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The Atlantis in the Sky

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12th September, 11:35 p.m.

My name is Alistar Bloom and this is the first entry of my expedition. I am searching for Columbia, the City in the Sky. As the whole world knows, in March of 1981, a mysterious building was found high in the Alps. From the remains of the wreckage, it was deduced that the fallen object was part of Zachary H. Comstock's flying metropolis.

That was the first evidence in over 80 years. Somehow it felt unusual to me. Could it have been a technical malfunction that brought the flying tower down? If so, I don't think Columbia would leave such a trail behind. They are still wanted by the American government. Where they unable to clean their tracks? Was this an act of sabotage? I don't know yet. What I do know is this wasn't a random event. Call it a reporter's gut instinct, but something big is going to happen and I'm going to be the first to tell the world about it.

Since that day, people have been trying to find the lost city. A new Atlantis was born in the minds of both amateur and professional adventurers alike. If Andrew Ryan took the Greek myth more literally when he built his sunken city of Rapture in 1951, Columbia is more like Icarus and I think the day when its wings will melt is coming.

For over 5 years now, I have been tracking any rumours, any sightings, anything remotely related to the flying city. Most of the Columbian Seekers think it's somewhere over the mountains in Tibet, hidden between the cloudy peaks of the Himalayas. From the evidence I managed to gather, I think the city follows a certain pattern. Such a huge city could not be hidden on a clear sky. It must move with natural phenomena, such as rain clouds, and fly far from any populated areas. From three years' worth of weather reports and very few eyewitness accounts, I may have found out its trajectory. In a few days, it will be flying over the lush rainforests of Indonesia. Heavy rain has been announced and in South Vietnam some locals reported seeing a giant bat, but I think it was the songbird. When hunting for something that wants to stay hidden, small odds is all you get.

Let them search the mountains; I'm going to have the best view.

 

17th February, 09:05 p.m.

I did it! I have found it! I found Columbia!

But it didn't go as well as I had hoped. This place is beyond imagination. I am changing with every waking moment. I can feel it in my bones. Something is grinding away at my sanity.

I feel the urge to continue my journal. This is the only way to document my experience here, even if it's only on a piece of white paper. Some evidence of my existence must stay behind. I don't think I'll make it out of here alive. Even if I am wrong, I won't be as I once was. This city scars you for life.

It's been more than 5 weeks since I got here. Though I stopped writing in my journal after my first entry, I shall continue from the day I landed in this godforsaken place.

In the middle of January, I rented a plane and started chasing rain clouds over Southern Greenland. I circled the clouds for over three hours, but I couldn't find anything. My fuel indicator showed that I should get back to the airport, having only a quarter of my fuel. It was my tenth try to find Columbia. As I was about to give up, a strange beam of light started piercing through the black clouds. In a moment of instinct, I knew this was once in a lifetime chance. If I went towards the light, I wouldn't be able to return. But this was a story worth throwing my life away for. So, I steered my airplane into the clouds. After a few minutes of blind flying, I emerged on the other side.

Then, right before my eyes, was Columbia. My personal Holy Grail. Slightly under my plane, a vast city was floating in the sky. It was beautiful. I kept flying around aimlessly. A building could appear in front of my plane and I would have crashed into it without noticing it. The city had my full attention. I was mesmerized.

As I was taking in the thrill of my discovery, I heard a thunderous scream. My survival instinct kicked in and woke me up from my lucid dream. I knew it wasn't a friendly greeting. I looked frantically around for the source, but I couldn't find it. Something was stirring in me. A subtle uneasiness. Then a sudden loud noise came from the left of my plane. I was losing control of my flight. I looked in the side mirror. Some big black thing was destroying the back of the fuselage. It's all still a haze. I don't remember many details about the accident, but what I saw was a giant winged beast tearing at the airplanes tail. I now realize that it must have been the songbird.

I tried to steer the plane, but I was unable to do so. The hydraulic system was dead. The airplane was steadily gaining altitude. I was breathing erratic. My hands were sweating and holding tight to the steering wheel. The uneasiness became fear and panic. Overcome by them and a rush of adrenaline, my body moved without my consent. I pushed the automated S.O.S. button. Next, I quickly got up from my seat and took a parachute and my bag. My heart was pounding. I thought it would burst open through my chest and then explode. With my hands still shacking, I opened the airplanes door and waited for the right moment to...

 

18th February, 11:35 a.m.

Yesterday I heard a noise from the floor below. I grabbed my things and went to check. I didn't find anyone out there, but I moved regardless. This eerie city is no place to take any risks.

To continue my arrival in Columbia: I jumped out of the plane and I pulled the parachute's ripcord, but it didn't open. I desperately pulled until the ring system broke of along with my parachute. Fear, panic, everything went away. I knew I was going to die at that moment. But life didn't flash in front of my eyes. It didn't have enough time. While I was realizing my impending doom, the reserve parachute automatically opened and I lost consciousness. I don't know what caused the blackout. Was it the sudden physical shock or the relief of not dying? Nonetheless, I was at the mercy of the wind.

As I regained consciousness, I could smell grass. I opened my eyes slowly and started looking around. I was hanging upside down from a tree branch, a short distance above the ground. I started breathing fast, somewhat overjoyed that I was still alive.

While I was looking around, the first thing I saw was a noose dropping down from a nearby branch. A bad omen I thought, but it didn't give the scare you would imagine. The fall took all my energy. I couldn't even react to such a sight. No one would commit suicide in such a place, so the noose must have been used for public executions. For an advanced city, that seemed rather... primitive.

I turned my attention elsewhere. All around me I could see Columbia. But it wasn't the magnificent view I imagined before I arrived or the mystic sight I saw from above. I turned around in dismay until I got dizzy. The buildings are old and in bad condition. Smashed windows, bent light posts and smoking machines were all around me. Everything is in ruins. My heart started beating faster with a crushing sensation. The shock of the landing and the disappointment of my find were taking a toll on my sanity.

Although, it all started as a normal journalistic story, the fascination for this place grew with every piece of information I found. It grew until all I could think about was Columbia. I dreamt of my arrival here. I dreamt of fame and glory. But at that moment, I realized my plan had failed and I couldn't even get back home.

I pulled the release system and fell to the ground. It got up on my knees and with my hands wide opened I started screaming with tremendous rage. I stood there, breathing heavily and in disbelief. Screaming again when I got the strength. My expectations were shattered, but I had lived. I never felt such opposing feelings at the same time. My face was trying to express a new emotion. It was going back and forth from fiery eyes and angered eyebrows to a huge grin and laughing. And then, tears came pouring out of my eyes.

As I was about to lose all logic, a thought came to me. There was a way. This was a flying city. What goes up must come down. It moved freely in the sky. I could, in theory, fly it back to America and land. "Alistar Bloom - returning Columbia home". Yes, that would be an excellent title. I had a new goal. Sanity started to return back to me. A new force was flowing through my veins. A determination I have never felt before. The will of a madman. I felt like nothing could stop me. But, first I must get my barring and explore the city. I must do my research in order to write my Pulitzer winning article.

After coming to my senses, I got up. As I took a few steps backward, I hit my boot on something. I quickly turned around. Below my sight was a giant machine. It was a robot. Very human in its design, but the head was missing. I examined it carefully. The inside was hollow. Could someone fit in this weird contraption? It had a round hole in the middle of the torso. It looked like it was covered by a glass cover, but it was shattered. It also had clothes. I unbuttoned its vest and underneath, it read: "Bettermens Auto Body".

While I was looking at the mechanized corpse, I heard the thunderous scream that caused my plane crash. The songbird was back. I remembered the fear from before, but this time I was the one in control of my movements. I run through the park to the nearest building I saw. I went upstairs and crawled into a corner somewhere, grinding my teeth and shaking my body in fear, until I fell asleep.

 

19th February, 9:05 p.m.

I was woken up by the scream of the songbird. I looked carefully out the window. Its gaze is always fixed on the ground, zigzagging between the clouds and the buildings, looking for something. I just hope it isn't me.

I haven't left the building I ran into on the first day. I will stay here until I have a plan of action. I have managed to get by using my own supply of food and what I could find around. This place looks like a small hotel of sorts. It has a reception and a bar. Upstairs are 4 rooms. I found plenty of food in the kitchen. But it will eventually run out.

For the past few weeks, I couldn't see anyone else around. Except for the songbird. Did the people of Columbia really abandon their city? What cataclysm befell this place?

 

22nd February, 08:10 p.m.

The strangeness and marvel of this place grows with each day that passes. The buildings float on giant reactors. Without anyone around, how can they keep running? What is their power source? Could the city descent from the heavens to refuel itself? Or are they using some kind of miracle energy?

But, the most intriguing thing is a building left of the hotel. Upstairs, I have found the most unnatural sight I ever saw. It is something out of Asimov's imagination. A fluid like door. On the other side I could see the Eiffel Tower. I saw Paris and people walking on the streets. I screamed at them. Nothing. They ignored me. I picked up a chair and threw it at the portal, but it didn't go through. It bounced back like it hit a wall of water. Then I saw their clothes. They were early 20th century items. What I saw wasn't just another place. It was another time as well. But how can that be? I have seen some weird military experiments during my life as a reporter, but this place... this city defies everything I know. Everything is a reflection of Comstock's twisted and brilliant mind. "A man before his time" the newspapers called him. Maybe it was more literal than anyone of them thought.

 

26th February, 10:30 a.m.

I have finished the last of my food supplies. I will have to search for more. I must go out there, where that monster is constantly flying. I had many nightmares about it. It is chasing me and when I'm near its grasp, I wake up breathing heavy, sweating and with a pounding heart.

I studied the beasts flight path and I know in what patterns it moves. At noon, I have 40 minutes to get across the park. I will not return here. Staying put will not save me. I must find a way to escape from here. The isolation and silence of this place is maddening for anyone, especially for someone raised in the noise of the city. I only get good night's rest while the police sirens echo in the night.

I hope someone got my S.O.S. message and is looking for me. I also left some documents regarding my quest at the airport in case I didn't return. I hope the Greenland authorities gave a crap about their plane and notified the American government.

As it seems I don't have any other choice, I must explore the city. I must find a way of flying this sky prison. I will leave these journal pages here. If someone finds them, I hope it will not be too late for me. I saw a market across the park. It had food stalls in front. I'm heading there when I get the first chance. I'll continue leaving more notes behind.

May whoever finds these pages have more luck than me in this godforsaken city before it starts falling out of the sky!

 

This is my entry for the BioShock Infinite Creative Writing Contest.