In the valley of Chan-Tu, lie nine cities in which it is said a form of immortality may be had for a price.
In the first city, artisans will carve the name and the accomplishments of a mortal into a block of diamond using chisels of light.
In the second city, recursive editing applied to the germ-plasm will allow a person to be reborn as his or her own child.
In the third city, a clockwork copy of a person can be made with miraculous fidelity save for its one additional characteristic: its ability to make a copy of itself accurate and inclusive of that additional quality.
In the fourth city, a drug exists, which speeds the perceptions of the mind and body so that its takers live a billion years while a rain drop falls.
In the fifth city, a guild of meme-engineers undertake to build a religion around the purchaser's eventual resurrection, and life among the gods. When a criticality of believers exists, they affirm, it will be so in truth.
In the sixth city, all names are set aside in pleasures masked, and unrecorded, and no deaths have ever been known within its walls.
In the seventh city the seeker of immortality is taken apart cell by cell, and each miniscule atomie implanted in another person. This is the process known as the Immortality Homeopathic.
In the eighth city, the seeker is granted a number of extra lives, which her or she carries in an eggshell. The eggshell must be carried in the mouth.
In the nineth city, there is a mystery.
Each cities methodology has disadvantages: yet each is hailed and draws its quota of pilgrims.
It is also said that there is a tenth city: reached by secret railroads and hidden canals. In the tenth city, those fleeing the first can buy the erasure of their histories from eternal light; the children of the second can earn the right to sire new and novel offspring; the clockwork artisans of the third can run down; the madmen of the fourth can rest their billion year unblinking eyes; the martyrs of the fifth can hail their eventual iconoclasts; the pallid, and sheepish escapees from the sixth can locate - eventually - their own longed for clothing; the gestalts of the seventh can each donate the tiniest fragment to a petra-dish before denying their identity. Those from the eighth can spit the broken egg-shells from their mouths and see the tiny birds of life fly free. But from the ninth and most mysterious city, it is said no one has ever come to the tenth.
This then is a true and verified account of the nine or ten cities of Chan-Tu, to which should be added only this.
From the outside all the cities are identical: nor can a pilgrim know which immortality his or her coin buys until it is given.