(Im)possible Chicago #10
Every ten years the fires come.
Starting from Land Grant Fire Ignition Stations strategically gridded on the outskirts of the city, they come howling, coronal, as though the prairies have sprouted solar prominences arcing and looping eastward towards the lake.
First they stream through the fire avenues of the Emerald Necklace, extended, renetworked and planted with highly combustible trees and shrubbery for this decennial event. Once a neighborhood is surrounded, the flaming noose contracts and gorges on the trapped kindling.
Those who evacuate—taking this as a reason to go on vacation—live in Shinto-built bungalows. Before leaving, they move what belongings they want saved, if any, down to their climate-controlled basements or off-site in self-storage units, also hermetically sealed. These are all tiny spaces, for no one in the city is a pack rat.
The last on the checklist is to turn on the GPS transmitter. This will make it easier for them to locate their charred homestead in what will certainly be a landscape devoid of recognizable landmarks, let alone passable roads. When they do return, they can rebuild on the same site, but they can also choose to make camp elsewhere. It is the basements that are deeded. The land and air rights are not parceled out.
Most residents stay to ride out the firestorm, however, holed up in their thickly concreted bungalows. They only need to stock up on food and water for a week and, most critically, tap in to the city's underground network of O2 tunnels to supply their bunkers with breathable air.
To pass the time, they tune in to The Burn Channel, watching Anderson Cooper survey the ongoing conflagration inside his Nomex suit. A solitary astronaut on the surface of Mercury.
They check when the nearest firefront will singe through their street, scorch their gardens and evaporate the past decade's ornamental fads from their home's exterior. The sights of skyscrapers collapsing are eagerly anticipated.
Correspondingly, they participate in online public forums to design a new city. All aspects of the city in waiting are decided by popular vote. This democratic form of urban planning have in the past resulted in wildly experimental urban forms and at other times, carbon copies of the White City.
Whatever city they get next, it will be yet another fleeting thing, turning fugitive in ten years' time.