels haunted. Everyday, even through summer, is cold, windswept and terminally overcast. Dark clouds with no rain, everything lives under a massive stain in the sky. This city’s nature seeps into our lives. It’s a madness that’s difficult to comprehend and worse to control. When one person does something here, often something terrible, it will spread to another person and they will copy the action. And another person will do it. And another. And more. This viral effect has resulted in a complete lockdown of the city. Private automobiles are prohibited, along with weapons. There is a camera and loudspeaker on every corner. People strive to live alone, renting whatever they can to be by themselves. Nobody is expecting to buy property that would mean an investment and a reason to stay, which no one here has. The police have been given emergency powers and a special branch is dedicated to investigating these events. Regardless, of what we know and what we have seen we are no closer to solving the mystery of this city.
I walk down the main street, joining others in their solemn march to work. Very few cars exist on the roads anymore. Private ownership of vehicles exist on the roads is strictly controlled. The public transport system is also a nightmare, with drivers being on routes no longer than a month to prevent “unwanted stress”. The psychological exam is a nightmare, I’m told. And I don’t feel like revealing every corner of my soul to drive a bus.
I pass over the Overlund Canal, former main artery of this city. Underneath this bridge and in other subterranean tunnels of this massive canal lies the most intricate collection of painted works within the entire city. The art gallery has been closed for years now. the city is a dull grey, a pale reflection of the sky. But beneath the city, lies a strange beauty, where colour meets darkness. I have been down there once. The entire structure is strange and labyrinthine. You can find yourself lost in moments, without light or a guide. Even the police don’t go all the way in. This is where the mad go, when they have escaped the police. I have heard they can paint in complete darkness and then they pray and worship their unseen idol.
The inner city doesn’t look much different from the bleak suburbia. Moulded concrete, steel and dark make up our fair city. There is no aesthetic here, just structure and purpose. One building in particular looms before me, it is one of the few buildings remain that is made out of stone. It’s gothic design reminds me of an old church, it even has stone eagles mounted on the gutters, their keen unblinking eyes staring for prey on the ground. This is the headquarters of the police in the city, the only organisation providing order to this city, which seems to get madder everyday.
There is a man standing on the marble steps of the headquarters. His name is Mandlebrot. He seems to always be smiling. Dark glasses hide eyes which I have never seen. There is only one reason that Mandlebrot waits on the step for me to get to work. Something terrible has happened.