“You’ll need to drop your coat with the doorman and for that you’ll need to pay a fee…” Lilith said inclining her head toward the girl at an angle that made it appear almost dislocated. “I don’t have any money on me…” Absinthe said helplessly, she was wearing only a simple camisole top, a pair of hip-hugging pocketless orange shorts and a pair rainbow-colored socks. “No? Surely you have something precious…a memory perhaps?” The cat asked studying the girl, green eyes like pools of anti-freeze sickly sweet and toxic. “A memory?” The girl asked chewing her lip nervously. There were so few moments in her life sufficiently formed to allow for reflection that she was hesitant to part with any of them. “Hold out your hand and focus on a memory…but know that whatever moment you choose will be lost to you…” The cat said and for a long time Absinthe was silent, her face an estuary of fluid emotions that were simultaneously coalescing and repelling. At length she came upon a memory that she could part with but only because it might be replayed with the same wonderment that she had originally regarded it. Focusing on the memory she felt her palm grow warm, felt the fibers in her flesh tingle as if charged with electric currents. The energy condensed into a single brass coin with symbols for which her untrained eyes could derive no meaning.
“Good now hand the coin to the Gatekeeper…” Lilith said causing Absinthe to look up with a start because she could not remember having seen anyone near the wrought-iron door when her eyes had first fallen upon it. The sentry was 7 ft tall, of a cyanic pallor that suggested death through either exsangiunation or hypoxia. He wore only the remnants of what was once a clergy man’s robes, and beneath the rough fabric his sinewy flesh was riddled with holes. His hair (if it could be identified as such) was not arranged in any particular fashion and his lack of consideration had left it gnarled and matted like syndactyly-afflicted fingers sticking together at every seam. His eyes were pools of black, so viscous that is seemed to take the creature a good deal of effort to align them. His face was angular high cheekbones swallowed shadows and his suppurating mouth was pulled so taunt that it looked starched and ironed. Extending a taloned hand, which was longer than Absintthe’s entire forearm, he waited solemn, expectant. The girl dropped the coin into the cup of his cretaceous palm where it vanished on delivery. “Leave your body here…” The voice came as if extricated forcefully through the bowels, as a vibration that quickened in her pulse and sank acidic into the hollows of her bones. Before the tremulous girl could respond the creature disconnected its jaw and opened wide its mouth beyond which lie neither teeth nor tongue, only emptiness. The sensation was like pulling hair from a drain pipe a sense of muculent decay and tangled resistance. For a split second she felt the hysteria of her nerves being unstitched.
When Absinthe awoke she was beyond the gate and Lilith was seated before her, delicate paw lifted to the insistence of a sandpaper tongue. “Whatever you do don’t look back…” The feline instructed eyes cold and surgical. The girl nodded no longer sensing her feet on the ground lest of all the boundaries of a reassuring flesh (or coat as Lilith had crudely called it). She felt expansive, dimensionless, free. She was now one of the “Vapor Men” and this realization filled her with both terror and awe. Even though she did not look back she heard the distinct sound of a windpipe gagging on a large object and she knew it was her cast off body being devoured, in painfully slow increments. “Its a safety precaution…and if it makes you feel any better your body is in a pocket plane not that things innards…” Lilith assured the girl who was shaking despite the absence of nerves or flesh. No words in that moment would have completely composed her.
“This is important aye so listen? Your soul and body can’t be separated for too long so keep close and don’t loiter…that’s the first thing…the second thing…this town is like any other you want to buy something you need jink…the problem is to get jink you’d either need to steal it or work for it…you haven’t got time to acquire a normal job and in that form you wouldn’t be good for much anyways…the only commodity you have, as far as I can tell, is your memories…you could share them at the Sensorium…the more details…the more senses involved…the more jink you can earn and its quick…they seal them inside sensory stones where anyone can come and make acquaintance…but its just the psychic imprint…you won’t lose anything through the exchange…” Lilith said her tail furling and unfurling sensually. “That coin…” Absinthe started but Lilith cut her off brusquely. “That wasn’t jink that was a Charon coin…” The Abyssinian’s answer satisfied her well enough, not that she would have ever paid such a price as the loss of a memory for a single coin but she was curious.“Can I bring things back home?” The girl went on undaunted by her companion’s impatience. “Well I wouldn’t advise anything edible…but yeah you could bring back a trinket or two…” The cat answered with a yawn. “What about the Sensoriums can I use the stones? Do I need jink?” Lilith turned away and started to walk in a north-westerly direction. “Not for the public Sensoriums…the privates ones are pretty intense could drive daft chit like you over the edge…” The feline answered throwing a wide toothy grin in Absinthe’s direction. “Is that where you want to go first then?” Lilith asked eyes affixed to her charge whose own irises were of the same haunting disembodied shade.