Once upon a time, the two cities could have been twins separated by little more than a body of water larger than a river but smaller than a sea. The muddy depths could be easily forgotten in the golden shimmer of the sunset as it reflected in the glass towers on either shore. Some nights, if the weather was clear, you could easily see the faraway siren call of the glittering city lights beyond the boats that speckled the horizon.

That feeling of something so near and yet so far must have been what the architect had felt tugging at him all those nights that he had pretended to sleep in his cold, empty bed with his permanently damp sheets.

So much so that he spent many long, dark hours sketching out designs and calculating the soft rounding of the earth as he withdrew ever inward until his friends stopped trying to call. Then came the trips on the ferry back and forth to pinpoint the exact location where it would work and make sure the artists in charge of the ornate sculptures in two separate places were working off his same tormented vision of heaven and hell taken straight from the pages of the Devine Comedy.

The basements would house the same ice that Lucifer himself was condemned to, while the soaring heights would pierce beyond the clouds that Beatriz rested on. Even building one of the two monuments was an ambitious project, but both were unheard of.

They would be the tallest buildings on the continent when they finished, but in the meantime, the architect could barely eat or breathe when he wasn’t out at one of the building sites. Sometimes, the workers would find him under the partially finished roof, dusting off the first dew of the morning as though he had spent the night staring up at the ever-fewer stars that managed to penetrate the aura of smog. Progress was painful, but it did grind on. Passers-by on the city blocks marveled at the delicate artistry of the design and the walls that grew ever higher as though thrust up from the depth of the earth by a force of nature.

The architect eventually made the journey to the other city one last time and stayed long enough to supervise the twin buildings shooting up into paradise and watch the light like a distant star be placed in the bell tower. He toured the completed feat of modern design up from hell, through purgatory, into the blue skies of heaven and knew that Dante would approve.

He returned to his home city content and full of excitement for the final unveiling. The newspapers no longer frightened him. His mausoleum was ready and waiting, but nobody knew exactly how ready it was until the doors opened, and everyone could pour in to admire the cold marble sculptures of demons and angels.

As dusk fell over the land and the streetlights were turned on in the two cities across the river, the final order was given, and silence fell as the two arches of light illuminated the sky like strokes of paint on the dark canvas of the night, meeting each other and merging into one. They formed a glittering arch for the boats to glide under, a beacon that could be seen from the faraway ocean. They were a sign of a stubborn hope not to be abandoned, the willful desire for all things that seem just out of reach.

Calla Smith lives and writes in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She enjoys reading, cooking, spending time with friends and family, and continuing to discover all the forgotten corners of the city she has come to call home. She has published a collection of flash fiction “What Doesn’t Kill You”, and her work can also be found in several literary journals such as Five on the Fifth, Cosmic Daffodil, and Bottled Dreams among others.