A View From Below

Discovered at last they are ruined, or think they are: a suicide pact. Falling from the thin ribbon of the Cascade highway, Solon strains instinctively to beat wings no longer there; Quiana just falls, laughing.

Death is a city under heavy guard. Soldiers at the gate are half-painted, half-flesh, and do not speak. The gates are open, spanning a river purple as wine; their fellow dead rush in, whickering like the tide. They are pulled apart. The last he sees of her is the shadowed mouth of an alley and one elegant wrist reaching out. He strains his eyes for some landmark, but the city has him. He falls down the throat of the crowd.

Weeks later, maybe, and he washes ashore: his heels worn smooth by the endless hurry-hurry click down on the pavement. The newly dead wash over him. Their currents have left him lighter by a name, a history, a life. He knows the city from gutter to skyline, a map traced on the pads on his hands. With no idea else he sets out searching where flotsam is sold: the middle third of a word, 12% of a Tuesday afternoon, noise and scents. He takes what he can, trades what he can, waiting for something to fit his hand, one grain of sand on a submarine beach.

One stall over, Quiana is searching. They pass into and through each other, still looking, still needing.