Have you ever visited Edinburgh? Beautiful city, no matter what time of year you go. The castle that sits at the centre of the city is awe-inspiring, looking down on the surrounding area from the Mount. The peaks and valleys of the land have resulted in a city that flows with the landscape. Streets that surround can be steep, with the numerous sprawling alleyways even steeper. It is here that we find Fleshmarket Close.
It could be mistaken for any other darkened causeway in the city. It sits among the shops and tourist traps, relatively non-threatening, and can be used as a short cut to get down to the station if you are in a hurry. The name has been justified, through some who point out that fleshmarkets were a local term for butchers, and through others who suggest it a hangout of women of the first vocation. These are incorrect. There is a market on the close, but flesh is not the product. It is the currency.
Market hours are dusk until dawn, and the entrance fee is one mouthful of your own blood. Prepare a glass, and progress down the alley. As you get halfway down, swig from the glass and spit it against the wall. The blood will bubble and spread across the wall, coagulating into a hardened scab. This will then start to flake and scatter. A rather anti-climatic door will be revealed beneath. Stepping through is disorientating as logic will tell you you are stepping into a building. The space you are stepping into has no walls, with darkness shrouding the edges. It is at the penumbra that a number of stalls are set up, run by individuals who look like market traders from across the globe, from Arabian merchants to Cockney grocers to New York street con-men. All of their clothes are splatted with blood and offal
These figures will entice you to come speak with them and will gesture to numerous signs around their stalls regarding the sales they are currently having. Upon approaching one of the stalls they will start to pressure you to make a deal with them. You are certainly welcome to do so, and the products that are available are certainly worth consideration.
Starting at the cheap end of the spectrum, you may wish to offer one breath. A lungful will net you knowledge of the weather for the next day. In itself a rather pointless purchase in this age of smartphones and the Met office, but centuries ago invaluable. Taking this offer will result in the seller reaching out with his hand flattened, then quickly grasping it into a fist. The air will literally be stolen from your lungs, and cause a few moments of gasping as you catch your breath.
Are you attached to your fingers? How attached? I mean, do you reckon you could do without your little finger? This sale will provide you instant forgiveness from any one person you desire for any wrongs you may have encroached against them. Agreeing to this one will cause the trader to grin and shout “One Yubitsume Special, coming right up”. They will lunge forward and grab your wrist, pinning it to the table. Don’t resist, because no-one likes a tough sell. A flash of steel and you will be minus one digit. Just remember you can only pay twice.
Now make no mistake, it will hurt. There will probably be a lot of blood, and if you don’t take care of the wound, it may even get infected. As the price goes up you may want to consider taking precautions regarding what you trade. Tourniquets and sutures would certainly not go amiss.
Now some of the trades will seem familiar and may hark back to stories and legends that have existed for millenia. This is the influence the market has had on our culture, leaching in over the centuries. A pound of flesh will make it impossible for the next person you make a trade with to renege on the deal. Especially useful if you don’t trust the company you keep. It has no use within the Market as all of the traders here are trustworthy, and will honour a purchase to the letter and the spirit. Best to leave this transaction until last.
How about one of your eyes? Depth perception is over-rated any way. Offering up one of them will allow you to converse with our avian friends. You will be able to call down the birds from the trees, and they will be able to answer any questions you may have. It is advisable that you avoid ravens. They have their own agenda, and it is not in your best interests. The salesman will grab you around the throat and slowly prise his fingers into the socket. A snap of the wrist and your visual organ will rest in their palm. Another snap, and it will disappear.
It is at this point where you may want to consider stronger measures to ensure your survival of payment. In this strange little world or ours, the market is hardly the strangest. Artifacts and incantations exist that can allow the body to continue to function long past the point at which mortal coils would be shuffled from. One or two can be picked up here, but few are willing to live without their sexual organs. It seems eternity is that little bit colder without the ability to get your rocks off. I’m not going to go into the details as to how they are taken, suffice to say that it is unpleasant and messy.
At this point the prices become a little more …..Vital. What would you take for your stomach? In this deal it would merit you the ability to understand the desires of anyone you talk to. Whilst you converse with them, your mind will be filled with the images of that which they covet the most. This would provide a significant advantage to any budding salesman, and the deal has been taken up by several of the stallholders themselves.
Some may argue that such a gift would be more poetically suited to the heart. That vascular muscle, however, is apart of an altogether different deal. By bartering with your heart, you can guarantee the happiness of any given individual for the rest of their life, however long that may be. The removal of these types of organs can be significantly painful, but the dealers will allow you a moment to prepare yourself before they will produce a short, keen blade. One practised swipe later, and they will be digging into your tissues. They have unerring accuracy and a level of cleanliness that rivals any surgeon.
Now it is acknowledged in some places that once the deal has been sealed, a buyer may have second thoughts and may want to back out. This is not one of those places. Most of the contract is left unspoken, but you are expected to have done your research. The buyout clauses are a killer.
Whilst most of the body can be put on the table, there are limitations. The fact of the matter is that the brain is the seat of sentience, and cannot be fully placed in. I say fully, there was one individual who offered to lobotomise the part of the brain that holds memory as a part of the deal. The problem is he cannot remember what it is he received in return. I hear he suffered night terrors for the rest of his days.
Now at this point I offer a warning. Up until now I have detailed the price list for your own body parts. What ever you do, do not attempt to purchase anything in the market with organs of another. Every figure in the market will stop and stare at you, and the one you attempted to defraud will scream “THAT IS NOT YOURS TO TRADE!”. What ever it is you have tried to barter will, that body part will be taken from you as punishment. A very literal eye for an eye.
Despite whatever theological perspectives you may hold, offering your own soul will elicit the same result. There have been many theories postulated for this response, but the honest answer is we just don’t know.
The market has been trading in blood and bone for as long as civilization has existed, though the entrance has moved from city to city. Many have visited and shook hands with the butchers, though not quite as many got those hands back. A smart man would wonder how it is that these individuals are capable of honouring the deals they broker. A smarter man would ask himself why his body parts are of such high value in this economy. Just understand that it is supply and demand.
And as long as there are fools willing to supply, you shouldn’t need to concern yourself with who is doing the demanding.