Cedar-Magnolia-PorterCedar’s arms and legs ache for weeks, until her muscles harden up and she can scamper up and down the vertical boulevards and avenues of Ratatosk like a native. Those early days are horrifying, though: there isn’t a moment when she can’t feel gravity gnawing at her biceps and thighs in a kind of glacial seduction. She links her wrists together around drainpipes and chains and quivers helplessly, whooping ecstatically at her own fear.

Her perch is ten thousand vertiginous feet up, and rising a few dozen more a day. Nights she straps herself into bed and watches the world slowly, mistily rotate around the unseen roots of the city. She panhandles her way up, begging scraps from descending salaryworkers, their faces remote behind the information-rich blinkers that make a commute drop bearable.

She hits a ceiling at three miles up: can’t catch her breath. The locals are all wearing oxygen masks and won’t meet her eyes. She doesn’t speak the lingo, and this high up anything she’d say would just get eaten by the ceaseless wind, anyway. She sulks in her bunk, trying to claim the end of the city with her eyes, and plots how to get farther out.