Yitc, was once a city of a million souls, now it is a township of perhaps twenty thousand, living in the finest mansions and inhabiting the edges of the most exclusive park land. In Yitc the generation to come is revered as other places revere their ancestors, but it is seen as an exclusive club, a narrowing of the city’s urges to a finer point. In Yitc no couple would have more than one child, and thereafter the male partner sacrifies his testacles in the House Of Excess, so that the matter is certain. Widows, whose children have died may marry again, although the act is, if not forbidden, seen as indulgent, luxourious, or risqué. Widowers go to the Eunuch Palace, which while it is locally regarded as the most profoundly beautiful of Yitc’s monumental and colossal architecture, strikes a stranger as nothing so much as a gigantic up-ended ice-cream cone of marble. The palace symbolises the channelling of history to a single end, which is the ultimate goal of the Yitcan.
The mundane tasks needed to support the twenty thousand are carried out by two classes of person. The first are itinerants from the steppes outside the city, who leave their Yurts daily to travel into its pristine interior. They have been raised to believe that the city is the Way Station of the Dead, and that if they serve well, their next life will be as one of the succeeding generation of the Yitcan. To an outsider’s eye this suggests that there is a crisis poised to occur within the next two or three generations for the numbers of the Yurt dwellers outside the city are growing, even as the children born to the Yitcan proper decline, generation upon generation. To counter this the Priests of the Yitcan, who combine a transcendant faith towards their own goals, with every indication of politic pragmatism towards the beliefs of the Yurtan, teach that as the population narrows, the souls of more Yurtan are concentrated within each Yitcan, so that twenty Yurtan deaths are presently regarded as requisite to the birth of one new Yitcan. To preserve this ratio, which is seen to occur, and reckoned as the visible proof of the doctrine, the traveller must suspect policies of deliberate murder, either among the Yurtan, or of infanticide among the Yitcan, but such practices if present are clandestine, and unacknowledged by either side.
The second class of servant within Yitc is neither an Outcityman, nor a Member of the Twenty Thousand, but is composed of such individuals who have come from beyond the steppes, and hence outside the worldview of both peoples.
The Yitcan, are both cruel and indulgent to travellers, in a light-hearted mood they are treated as pets rather than people (for it is inconceivable that they could be regarded as contributing to the next generation, even as much as one twentieth of a Yitcan, and clearly their souls (if such they have) can not contribute to the Yurtan, or hundreds of thousands of outlanders would need to be dying in each generation, and the citizens of the steppes do not admit that so many lives presently exist in the world). In the Yitcan’s darker moods, a visitor may find him or herself subjected to tortures or humiliation, and finally to the ultimate punishment of banishment. In their favour it must be said that the Yitcan subject visitors to no sexual harassment (albeit because this would be for them akin to beastiality) nor is a visitor at risk of his or her life (since the death would feed no heightened, ‘brighter’ narrower offspring). Nevertheless any visit may require a number of years, to rise and fall in the Yitcan’s service to the point of banishment, and the beauties of the city though many will only repay the cost to those of a thoroughly aesthetic sensibility. For myself, I who spent five years among the Yitcan, I have carried away with me five surpassing memories.
The sun rising behind the Eunuch Palace to the high pitched singing of the castrati
(For there are those who - either judged unfitted to contribute to the next generation, or for reasons I still do not understand, voluntarily refrain claiming that they contribute directly via sacrifice rather than by siring offspring - come to the Palace before puberty.) The voices of castrati are as the few recordings to have come down to us from the final years of the Italian tradition suggest peculiarly beautiful, high, precise, and troubling.
The matrons strolling through the park-lands, their single rosy-faced children in black perambulators, twenty veiled Yurtan – the mourners of the souls who have migrated into the infant, following them ten paces behind for the first six months of the child’s life. The mourners are invariably the person closest to the deceased, husband, wife, father, or mother, and it is considered a great honour to dwell within Yitc, and they are treated in all respects as Yitcan for the time of the mourning, save that they indulge in no romance and sire or bear no offspring.
The pain of the severance of my left ear-lobe following a disagreement with the family I served. A pain I nevertheless treasured as a sign that one further transgression would see me to the gates of the city.
A chaste, and one-sided I confess, romance between myself and Loi Chan Chi-Chi who I fear regarded me solely as a pet, but whose pamperings and pettings, I still remember with only delicious and guiltless self-surrender.
The sound of the black iron, Outsider’s Gate, closing behind me, as I left to take the trail towards the mountains.
These memories may be regarded as too few for five years: yet they are enough to weigh down my dreams. At times I treasure this ballast, lest my dreams fly too wild.