The Stomach Wharf & Styx System
The southern quarters of the relentless, smoke-smeared sprawl of New Gaslight cradle within them a monstrous, yet beguiling vision – the Stomach. This colossal body of water, more stagnant pond than lake, is a grotesque cocktail of the city's gluttonous consumption and rampant neglect. A jumble of weather-beaten piers and ramshackle jetties – the Stomach Wharf – clings tenaciously to its edges, each plank and bolt an enduring testament to the city's relentless survival instincts.
The Wharf spans for miles, an intricate web of waterways, bridges, and islands of refuse that, against all odds, support their own thriving communities. Isolated hamlets bloom in the middle of the Stomach, reachable only by boat and built on platforms supported by heaps of floating waste. From a distance, they seem like floating villages, whimsical against the grim backdrop of the city.
Amidst the damp fog and pungent aroma of decay, clusters of small towns and villages mushroom along the Wharf's expansive docklands. Here, each rotting board and weather-beaten shack stands as a testament to New Gaslight's unyielding tenacity, the city's will to persist, despite the constant assault of the Wharf's nauseating stench.
The gods of New Gaslight are not forgotten here; quite the opposite. Among the worn-out shacks and trash mounds, many churches dedicated to the city's deities stand, some slowly sinking into the litter-laden swamp lake. The deity of particular reverence is Charon, the ferryman of the Styx System. Altars bearing his likeness are common, tucked into nooks and corners, festooned with trinkets from scavengers who believe their found treasures blessed by the god himself.
Thriving amidst this netherworld of decay and grime are the scavengers and traders of New Gaslight, their faces etched with the city's unforgiving history and grim future. Stoic and resilient, they sift through the lake's detritus, their hands sinking into its innards in search of Charon's blessings or anything of bare sustenance. They work in unison with the city's captive workforce, prisoners sentenced to the Sisyphean task of grappling with the Wharf's ceaseless spew of waste.
Adding to this grim harmony are the Maggot Cleaners, their figures set ablaze by the flaming tongues of their flamethrowers. Their relentless fight against the ever-reproducing, ever-engorging swarms of maggots adds an infernal aura to the Stomach Wharf's somber backdrop.
Yet, beneath the layers of filth and decay, the Wharf pulses with an undeniable vitality. Traders, with their patchwork of goods salvaged from the Stomach's belly, barter with a relentless spirit. The docklands, with their diverse communities and cultures, play host to a kaleidoscope of species. Here, in this grim crucible, even races typically ostracized in other parts of the city – like the disfigured Operes or the corpulent Rotspawn – find a sense of belonging.From the eerie churches of Charon, to the isolated hamlets in the Stomach's heart, to the bustling docklands that form the Stomach Wharf's outer layer, this is a city within a city. A paradox of life amidst decay, vibrant resilience amidst despair, all living on the remains of a city that has consumed everything in its path. The Stomach Wharf stands as a testament to this, a grim beacon of hope in the city's ever-churning cycle of life and death.
The Styx System - The Waterways of New Gaslight
The Stomach is nourished by two Intestines: the Large Intestine and the Small Intestine. The former, a broad yet notably shorter river compared to its smaller sibling, surges powerfully through the city's southwestern region. Its waters charge with a potent vitality, radiating a sense of life and force that belies its relatively compact length.
The Large Intestine flows through the verdant sunflower fields, a blooming oasis amidst the industrial expanse. These fields provide the southwestern city's uncharacteristic greenery, creating a refreshing contrast to the grey monotony that otherwise defines New Gaslight. Here, towering sunflowers stretch skyward, standing tall and proud like sun-kissed sequoias, their golden faces basking in the scant sunlight that filters through the city's ever-present smog.
The river, revered as Hathor's River or the Night Piercer, courses with a swift, unwavering determination. Its route is a thrilling adventure of ascents and descents, of roaring rapids and calm stretches, mirroring the city's own tumultuous journey. The most striking spectacles of the Large Intestine are the cascading waterfalls that punctuate its course. These aquatic marvels crash down from impressive heights, carving into the rocky crags with a ceaseless tenacity, before they plunge into the fog-ridden abyss of the Maelstrom at the city's edge.
The Small Intestine, a capricious tributary, weaves an intricate spider's web through the gritty thoroughfares and industrial wastelands of New Gaslight. With a myriad of streams, rivers, and smaller tributaries ebbing and flowing in an unpredictable dance, it is a pulsing, ever-changing circulatory system at the heart of the city's massive body. Its course is as erratic as the city's heartbeat, sometimes overflowing with the abundance of rain, sometimes reduced to a mere trickle in the throes of a drought.
Often, the course of the Small Intestine appears to the uninitiated as an incomprehensible chaos, much like the city it crisscrosses. However, the residents of New Gaslight, the life-blood of the city, recognize the rhythm in its madness. They understand that the waxing and waning of the waterways are as inevitable and essential as the city's cycle of decay and rebirth.
The city's mercurial weather system, notorious for its acid rain, makes living near the often-dry riverbanks a precarious proposition. Yet, the prospect of danger seems a small price to pay for the convenience of proximity. As a result, the riverbanks are overcrowded, teeming with mile upon mile of shanty towns and makeshift settlements, a testament to the city's relentless survival instincts.
When the heavens decide to open up, the acrid acid rain mixes with the city's litter and refuse. It gathers the human waste and the droppings of the RatHench, New Gaslight's rat-like underclass, and funnels them into the Small Intestine. This putrid cocktail, a grotesque concoction of the city's rampant neglect and gluttonous consumption, eventually floods the tributary, swelling it beyond its banks.
These unpredictable deluges are deadly, often claiming hundreds, sometimes thousands of lives. Despite the ever-present danger, the city's denizens remain unyieldingly resilient. Warnings of impending floods are sometimes sounded in time, allowing the riverbank inhabitants to scramble to safety. More often than not, though, the floods catch the city off guard, sweeping away the frail shanties and their hapless inhabitants with an indifferent fury.
Amid the city's austere northern quarter, the Bladder reposes, an artificial water body mirroring the disparity of life in New Gaslight. This man-made marvel, filled with the Liver’s purified waters, is walled off from the rest of the city. A boundary both physical and symbolic, it separates those who can afford the luxury of cleanliness from those condemned to subsist on the murky remnants of unfiltered intestine river water.
The Bladder is more than just a reservoir; it is a symbol of opulence and a testament to New Gaslight's stark social divide. Its shores are adorned with the city's most luxurious vistas – grand cabins and plush condos, where the rich bask in the glory of their untainted views. The area is clear of factories and industry, their mirrored windows gleam in the sunlight, an affront to those who are forced to squint through the haze of the city's relentless smog. Their green manicured lawns, that are seemingly both lush and devoid of life, stretch down to the water's edge, a green ribbon winding around the azure jewel that is the Bladder.
But behind this façade of luxury, the Bladder is under constant surveillance. Security is high, with city guards patrolling its periphery day and night. The majestic gates and imposing walls are a stark reminder of the unattainable prosperity that lies within. The Bladder is a fortress of the elite, impenetrable to the have-nots of the city.
The irony of life in New Gaslight is as obvious as the city's scorching winters. Here, the wealthy bathe in the purity of the Bladder's water, while the less fortunate find solace in the murky embrace of the Small Intestine. Bathhouses are a monthly indulgence for most, their warm, clean waters a stark contrast to the grimy currents that swirl around in the city's Stomach.
In the midst of such disparity, New Gaslight keeps its relentless pulse. The Stomach, the intestines, the Bladder, and the Liver — the city is a grotesque parody of the human body's digestive system, teetering on a knife-edge between opulence and necessity. Amidst this harsh tableau, the Stomach and its miles of wharf endure.
The Life of the Stomach
As much a crucible of evolution as it is a reflection of New Gaslight's profligate waste, the Stomach plays host to a dystopian symphony of life, shaped by the city's relentless consumption and disregard for ecological balance. In the midst of toxic fumes and islands of repurposed refuse, a bizarre fusion of fungal and plant life, known colloquially as the Stomach's "Bileweed," thrives beneath the stagnant surface, not through the process of photosynthesis, but by a macabre symbiosis with the polluted environment.
The Bileweed’s tendrils reach out like a toxic undergrowth beneath the murky surface. Populated with pus-filled pustules, these strange quasi-plants feed not on sunlight, but the cocktail of chemicals leaching from the plastic flotsam that fills the Stomach. Each pustule, glowing with a bioluminescent hum, throws an eerie light through the murky waters, creating a psychedelic dreamscape of survival in a landscape that should be desolate.
In the pulsating, luminescent sprawl of the Bileweed, a creature of the uncanny thrives. 'Deenz', or Stomach Sardines, are an embodiment of resilience and adaptation within this grim ecosystem. These strange fish, glimmering with a soft bioluminescent aura, flicker and dart amongst the toxic tendrils of the underwater jungle. They are beings of countless eyes and nervous energy, their bodies both a symbol and testament to the indomitable spirit of life's struggle in the Stomach.
The Deenz's diet is as peculiar as their eerie appearance, consisting mainly of Bileweed and the seemingly indigestible plastic debris that sinks to the Stomach's floor. Through the bizarre dance of evolutionary adaptation, these creatures have acquired the ability to metabolize these harmful substances. They ingest the plastic and break down the petrochemicals, deriving from this lethal cocktail the necessary energy to survive and reproduce. Their luminescent glow, a strange byproduct of this unusual diet, sets them apart in the murk of the swamp lake.
However, the act of ingesting plastic debris necessitates a painstaking process of gutting before the Deenz can be safely consumed. The task is both meticulous and vital, ensuring the removal of the plastic remnants from their innards. Consumption of these aquatic denizens introduces a uniquely subtle afternote, a flavor hinting at their strange, synthetic diet, which lingers on the palate, both an oddity and an acquired taste for the inhabitants of this harsh urban sprawl.
Yet, the continuous consumption of these glowing denizens comes with its own peril, a disease known colloquially as 'Wharfman's Folly'. Named for its prevalence among the hardy folks of the Stomach Wharf, who heavily rely on the deenz for sustenance, this affliction is as eerie as its host. Manifesting initially as a subtle blue luminescence, akin to the deenz's own glow, the progression of 'Wharfman's Folly' is monitored by the increasing intensity of this light. As the glow intensifies, the victim is plagued by increasingly debilitating symptoms, from stomach lesions to internal cysts, culminating in profuse internal bleeding. Though relatively rare, 'Wharfman's Folly' stands as a grim reminder of the precarious balance between survival and safety in this blighted cityscape.
As the cycle of seasons grinds on, and the sweltering heat of summer descends upon New Gaslight, the aquatic life of the Stomach sees a change of guard. The Charonbugs, named after the omnipresent deity Charon, associated with the city's sprawling Styx system, make their annual appearance. These deep purple crustaceans, resembling earthly crawdads, emerge from the Stomach's mud, drawn forth by the heat and the lure of the nutrient-rich floor of the lake.
The Charonbugs' arrival is anticipated eagerly, their annual emergence marking a welcome reprieve from the year-round diet of Deenz. The Charonbug's meat, a rare and cherished delicacy, takes center stage at the feast tables, its distinct flavor a much-needed variation in the monotonous dietary landscape. The summer thus becomes a time of feasting, a season of celebration, providing the denizens of the Wharf with a temporary, yet cherished, gastronomical respite.
Yet, the aquatic world of the Stomach is not only populated by deenz and Charonbugs. A spectrum of muck mollusks, clams, and mussels, as varied in color as they are toxic, litter the underwater landscape. The majority of these creatures are deadly, their bodies having absorbed the multitude of poisons and toxins in the water. They are a vivid array of hues, a jarring juxtaposition amidst the otherwise bleak and murky Stomach.
On the banks of this grotesque body of water stand the cattails. These resilient plants, with their characteristic cylindrical brown flower spikes, provide a touch of earthy normalcy amidst the unending strangeness of the Stomach. The fibrous stalks and roots of cattails are ground into a coarse, nutty flour. An important staple for the wharf's inhabitants, cattail flour is a luxury item in the city proper, where its limited supply and labor-intensive cultivation drive up the price.
However, the aquatic life in the Stomach isn't limited to the base of the food web. Lurking within the muck are the larger predators: the menacing Gatormauls, elusive Kappas, and the ominous Muckfish. Various birds like the large billed Syltakoba or the numerous gulls, as well as more specialized plant species like the stomach lilies and the carnivorous Martian Maw Traps also add complexity to the ecosystem, their presence a testament to the broad spectrum of adaptation possible in this unlikeliest of habitats.
The Stomach, therefore, is not just a pit of consumption for New Gaslight, but an awe-inspiring display of life's adaptability. From the bioluminescent Bileweed to the scavenging deenz, from the vibrant mollusks to the carnivorous plants, each plays a vital role in the ecosystem. Despite the city's pollution and the hostile environment, life persists, creating a resilient network of species that survive and even thrive, reflecting the city's own unyielding spirit.