Rings of empty, perfect cities, spreading out from the decaying heart still beating at the center of Pelican: streets empty of everything but birds. Headless mannequins in pristine, icy displays. The only life Cedar has found coming in has been around the bars and strip clubs whose touts can’t make eye contact.
“Live girls,” they rattle, “living boys. Quick blood, hot skin. Roll up for the show, roll up for the show.” She pauses to watch two dancers undulating in their cages; the locals circle like sharks, watching her watching them.
“How does it make you feel?” they urge. “Do they excite you?”
Cedar yawns. A third dancer is sitting tailor-style on the floor of her cage, repairing a rip in her dress, thread caught between small, wide-spaced teeth. “Anything doing?” asks Cedar.
She shrugs. “Not much. There’s a festival in the city, I guess. Lots of people coming through.” Eye whites. “You looking for work?”
“Yesssss,” rattle the bone men. “Stay…”
“Not here,” says Cedar. “Not now.”