"Should we call 911?"
My eyelid is peeled back. Melo. He is growing a beard. This means it has been weeks since we hung out.
"Nah. He's just nodded. Look he's back. Yo! You ok man?"
"Yeah" I hear myself say.
Daylight from the window shines upon my ending. On my futon is a circle of blood-stained toilet paper. Within the circle is a pot we once used to cook ramen and macaroni. Now it is filled with ashes from all her burned letters and thoughtful cards, some broken needles and cigarette butts. The flotsam and jetsam of a man trying to delete his world.
"Let's take him to the clinic. He's fucked up. Can you walk?"
I stand up and fall. Arms help me back up.
"Maybe call an ambulance? Shit! There's no phone. Someone ripped it out of the wall."
"No hospital!" I beg. "I need a shot..."
"Dude I don't have anything."
Now I am alive. In my anger I see Melo clearly. Liar. Demon. Give me some fucking smack!
"Please...Melo?" I beg him.
Dev steps over and caresses my face. I jerk back. Don't touch me.
"Jackie at the clinic can help" smiles Dev. "You NEED help Vagabond!"
She tries to hug me but I push her away. These fuckers holding out on me?! They are trying to kill me. I know. Ok, I'll let them lead me for awhile and then run. I think I have some books in my closet. I'll sell them. Should be enough for today. The Mexicans by the soccer field in the park sell $15 bags. That is two normal shots. Or one fat shot. But what if I can't make it back here? What if they steal everything while I'm gone?
"Wait a second."
I open the box. The heroin is gone. I swallow the leftover pills, gather the half burned cigarettes into my pocket with the lighter that still works. Then I pick up the picture. When Dev and Melo see who it is, they both look away. I zip the photograph into the innermost pocket of my jacket where I usually hide my dope. Where I store my treasure.
Melo leads me out of my room. I walk through a stranger's house. It reeks of piss and shit and death. I recognize the couch but nothing else. Piles of garbage, holes in the walls and spray paint. The refrigerator hangs open like a yawning mouth, the light extinguished. No food is needed in a place where people wait to die. Dev tells me Melo will come back for my things but I don't care. Everything is already lost. This is the end.
They lead me out into the street and as the first waves of withdrawal stagger me. I'll get more I promise myself. It will be alright. I just gotta slip these fools and I'll get more. Enough for today...
This story began in a cave. The Roman general that burned the Libri Sibyllini beneath the Temple of Jupiter 1,500 years ago was wrong. There is more than one volume because these mad birds still sing. Sibyls are everywhere. Screaming from street corners, raving in bars, chained in hospitals and living in city parks.
And there are many, many caves in the souls of the lost.
Yes it is true chemicals ate into my brain. Frenzied ants feasting upon sugar but I can still see it so clearly in my mind...Was my life nothing but a moth's dream?
This was before they had to restrain me. This was before the sun melted the wax from my false wings. This was before I was re-trained by state issued medical professionals to be normal.
But even handcuffed to the bed I fell so far.
My friends are gone. Strangers camp here. They used to give me money or drugs. Mostly drugs. Not sure who is in charge but I hear animals fighting. Screams. There is no more electricity or cable TV. The blue, fairy glow of ice burning in crack pipes is the only light in the Darkness. The last time I walked through my living room, no one looked at me. Strangers.
A box that once contained high heels for a beautiful woman now holds my life. Heroin. Also some pills, scraps of LSD, a metal measuring spoon, lighters and a blood stained shoelace wrapped around two used needles. I cook while I still have daylight. Cooking shots is the only time my hands are steady.
At the bottom of the box, beneath it all, is a photograph. I leave her face down. I don't need to look at her. This picture is burned into my eyes.
And if I close them...
She reclines casually on a couch smoking a cigarette. It was taken during one of her blond phases. She looks up at the camera likes she knows I will be staring at this picture for one thousand years. Her eyes reach out and catch my soul. The drowning blue stare.
The mountain is cool in the summer. The path leading up to the rock face is lush with ferns, vines and flowers. The air here is floral scented and the breeze from the sea is fresh and clear. A giant crack in the rock face rises up like a frozen scream. The god's mouth.
I enter the god.
Inside is starlight. Phosphorus blues and interstellar greens softly illuminate the interior. Stalactites drip continuously as I travel down a slick, muddy trail. Down the path is a forgotten shrine carved into the wall of the cave. Someone has lit the altar fire and it crackles hypnotically as I approach. One of the columns has collapsed, knocking over a pair of statues that once embraced each other. Their youthful bodies are eerily beautiful in the flickering firelight. Her full breasts are exposed as her robes slips forward revealing rounded hips. His torso is sculpted with taunt muscles stretched in motion and life as he reaches for her...but their heads are missing. I step over the ruins to inspect the shrine. Blood offerings have been placed in the votive flames for over 2,000 years. The priests that tended this place are gone. Their civilization has fallen.
But many still worship this god.
Behind the altar, carved into the wall is a message. I trace my stained fingers across the words: 'Heaven is the embrace of the flower god. But in his sweet mercy is death.'
Once again, the god gifts me the soft peace. Flowers blossom in the Darkness.
"Oh no...It doesn't even look like a vein anymore! It looks like a long, dried up spaghetti worm. Oh my poor sweet Vagabond. Are you in there? Melo help me get him up-"
"Hold on. Those fucking tweakers are still out there- HEY! GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE! THIS ISN'T A SQUAT! GO!"
I can hear them. Old friends. The best friends. Yelling into the mouth of the god. Sounds from the real world dancing across the void.
Someone still cares? About me? I vow to take more LSD so I can stay awake in their world. Or is it my world? I have forgotten...But I don't want them to come inside my cave. No one should enter the god's scream.
For in my cave there is only slavery, madness and death.
Fiber optic cables and copper wiring suspend the office chair from hundreds of feet. But even in the lowest part of my cave there is a single ray of sunshine. It stabs the Darkness and illuminates the chair and the Sibyl.
"See the Light? There is always Pandora's gift" sings the demented thing in the chair.
A tiny doll woman dressed in a rotting, Nike tracksuit. Bare feet with black, curled toenails.
"Nobody that loves you is down here" the Sibyl laughs. "Down here is just your broken hallway mirror. The dragon that eats itself!"
The chair moves in a circle above me, creaking. And she sings. A horrible noise. Truth pours from her mouth and blood weeps from her eyes. A fountain of insanity. I see it all. She tells me how it will end.
A trail of broken smiles. Women crying alone in the dark.
When the sun melts the wax, I plummet into her eyes. The deep blue of her oceans. The plunge was sudden but soothing. I want to keep sinking into her Darkness...
"Wears off quickly now doesn't it? Legs jolting in agony, thrashing in your bed...Snot streaming from your nose while you shit your fucking guts out screaming and INSANE!" screeches the thing in the office chair.
I cover my ears and pray for my god to soothe the madness. But she is right. My shot is already wearing off.
"You will fall back to your wretched life! IF YOU'RE LUCKY."
The Sibyl leers at me, her face blurring like a deck of shuffling cards. Shuffling faces of women I know. The faces flip past but She keeps coming up. Her eyes...
"Succumb to Heaven! Kiss me with blue lips! Hold me with cold arms! No longer cry about Earthly possessions or love. Soon the moths will come and cover your eyes! From sniffing to smoking. From smoking to shooting. What is left? Oh you know what is left...One last high my love!"
My ears are covered but the Sibyl's cackling laughter echoes inside my skull. There is a vacuum WHOOSH! and I fall. The beam of sunlight vanishes. The altar fires are cold. The smothering blackness crushes me as I feel moths brushing against my face.
"The skeleton in the corner cradles your clock babe" whispers Kym's voice from the Darkness.
I scream and scream and scream.
The god speaks. "I can make it all go away. Heaven. You know the my price."
And the love of a god is a powerful thing. I writhe around in a sickly moist spot trying to find myself. I think I pissed the futon. Or maybe it's sweat. The room is dark but I find the box, take the shoelace and tie off. I slap my arm feverishly. Rise goddamn you! Show me the road to my heart. Just one more time!
"Mrs. Severson? Hello, my name is Devika Liora! I'm a friend of your son. Hi. Well you need to pick him up. He's very ill" says Dev into the pay phone. "What? We tried to take him to the clinic but he refused. He gave me this number."
When you wake up on the sidewalk, you know you fucked up. You might not remember when or where...but you definitely fucked up. My cheek presses against the concrete. It's still warm from the morning sun. I can smell piss and bleach here. Garbage obscures my view but I hear people walking by. I doubt they would spare me a look. City people walk with purpose. Eyes forward and never acknowledging the lost.
They just keep walking.
"We should call an ambulance" mutters Melo.
"No hospital!" I groan.
I feel very strongly about this. Once I go in...
"Ok. We are at Valenc-" says Dev but she stops and throws her hands up in despair. "She needs a pen! Melo, give him some of that valium."
"Yes Mr. Melo! With his habit he will be hurting so just-oops. Wait a second" says Dev going back to the phone. "Yes! Hi! Ok, do you have a pen ready?"
I try to get up. The effort makes my world smear and tumble. I feel like I'm falling. The dizziness of daylight tumbles down, crushing, squeezing...and I puke.
"Eww gross" squeaks Dev. "What? No Mrs. Severson. He's fucked up, I mean excuse me, he's sick. I don't know! Drugs or something? Can you get him please? The 600 block of Valencia. Near the used clothing place. How long? Ok. We'll wait. Please hurry. Ok. Goodbye."
"I'm sick" I announce uselessly.
No one says anything. I curl into a protective ball on the sidewalk. Looking up, I can see a pink sign.
Dev fed me some valium and shared a cigarette with me while we waited. Sharing a cigarette with her reminded me of Kym. The three us always shared smokes. She held my hand the whole time and promised me everything would be all right. My mom pulled up. Too weak to stand, Melo helped me into the car. Bless Devika. And though I never saw her again, it was not the last kindness she gifted me.
Dreams are funny things.
I'm 23, lost the love of my life, flunked out of school, smell like piss and am nothing but a sick, demented junkie. My mom is talking. I blur in and out of reality and comprehend only fragments.
"...a junkie!...knew this would...like your father! Great staff...hospital..."
"NO!" I yell. "No hospital!"
"Honey! You're so sick! The doctors will make you..."
And I give up. No more reasons to do anything but wait and see what happens next. It can't be any worse. Right? I try and take out her picture but my hands are shaking too much to work zippers.
I am dying. Someone cries. Me? My mom? Both?
Then it happens. The mercy. Maybe I ate LSD when I swallowed pills...Maybe the car stereo is on. Maybe my brain stuck in the Maui loop.
That song she used to listen to to get ready to go out...'Dreaming' by Blondie. And I can see her dancing. The song poured into her soul and radiated from her body like an exploding sun. At a club, all dressed up and her rhythm is pure gravity. A celestial body in motion creating the Universe. Everyone watches her dance for she is beautiful, erotic and connects them to the energy that shapes the tide and moves the planet. But I was luckier. I not only saw but I also tasted. I smelled the heat rise off of flesh as she danced only for me. Dancing wild and free. Wearing only her Egyptian eyeliner highlighting that drowning blue stare...
My falling star. My wish that slipped away. Power, magic and unearthly beauty. You bind me to reality for I remember you walking down the street. Your hand in mine. You are real. Proof how lovely it is without the god.
There is no god.