Back when I did the party circuit—I mean, when dinosaurs were walking the Earth, before you two were even around—the Caterwaul was always the big thing each year. Goddamn awful name it had. That was before they'd even put in any rules at all for the sensies, so there we'd go, all us party-parasites, all coked up on ten different things we'd done off-camera. Oh, I've done stuff that would turn you white. You didn't think this was age, did you?—so, there I am, I've got these stupid lenses in to turn my eyes all rainbow and I'm covered in some tribal chap's painting hobby, but I'm all normal underneath, since the viewers want thrills, not dysphoria. Most of them.

The first day, it's roasting—absolutely roasting, five minutes off the freak bus and I'm like a leaky pump. That was hottest year on record out of fifty. They'd come up with some plan for this giant bank of fans for the whole thing but I heard later that it got shut down when some snotty trustee's dog got sucked into one. So there I was sweating like a pig, and the Indian'd told me the stuff wouldn't come off but I found out pretty quick that he was a filthy liar. I sued him later but right then I had to find the world's biggest scratching post before the itch made me go insane. More insane—I hadn't taken much yet, but elucidamine and full-body itching don't go together well.

Somebody had a fire truck, something to do with those bonfires people kept setting, and as it turned out fire marshals don't like being bribed... or when someone tries to turn on one of their pumps. I was too itchy to feel stupid once I lost the ones who tried to chase me into the Festival proper, past all the tents and settler-scaffolds the wannabes would put up around the outsides to try and feel like part of it. In the west quarter I tried to find this lovely girl who'd been teaching dolphins to play the underwater saxophone the year before, but she was gone and someone'd pulled out the tank and filled up the space with a bunch of yet-unburnt effigies of the League Parliament.

Oh, yes. Don't you go making those faces. This was back in the old days, before they really got the hooks in, and the Caterwaul all started from the shitheads the Burners kicked out because they wouldn't clean after themselves. So there I am wanting dolphins and enough dump-water to soak in, and instead I run into these giant angry puppets stomping around. So I started a nice round of screaming, with all my viewers egging me on, and I was about a half-inch from climbing up one of them and beating the driver to death with a spoon before this slip of a boy jumped out of the crowd and dumped a bucket of sand on my head. At the time I thought he was a girl, but the important thing was that the itching stopped, and at that moment I fell in love.

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