Rikkae followed the strains of the Molly Malones down from Creechit Square, where the yellow-and-black sulphasphalt gave way to cobbles that the council was always five years off from replacing, pausing to stare at the spectral steeds of a Phaeton coach-and-four. The horses were almost gone, stripped to the bone and grafted with translucent, untiring ghostflesh and crude electric plugs in what was left of their fear and pain-maddened brains for control. She watched the ceramic hoofs scratch the road in staccato counterpoint, brushing past her fast as any petrol car.
The club was an abandoned papermill, where clouds of black toner rained down on a ghostlight orgy of glowsticks, reflective haintpaint, and the fat, rounded blacklight tubes that cast a violet-blue glow on the press of bodies. Down by the stage the dried ink clouds were thick and clogging, kicked up by the half-naked boys and girls in the mosh. Any cut suffered in the rush for the stage was sure to be an instant and ugly tattoo, which most of the ghostpunk mob wore with a sort of pride. The black clouds got everywhere and everyone, black tears running from eyes that had never known mascara, ugly black mucous dripping out at the end of the night and through the next day as a reminder of where and when you were. Some of the dainties covered their faces with handkerchiefs and gasmasks from the last war, but they were the worst sort of poseurs and like to meet trouble as the night wore on.
On stage the Rabbit-Killer growled into the mic, blonde hair streaked with grey grit and haloed by bright white floods from the rafters. Coffin Joe scratched and set the rhythm by breakbeat, discs skipping under his fingers on vintage equipment looted from some ancient, unknown television station, switching between the three spinning discs before him with skill and grace. Electric Bess carried the melody on a guitar that was half weapon, reinforced with plated metal to beat back the crowds; she could almost play the instrument as well as she wailed on the fans.
Rikkae caught sight of D’iz at the back, a dark splotch against the citylight that poured from the open door, unmistakable with his shaved head and the pale clear scalp that showed the network of blood vessels over his living brains. She moved through the crowd, thrust knees and elbows in quiet battle for the back of the club, cursed and spat black-tinged phlegm at the poseurs, voyeurs, and hangers-on hugging the wall and the edge of the crowd, too timid to step up and dance. Rikkae won the back door flushed and with a stinging scrape on her knee, forearms tense and feeling heavy already, but she wiped the sharpened brass rivets on her knuckles off on her jeans and pushed open the bar of the safety door.
The back-alley was thick with graft-whores, sex-workers of both genders and everything in between, more than half of them with plague drops burned into their cheeks. The tiny black crosses marked the terminally infected with STDs, beyond any art of medicine or posh physik to cure. Rikkae brushed passed sagging teats bloated beyond human proportion, the ghostlight leaking through the thin stretched skin where the implants strained the limits of human flesh, and aging panders lifted skirts to flash puffy translucent grey vulvas and tumescent pricks leaking with fluids brighter than moonlight. The deeper she went in the alley, the cruder became the catcall-offers and surgeries. No longer was there smooth transition between human and undying flesh, but ragged Frankenstein sutures tying yellowing and unhealthy mortal flesh to ghoulish, flaking graveyard cast-offs. Here the words grew thin, and bare-fleshed skeletons ground against each other in mock sexual congress while dapper vampires in tophats and tails yanked and grabbed at themselves.
There is an end to even human depravity, and Rikkae rounded the corner to find D’iz against the wall, holding the head of a blood-haired chica with creeping black veins beneath freckled skin bright and burned by too many hours under blacklight and ghostlight. D’iz opened his eyes in time to see Rikkae, pushed the thing away from his crotch and fumbled for his pants. Rikkae’s hand fished out the packing razor from her pocket, flicked it open. She spared only a glance at the she-thing kneeling on the ground—beneath khol-smeared brown eyes and a pert nose lay a lamprey-mouthed sucker with a rough, cylindrical tongue, pale fluid dripping from where her chin should be. A dozen needle tracks marked her left arm. Rikkae got in her face and screamed, ignored the piss-stench of her breath; the toilet-whore scuttled on all fours backwards around the corner, out of sight.
Rikkae turned her attention back to D’iz, raised the razor so it would catch the light. Maybe D’iz would have wet himself, if his bladder wasn’t already empty.
Inside, the Molly Malones finished their set, Electric Bess sending a spray of blood and teeth into the crowd as an artful swing of her axe caught a stage-mobber right in the jaw. No one heard D’iz scream over the roar of the crowd, or wondered when the chandlers picked his corpse up the next day, or gave much notice when the ghouls caught the flickering remnants of his spirit with their flat electric wands, to be flensed of any usable ectoplasmic tissue before being rendered in their arcane furnaces. The pale blue dust of D’iz would float out among the exhaust over Creechit Square, and maybe land on a couple kids talking about music as if it was freedom and love as if it was all the currency in the world.