BARCELONA – 2050
Barcelona was the neglected husk of a city that once stood proud in its place.
Spidery alley-ways wreathed through the maze of buildings like string, any trace of vibrant colour faltering into meek faded hues. The constant sound of yelling and fast-paced environment practically consumed the entirety of the disbanded land once known as Catalonia. Market stalls began to deck the streets in rows, replacing the run-down business that came with daylight. The night air was humid – suffocating warm almost, the kind that laced around the air and flooded your lungs. The heavily-polluted air weighed down your chest every-time you went outside.
Corruption and deception, tied together with a delicate silky ribbon of false hope.
That was their gift to us.
Some of the more elderly here insist that a long time ago, the paths that swept down the narrow roads were that of cobblestone or marble. Frankly, I think they’ve all kissed their marbles and thrown them into the depths of the ocean. The things they say! Ever since I learnt how to, all I’ve ever walked on is cement; cold, heartless asphalt cement. It was as if the pavement beneath us was trying to be icy enough to make up for the boiling-blood around us and the stuffy heat that tied around Spanish summer. I guess it’s what keeps them going, they’ve already endured the future, whereas ours remain uncertain, if we even have one at all. It was only natural for them to remain more optimistic and spend a great deal of their time recounting the past. I mean, what was there at this point in time to savour? No, only the past could bring about happiness of a life well-spent.
In the far distance from my window, I could only just make-out the spires of glaring towers in the suburbs of town. These hauntingly white buildings, elaborately carved from quartz, were ghosts across the black vista of night sky unravelling behind it, shifting attention from the scattered stars dotted behind them. They housed the government officials visiting from Madrid when they found business in the city to attend to.
Sometimes, when I was smaller, I could lay flat on my rickety bed, hold my anxious breath and look out down at the horizon. Because my mattress was directly adjacent to my small window, it made me feel like I was falling into open sky. Somewhere far away from Barcelona, above the construction. As if I could just fly away for hours at a time. Over a century ago, they say there were two great wars involving the entire globe. We’ve become fond of saying this is the third. The whole world’s divided once more.
Either too ignorant not to know or too vile to care.
In the day, the street beneath my dingy fifth-story flat window was a rapidly flowing river of people. It was as if each figure cruising the street below, carried a unique set of people with them, like playing cards. People who influenced them and consumed their time; people who built them up like the towering flat complexes they walked past without a second-thought. Like the abuelas and their marble, you could say that’s what people were to me. The different backgrounds that swirled around me, unbeknownst to the ones showing me, was what kept me going. The rest of your time is bid trying not to snap completely. Hold your wallets tight and children closer, you never know what desperation can drive a person towards.
Things used to be okay. Before the economy collapsed and the President was dismissed, a scent of newly-found hope dominated a newly-founded nation. From what I remember, mi madre said Catalonia declared independence this day in 2019. That was 31 years ago now. Catalonia was no longer recognized as a nation; the faint remnants of the Catalan language was now only exchanged from one criminal to another. It was a punishable offence to publicly speak Catalan.
Each other area of Catalonia had long-since crumbled. During the 30th anniversary last year, the normally hostile environment fell quiet. The light left the eyes of the entire city.
So here I stand today, on the 31st anniversary since Catalonia fought and the 15th year since it lost, sixteen years to my name.
There’s this snug little pub in the corner of town I’ve caught myself frequenting a rather lot recently, they have a functioning open fire and I’m warmly regarded there by the owners and visitors so it’s good evening company. Sometimes they let me lend a couple extra hands and I can scruff up a couple extra euros for food. Sometimes. Today though, I had too much food for thought to concentrate. Pushing open the door, I navigated hurriedly over to the corner I usually sit in, right beside the tiny sandy-quality TV secured on the wall with weak glue. This was practically the only contact I had to the outside word. Tonight was a boring ramble about how a group of Catalan burglars were arrested somewhere in downtown Madrid. God knows how they got past boarder-control. You could easily tell they were Catalan, the media never scrutinized against Spanish thieves unless they were part of rebel organisations. What a way to destroy morale.
Although the news was usually white noise, something snapped me back to the harsh reality. Perhaps it was the dazed expressions swimming around the room, followed by the sound of a glass being dropped over by the bar. Piercing silence.
So here I stand today, on the 31st anniversary since Catalonia fought and the 15th year since it lost, sixteen years to my name. The Spanish government has just declared each person with Catalonian descent under age 18 to be arrested.
One word flashes across my mind.
Barcelona unfolded behind my footing, the neglected husk of a city long gone.
[Note for editors: I have previously published this but with more graphic themes. I have tried to the best of my ability to make these more appropriate for younger children using the site, but I may have missed some out, if so, please feel free to tell me.]