Pluvial – city of the Prince of Carcasses
The life of a skeletonised beggar in Pluvial is not so bad. The arthritis from the semi-constant rain is gone so you can stand straight up at least. You get (have) to dress up for the balls as well. You still have to bend, caper and dance madly as the prince goes by. He likes to scream in rage-black madness at the sight. It’s easier, at least, than simply being old.
Skeletons and flensed bodies animated by poetic backwash do most of the menial work and Tomb conversion. They don’t really get tired. The free labour has destroyed what’s left of the economy, which runs mainly on prostitution and words.
Ancient men must bend at 90 degrees and crackle around in single file tapped out in held canes cut only from lumps of the darkest wood. No pine. No beech.
The blind are commanded to gawp and loll madly in the streets, regardless of how they feel about the matter, though some have taken to exchanging braille pocketbooks which they read secretly by fingertips whilst moaning at the tapping of dancing skeletons they cannot see.
Young children are allowed out if they look suitably thin, ghastly and/or starving-gamine. Average, plump children, the middle aged, the robustly proportioned and those with good skin and bright eyes, tend to get their jobs done in the morning and mid-afternoon when the Prince of Carcasses sleeps. Or on Tuesdays which he has banned as ‘gauche’ and now ignores as a matter of form. (Or simply expands Monday and Wednesday by 12 hours each to meet in the middle.)
Women by decree must be beautiful or old. Old women must be pitied and wept over wherever they go. Grey locks and ragged hems caressed as periapt’s of Age and Loss. But not actually helped in any physical way, for instance, picked up off the ground, or given somewhere to live.
Social events are sometimes licenced if sufficiently symbolic of decay. For this reason, aging prostitutes in flaking greasepaint are in much demand, bussed in en-masse in broken coaches drawn by pale and plaguy mares. They un-liven retirement parties and camouflage happy weddings with broken decorations and pre-weathered paint that cracks on application to the wall. Burghers hold covert barbecues on tomb-top roofs when the sun peeps out from round a cloud.
The sewer system is excellent. Or at least capacious. Labyrinthine. Cathedral-Naved, baroque, knotted like lost string and several times deeper that the city is tall. Presumably the stuff is going somewhere. Though drainage does descend below the water table and keep going, which seems strange. In a way, it’s lucky it rains so much. The constantly running water means that despite much encouragement, tuberculosis has yet to take hold. White foundation, diet books and re-useable blood clots can be bought at local shops.
Men have been hired to paint the sky the colour of bruises and rot, to no effect. Enquiries of their progress have not yet been made.
Crime has been encouraged in song and handy ratways built across the tomb-top roofs in hopes that assaulters, housebreakers and masked bandits will transit silently in the night. Lack of anything to actually steal has limited opportunities for crime but numerous anonymous try-hards still make the nightly effort, climbing around, passing each other on the midnight eaves, sometimes mugging each other in a sad, ritual way.
Once, someone broke into the Princes garret (he lives alone in a broken-down tenement made especially for him.) The Prince found evidence of the crime and the resulting breakdown kept him out of everyone’s hair for two weeks. Regrettably it also resulted in several poems. The experiment has not been repeated.