every week another town
Ed liked to walk around in the cold bright morning through the circus itself, moving from the salt smell of the dunes to the smell of warm dusty concrete that filled the air around the tents and pavilions. He wondered why Sandra Shen had chosen this site. If you landed here it was because you had no corporate credentials. If you left from here, no one wished you good luck. It was a transit camp, where EMC processed refugee labour before moving it on to the mines. Paperwork could maroon you at the noncorporate port for a year, during which your own bad choices would take the opportunity to stretch it to ten. Your ship rusted, your life rusted. But you could always go to the circus. This in itself worried Ed. What did it mean for Madam Shen? Was she trapped here too? “This outfit ever move on?” he asked her. “I mean, that’s what a circus does, right? Every week another town?” Sandra Shen gave him a speculative look, her face shifting from old to young then back again around its own eyes, as if they were the only fixed point in her personality (if personality is a word with any meaning when you are talking about an algorithm). They were like eyes looking out from cobwebs. She had a fresh drink beside her. Her little body was leaning back, elbows on the bar, one red high-heel hooked in the brass bar rail. Smoke from her cigarette rose in an exact thin stream, broke up suddenly into eddies and whorls. She laughed and shook her head. “Bored already, Ed?” she said. —Light, 2002.