Traveling south, you arrive at the city of Sex. Your road into the city is lined with cypress trees, their branches weaving together in a fragrant tunnel over your head; the ground is soft beneath your feet. Your road converges with others, thousands of them, and on your way to the marketplace you talk with the other travelers about how they arrived: the boulevard lit with hanging lanterns, the narrow trail through the forest, the caravan of traders and traveling musicians, the shimmering red bridge, the tunnel they clawed from out of the prison.
In the marketplace there are storytellers on every corner. Cut velvet is sold there, and rhinestones, and old photographs, and spices of every variety: cardamom, sweet basil, anise, vanilla, pepper in white and red and black. The spice vendors make proprietary blends, and argue hotly over them. Nothing essential is sold in the city: you can find spun sugar here, and chocolates dusted with gold, but must go elsewhere for bread. And yet its visitors find themselves sickening, withering, without the perfume they find here; the jeweled sandals; the jeweled collar; the mulled wine; the crimson sash embroidered with silver thread; the blend of spices from their favored vendor, the one under the silk canopy of cobalt blue. Even the absence of hunger is hunger here, and travelers drug themselves with pastilles and creams, not to stave off hunger, but to spark it. They will save their earnings for months for a visit to the city, and go without bread, and consider it a bargain.
Thus begins my story for Persistent Visions magazine, The Invisible Naked City, or, The Dirty Story I Wish Calvino Had Written. To read more, read the rest of the story. Enjoy! (Illustration by Toeken for Persistent Visions. Content note: explicit sex, including kinky sex; brief passing mentions of suicide and murder.)