The birds scatter across a sky darkening too fast, the winter settling in over mountains. Somewhere to the south, the ruins of Reno decay, little more than a trace of smell in the breeze, and he comes sideways, soars the spine of the mountains, north and north.
He has no time for lost cities these days.
Coming awake, Jack Hundredhearts forgets for a moment that he has skin of his own, and struggles against the sagging mattress, clawing to flip himself upright, to find wings and fall upwards into the night sky. Tens of miles from here, a vulture rides the warmer aerials, hunting the rot of a jackrabbit on the crumbling highway running the length of home. Here, inside the container-home, he hears the muttering complaints of his shift-fellows, the dead-to-the-world snoring of the lead.
It's not quite night shift in Gerlach, and Jack Hundredhearts remembers he has hands. Fumbles for his cigarettes. Stumbles past rows of tattooed tribemates, out to the chill of the night.
Not playa, but playa-adjacent now. Home. The festival eternal, and he remembers. Resets. The day shift is down at the bar - the four stacked containers. But he's got another perch in mind, and all up the unbroken Man torso he climbs to a crow-nest there, perched over Burn City, as close as he can get now to the cloudless eternity as he'll get while awake.
"Fuck yer shift!," sounds far below, the wide-awake partying beginning, the celebration of survival, of life.
Jack considers the slow change of day to night. It's not quite shift yet, minding the power station, while others mind the wells, while others watch all approaches for the rare traveler come for utopia. Even now the word creeps out still: the unending Home, the City gone permanent. Tens of thousands of punks and hippies who came against all odds to make it one August when the world ended, and were forgotten by the world as it tore itself apart.
The stars are endless pinpricks. The air is clean, smells of alkali. The drunks are howling in the Last Chance Saloon.
It's time to go to work.