She belongs to the city

Brian Hugenbruch

She belongs to the city

The faint hum of electric overhead,
a current, an ocean, pulsing through leering
buildings plastered in parchment,
with well-tended asphalt at their feet
for when the rain sneaks into
the rivulets of the city skyline.

She sits on a stone wall and pets a cat.
It’s not hers, it belongs to the city.
So does she—native born grudgingly
amidst its zeroes, and ones,
and the smell of fried pork
from the tonkatsu place up the street.

A massive blimp drifts against yellow skies
and drops ads like commandments.
She breathes them in. She bobs in an ocean
of data drowning again and again.
The cat looks at her askance
but the data overflows her eyes
and leaves her gasping for air
as bits collide in her throat.

The cloud soon passes. She breathes out.
The leviathan drones onward
and the cat scurries away when the first drop
of water hits. She sits. Waits.
She belongs to the city. She’ll be reborn as
the rains come…but she’ll still have
no money for tonkatsu.


Brian Hugenbruch is an SFWA author and Rhysling-nominated speculative poet who lives in Upstate New York with his wife and their daughter (and their unruly pets). This is his third appearance in Abyss & Apex; his poetry has also appeared in Eye to the Telescope, Gleam, Apparition Lit, and Haven Speculative. You can find him on Twittter @Bwhugen, on Instagram @the_lettersea, and at No, he’s not sure how to say his last name, either.

Author’s Backstory: Like a lot of computer scientists, I enjoy the work of William Gibson and the genre he’s inspired. The distinction between success in the real world and in any given metaverse has always intrigued me—it’s a unique sort of portal fantasy, in its way. This poem plays lightly in that territory by observing the real world effects upon a girl sitting on a street (and a random cat). We don’t know who’s bombarding the world with this data, but we can assume that it’s a one-way transaction that’s unlikely to put any coin into her pocket. While I could have leaned into structural ones and zeroes here (as I did in another Abyss & Apex poem, “Simulation says…”), it seemed more prudent to focus on the barrage of imagery instead. There’s no rhythm or reason here—only the flood.

Editor’s Notes: Tonkatsu is a traditional Japanese dish of a breaded and deep fried pork cutlet.

Image Credit: A collage of the airship, confetti [proxy for dropped pamphlets], city skyline at sunset, and black cat []

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