The guards at the gates of the city of the dead are alive, but do not speak. They live in little houses out in the suburbs and pursue lives happy, sad, or indifferent as any – but while guarding the gates of the city of the dead they are silent and do not speak. They paint their faces white and black for the season of carnival to show that they are alive.
They take Cedar’s voice from her before they open the gates, put it in a little sandalwood box lined with silk and give her the key. They paint her face white and black like theirs and brush her eyes with a black feather. She wonders what it all means, as she passes through the gates into the noise and riot of carnival, if it means anything at all.
The dead are bright and many-colored as butterflies; Cedar and the few other living might be so many pieces of granite abandoned by retreating glaciers. The dead laugh horribly and too loud – they remember the sound of laughter but not the method. Their senseless noise beats at Cedar as they dance past, laughter, voices, hems all dragging at her, but never hands, never bodies. The dead do not touch the living.
The living move through the carnival strictly alone. The gates of the city of the dead inward and outward for this one season only, but Cedar and the others are tourists, not guests, as visible and unreachable as the full and maddening moon.