The town is called Truth.
Despite its rather grand sounding name it is a sparse and somewhat dreary place, a collection of small box-like shacks held together by the unproven hypothesis of a station. Trains come and go, maintaining a constant though irregular traffic with the City of What Happens. Nothing takes place here, the town is torpid, fixed in its ways. At a certain hour every evening the synapse of its streets thrill with an electric intelligence, but over the years even the streetlights have grown dim.
People arrive and depart. For those coming in this is a quest, for those leaving it is an escape. No one stays in Truth for long - it's more than they can bear. The climate is harsh, for one thing, and there's really nothing to do. Pamphlets flaunt this place as a tourist destination but there is neither comfort nor beauty to be had here - all is simplicity and starkness. Yet despite this, or perhaps because of it, it is easy to get lost. There are no landmarks, no irregularities. There are maps and guidebooks, of course, easily available to the curious traveler, but they are all inaccurate.
Those who live here will tell you that the town is permanent and everlasting - that it does not change - but this is an exaggeration. Time does pass here, and the town is altered in small, imperceptible ways. Old shops and buildings crumble or are torn apart, and in their place new, more vibrant edifices appear, only to fade into obscurity themselves. Compare the town as it is today to the way it looked 50 years ago, and the landscape seems unrecognizable. There is certainly a sense of history in the streets, but it is almost impossible to tell the genuine from the ersatz, the souvenir from the artifact.
Nor is it a particularly safe place. Pieces of shattered glass lie scattered along the sidewalks, bearing witness to the constant threat of things falling from above. Leering strangers ply their trade at street corners, offering you their easy excuses, their belief in a compensatory god. Even to look into a mirror in this place is to risk destruction.
Why the town means so much to so many people is, therefore, a mystery. Perhaps it's just a clever marketing campaign on the part of the town fathers. Perhaps the town once really mattered, a long time ago, and the reverence it received then has become a habit. At any rate, everyone feels the need to come here from time to time - pilgrims looking for something that they cannot name - and millions of people claim it (falsely, in most cases) as their home town, as the place where they belong.
And I, why do I come here? Perhaps it is the splendor of the dawn light, the lucidity of the smokeless air. Perhaps it is the hope that if I spend more time here, learn all the little alleyways and side streets, then something greater will emerge from within the kaleidoscope of these images, like a jigsaw falling into place. Perhaps it is just that sometimes, at night, when the talk and the laughter have died down and the people are mostly asleep, I can hear, beneath the throbbing engines of the town's various certainties, something that sounds like singing.