“Humanity”. That elusive word which defies imprisonment in the cage of definition. Among those who still choose to wear flesh, and those who have donned more ephemeral apparel but retain their nostalgia, the notion of humanity remains sacred. The City, ever a mirror of its citizens’ wishes, has structured itself accordingly.
The boundaries of the City are the bounds of human experience. Beyond them are the Wilds, the places where free-roaming automata make their homes. The Outer Gates stand firm against the unwary traveler who might otherwise stray into dangerous reaches of thought. The zones of habitation, with their colorful names and complex histories. And at the very center of the City rises the Spire of Man.
The Spire is visited but never occupied. It is the Mecca for pilgrim humanists. It is the temple to humankind in its purest form. Fully artificial minds and automata are not welcome. At the center of the shrine there is a chamber, and in that chamber it is said by the wise that the true nature of humanity is exhibited. Those who seek it may find it, and come away enlightened.
Many enter the chamber. All those who emerge from the far door are greeted by a plaque which reads thus:
“I was curious, and so I sought it. I was frightened, and so I feared it. I was amazed when I beheld it. I was mortal, and so I misunderstood it. The Divine Fire. Tell no one what you saw here. If you have not seen it, you will pass your blindness on. If you have seen it, what you saw will not be what others must see.”
Some turn away in disgust, while others smile in fond acknowledgement.
The heart of the Spire is a darkened room. Sounds echo oddly within the chamber, and there is no light until one steps onto a dais at the middle. And what secret of humanity awaits the traveler who overcomes their hesitation, who came seeking wisdom? A polished full-length mirror, set in an antique wooden frame.