He looked like the kind of man that would pee on dresses.

He smiled a yellow-toothed smile from behind the dirty counter, adjusting his greasy hair so that it rested behind his ears, under his black beanie.

His teeth, spaciously placed, protruded slightly over his thin, chapped lips, as he gruffly addressed his few customers.

"Welcome," he would say, or simply,

"Hello," where a million conclusions could be drawn from what will he say next?

And the customers would nod, smile, or perhaps answer—

A "Good afternoon," and he would awe over the things people can say without meaning it.

He watched two girls enter his shop, his gray skin pulled tight in a mock smile, their laughing a testimony toward youth and what he no longer had. They walked towards the clothes, their muffled whispers and giggles piercing the silence.

One held up a dress, and sniffing it, whispered

(too loudly)

"It smells like urine!"

The other girl snorted, bringing her hand to her mouth, looking at the man behind the counter, who merely sat, greeting another customer.

The girls stayed for a few more moments, then left, without buying anything.

The man sat, staring blankly at the cars passing through the window, his brown eyes sunken in and haunted, the scaly skin drooping around his impossibly tiny pupils.

His wrinkles hung lifelessly from sharp cheekbones, imitating the empty husk of a butterfly's cocoon.

Sweat grew ominously from his speckled forehead.

He licked his lips, and checked his watch.

"4:00," he grumbled.

Then, "Long enough."

He got up, and locked the door.

Walking past the cracked pavement of the parking lot, he reached his inconspicuous tan pick-up, clenched the silver handle in his dusty hand, and opened the door. He smelled the musky odor without any emotion, and sat, assuming the catatonic position he was so used to.

He accelerated, driving past the blur of the trees without so much as a glance. He looked straight ahead, and he began to feel it.

The chill.

He reached a hand up to scratch at his collarbone, then his neck, then his forehead. His eye twitched. Imperceptibly, perhaps, but he felt it. He drove faster.

He hardly looked at the road anymore, just straight ahead, at the sky that would soon morph into the rusted remains of his home, and he couldn't wait.

Ages passed as he stared, his foot heavy on the gas pedal, paying no attention to anything but the growing need inside him.

When he finally arrived—at a small, junkpile of a house—he clenched his teeth, restraining his desire to run inside at top speed.

The chill was getting worse.

His whole body started to shiver as he continued walking, seeing only the splintered paint on his wooden door—closer and closer—he felt it start to devour him.

The sweat was unbearable now, and he squinted his eyes as it dripped slowly down his chilled-heated-chilled face.

He felt like gasping, coughing, vomiting.

His chipped, yellow teeth bit down on his lip, flaking dry skin off onto the soil below. Twenty yards, and he felt as though he'd have to crawl before his hand grasped the cold, unchanging handle.

His eyes bulged as he slammed the door behind him, heading straight down the hallway, ignoring anything but the salvation before him.

So close.

His hands started to tremble as he lifted his right arm towards the knob, his long-sleeved shirt tiding up and revealing


Mosquito bites? Or the all-too-familiar…

He felt his heart pulsing. Closing his eyes, already anticipating, he breathed in, slowly, before losing his mind.

He ripped the door open, the lock slamming into a well-worn hole in the burgundy wall as the man ran to hid bed, dropping to his knees before it. He reached under, pulling out an unremarkable gray shoebox, and his lips quavered into a weak smile.

He stared madly at the box, his arms shaking.

He lifted the lid off the box carefully—reverently—as though he was meeting God.

He closed his eyes, salivating in expectation of what was to come. He couldn't wait any longer. He needed it.

The box was open.

He looked inside.

He began the process.

Out came the universe, contained in a needle whose pinprick was the size of his lost pupils.

He wrapped the tourniquet around his bicep, pulling as tightly as he could. He felt the pain, but didn't notice. All that mattered was what came next.

The low, low warmth of chocolate and seduction, of the sun, and everything that was holy.

Nothing mattered but this fine escape that chained him to his day-after-day-after-day routine, and he knew he would never escape this.

His breath staggered, and he sat.

He exhaled, a butterfly of breath floating up, up, up, on air, and he could see it, escaping the atmosphere and riding on, until he no longer cared, and he continued to sit, alone now, alone always.