But the city itself had continued to change in fundamental ways, and, with it, everything else. Space and time had got all mixed up somehow, time becoming more like a place than a flow, containing past and future the same way it contained the present, while the city itself imitated the old experience of time in its restless mutations. Apartment blocks moved into parks, including the ones he once slept in, leaving behind dangerous wastelands. Neighborhoods switched places. Printing whole streets in recyclable thermoplastics had become a commonplace, turning the city into a baffling maze. A safety measure against terrorism, city management said. Cops could download the confidential map-of-the-day, but he never learned how. Public transport could not be relied upon, trains and buses arriving at unannounced destinations more often than not. The austere polar opposites of his boyhood had dissolved into colorful puddles of uncertainty. Effects no longer followed necessarily upon causes, everything was tentative and illusory. People got shot and died like they always did, but not always in that order. Some things happened twice, events replaying themselves, sometimes several times over, and at different speeds. Clues had become part of a remote database, freed from human intervention and the need to resolve anything whatsoever, adding to that database being more important than using it. He hated it even more than before becoming a cop, but he told himself it beat getting sent to the big house and stopped thinking about it.
True, there’ve been a few improvements lately. A new city manager, maybe. Or strategic reactions to the daily terrorist rumors. Whatever or whoever’s driving it, things seem to be happening in clock-time once more, even if the clocks themselves aren’t completely reliable. Back to what happened, and then what happened next. All too fast, with too many simultaneous sidebars, but the right direction. Crime is now followed by punishment, whether it fits or not, and, though it’s probably due to his cataract op, he can now see everything at any distance down to the least detail, as if the sun had suddenly come out. Gives him a fresh confidence as he walks his beat, even if the enhanced details don’t tell him much and he still gets lost. The city still seems able to reconfigure itself incessantly, the second time around a block wholly different from the first, making it hard for an old street cop to know where the hell he is, but that’s probably him slowing down, becoming less flexible, more forgetful.
Excerpted from Street Cop by Robert Coover and Art Spiegelman. Published by Isolarii. Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.