dissolved. His mouth undulated forward on a long tube and sucked in the black fuzz, vibrating in
supersonic peristalsis disappeared in a silent, pink explosion. His face came back into focus
unbearably sharp and clear, burning yellow brand of junk searing the grey haunch of a million
"This will last a month," he decided, consulting an invisible mirror.
All streets of the City slope down between deepening canyons to a vast, kidney-shaped plaza
full of darkness. Walls of street and plaza are perforated by dwelling cubicles and cafes, some a few
feet deep, others extending out of sight in a network of rooms and corridors.
At all levels criss-cross of bridges, cat walks, cable cars. Catatonic youths dressed as women in
gowns of burlap and rotten rags, faces heavily and crudely painted in bright colors over a strata of
beatings, arabesques of broken, suppurating scars to the pearly bone, push against the passer-by in
silent clinging insistence.
Traffickers in the Black Meat, flesh of the giant aquatic black centipede -- sometimes attaining a
length of six feet -- found in a lane of black rocks and iridescent, brown lagoons, exhibit paralyzed
crustaceans in camouflage pockets of the Plaza visible only to the Meat Eaters.
Followers of obsolete unthinkable trades, doodling in Etruscan, addicts of drugs not yet
synthesized, black marketeers of World War III, excisors of telepathic sensitivity, osteopaths of the
spirit, investigators of infractions denounced by bland paranoid chess players, servers of fragmentary
warrants taken down in hebephrenic shorthand charging unspeakable mutilations of the spirit, officials
of unconstituted police states, brokers of exquisite dreams and nostalgias tested on the sensitized
cells of junk sickness and bartered for raw materials of the will, drinkers of the Heavy Fluid sealed in
translucent amber of dreams.
The Meet Cafe occupies one side of the Plaza, a maze of kitchens, restaurants, sleeping
cubicles, perilous iron balconies and basements opening into the underground baths.
On stools covered in white satin sit naked Mugwumps sucking translucent, colored syrups
through alabaster straws. Mugwumps have no liver and nourish themselves exclusively on sweets.
Thin, purple-blue lips cover a razor-sharp beak of black bone with which they frequently tear each
other to shreds in fights over clients. These creatures secrete an addicting fluid from their erect
penises which prolongs life by slowing metabolism. (In fact all longevity agents have proved addicting
in exact ratio to their effectiveness in prolonging life.) Addicts of Mugwump fluid are known as
Reptiles. A number of these flow over chairs with their flexible bones and black-pink flesh. A fan of
green cartilage covered with hollow, erectile hairs through which the Reptiles absorb the fluid sprouts
from behind each ear. The fans, which move from time to time touched by invisible currents, serve
also same form of communication known only to Reptiles.
During the biennial Panics when the raw, pealed Dream Police storm the City, the Mugwumps
take refuge in the deepest crevices of the wall sealing themselves in clay cubicles and remain for
weeks in biostasis. In those days of grey terror the Reptiles dart about faster and faster, scream past
each other at supersonic speed, their flexible skulls flapping in black winds of insect agony.
The Dream Police disintegrate in globs of rotten ectoplasm swept away by an old junky,
coughing and spitting in the sick morning. The Mugwump Man comes with alabaster jars of fluid and
the Reptiles get smoothed out.
The air is once again still and clear as glycerine.
The Sailor spotted his Reptile. He drifted over and ordered a green syrup. The Reptile had a
little, round disk mouth of brown gristle, expressionless green eyes almost covered by a thin
membrane of eyelid. The Sailor waited an hour before the creature picked up his presence.
"Any eggs for Fats?" he asked, his words stirring through the Reptile's fan hairs.
It took two hours for the Reptile to raise three pink transparent fingers covered with black fuzz.
Several Meat Eaters lay in vomit, too weak to move. (The Black Meat is like a tainted cheese,
overpoweringly delicious and nauseating so that the eaters eat and vomit and eat again until they fall
A painted youth slithered in and seized one of the great black claws sending the sweet, sick
smell curling through the cafe.