How will you be remembered after you die?
This is the question being faced by the Terribly Beautiful, former prostitutes who find themselves facing a slow death at the hands of the disease known as the Pale. Is there still hope to be found when life is slipping away?
TO TOUCH IMMORTALITY
It is the dream of humanity to escape death. No one lives forever, but we hope that our lives mattered, that we will be remembered by the next generation. We have a lifetime to create that legacy. All too often most of that lifetime gets squandered. We come to realize the importance of our
legacy only when it is almost too late.
They are the most desirable and seductive women in the city, the women of the night. Men are willing to travel into the most disreputable of neighbourhoods to meet them, offer money and gifts for but a few hours of their time or even less. They ply the oldest profession, selling their bodies into others’ fantasies.
For the streetwalkers of the red-light district known as the Kaz, death takes its time. The disease known as the Pale stakes its claim by transforming its victims into visions of beauty, alabaster skin and elegantly thin. But beware, for death is a jealous lover, who lays claim to any who might make love to those already ill, and so they become known as the Terribly Beautiful. Shunned by society, they find each other and face the remaining days of their lives.
It is a world not unlike that which we live in today, with countries that war and trade. It is a city not unlike those found in many parts of the world today, with cultures that clash and blend. They are streets not unlike those that we walk in our cities every day, filled with people who have dreams both pursued and dashed.
The city sits on the water, industry and docks to the east, a thin strip of old docks leading to luxury shorefront property to the west, a downtown of skyscrapers and suburbs beyond. Nestled between them all, surrounded by stone walls, is a neighbourhood, the oldest in the city. It is called the Kaz.
“Ruined buildings, ruined lives…”
Once the beautiful, prideful, majestic centre of the city, the neighbourhood called the Kaz has been brought low by age. Grassy expanses were covered over by scabs of concrete, cheap apartments grow where flowers once bloomed, and treets that once wove gracefully around estates now snarl with traffic. Only a few of the buildings remain, protected by heritage laws, but impossibly expensive to maintain. They have fallen, one by one, to the ravages of time, becoming urban legend, the source of stories of ghosts, secrets and other mysteries that refuse to die.
For all the things that have changed, it is debauchery that remains a part of the Kaz. In times past a carelessly parted blind would reveal the parties of the rich, sumptuous, opulent attire carefully put on and carelessly thrown off. Today the sliver of light through a night window is reveals attire as carelessly thrown aside as ever. The Kaz has become a red-light district, a neighbourhood where prostitution is tolerated.
Around all this are the walls. Once they stood to protect the rich from would-be invaders. Indeed, they still do protect the rich, but now they do so by protecting the rich outside from having to see what the crowning glory of the city has become.