"Mary Ann struck a dramatically elegant pose as she injected herself with heroin," said Mary Ann.

She liked thinking about herself from a detached point of view like that. This was because, as the narrator of her own life, she could describe herself in flowery words and make all of her flaws and accidents seem, at the very least, tragically poetic. Perhaps her biggest flaw was her love of being tragically poetic. Perhaps she enjoyed the good bout of self-indulgent melodrama more than your average person.

Thus the pose.

She couldn't lie to herself. She was aware that she was a fairly well-adjusted girl, especially considering her little past-time. She also knew that, considering her upbringing by a nice upper-middle class family in Pasadena, she had no business being tragically poetic.

"You're feeling sorry for yourself," she chided herself softly. "Bad Mary Ann."

Still, she enjoyed sighing theatrically as the warm, lethargic sensation began creeping through her body. She amused herself for a moment by raising each finger one by one and seeing how much effort the tiny act required. She felt a narration coming on.

"And the most unfortunate, yet heartbreakingly lovely Mary Ann then curled her arm around her head and nodded away," she murmured, resting her head upon the crook of her elbow. Her last act was to glance at the clock above her headboard, and then nod away she did.

When she woke up, she felt distinctly dissatisfied, because she felt she had been asleep for no more than a few minutes and she had experienced no interesting hallucinations.

She raised her head off of the floor, and realized that she must have gotten up and moved at some point. The key factor that brought her to this conclusion was that her apartment was not paved in cobblestones.

"What the fuck," she muttered, wiping sewer water from her cheek and gazing at the street around her. She did not recognize it at all.

"I'm lost. Where the hell am I?" She said to nobody in particular. However, Nobody was obviously feeling unusually talkative that evening, because Nobody responded.

"You are exactly in the location in which you find yourself. At the moment, you are in this place and in no other place. Obviously you can not be all too terribly misplaced, because here you are," said the Nobody.

She turned around and found a man standing over her, looking at her disdainfully. She glared.

"Thanks a whole lot, wisecrack." She squinted at him. He seemed to have several bits of string, each about 6 inches long, hanging from various points all over his face. She realized, with a gasp of revulsion, that they had actually been threaded through his very flesh. He also seemed to have a bluish tinge to his skin.

"Aha," the man said. "She can sneer at me! Alice, you would do well to pick up some manners." And with that, he reached up and took hold of the two strings hanging from either side of his mouth. He pulled his lips down into a frown.

"What the fuck are you doing? And why are you blue?" She cried shrilly, backpedaling away from him as fast as her sluggish feet would allow.

"Look at the terror on your face. If only we could all be so lucky," he spat. He yanked two strings on either of his eyebrows, pulled them into a terrifying glare.

"You are correct to fear, Alice. You have disappointed me distinctly. Though I'm sure you would have known I would be mad." He looked at her imperiously.

"My name isn't Alice," she said firmly, relieved to find herself discussing a subject she knew so well as her own name. "My name is Ma - "

"You would do well to pick up some manners!" he cried again. "You promised that you would go to the Central Storage Unit. I see that you have, but you've returned with only your own damn face. It's lucky that you've run into me before anybody else sees you. I suggest that you keep your face concealed before anybody less well-meaning than myself notices you!"

Mary Ann opened and closed her mouth a few times.

"Just like a fish," sighed the Nobody. "If only we were all so lucky."

"Listen, guy. I don't know who you think I am…or who you think you are for that matter…but it is pretty obvious that you are completely off your rocker. Taking your obviously impaired mental state into consideration, I'm not going to take out my pepper spray. I am simply going to walk away now, and for your sake and not mine I hope that you don't follow me." And true to her word, she began to walk.

The blue-tinted Nobody stared after her, his eyebrow strings tugged into their most furious position.

"If you don't go back to the Central Storage Unit, you shall be very sorry indeed!" He shouted after her.

She gave him the middle finger and began to run as hard as she could.

Her dealer was obviously fucking with her. This was not just a bit of innocent heroin pulsing through her arteries. It was pure Madness.

She gazed down a dark alley, and was sure she could see herself at the end of it. Ignoring her instincts, she jogged through it and discovered that she was in the same place in which she had started. The same stony building towered over her, so tall that it disappeared into the black sky and its wispy clouds. At least the blue Nobody was gone.

"The streets don't go anywhere," she said irritably, savoring the normality of her own voice.

"Surely you are wrong," replied a polite voice.

Mary Ann spun around so fast, she felt lucky to escape a neck injury.

Before her stood a familiar face. It was Dennis, ex-boyfriend of 6 years, and prick of the century.

"Oh, for God's sake, Dennis, what are you doing here?" she groaned.

"Waiting for you," he replied. "Please call me Virgil."

"I will do no such thing, you lunatic. I thought this was my own ridiculous hallucination, until you went and showed up. Now I'm just confused and I damn well blame you."

"I'm here as your guide. Chamaecyparis sent me to watch over you."


"–Cyparis," Dennis finished for her patiently. "I suppose he never got around to introducing himself. He's the fellow with the...you know...skin condition."

"The strings?"

He blinked at her, confused, and she realized that he seemed to have those vile little threads too. As if reading her mind, Dennis reached up and pulled the strings on either side of his mouth into a concerned frown.

Mary Ann turned her head away, revolted.

"Please don't do that, it freaks me out."

"What does? Emotions? Certainly I wish I could accomplish them without the strings."

Mary Ann stared.

"This is so fucked up," she said.

"I'm sorry if you're confused."

"You're not Dennis, are you?"

He shook his head slowly.

"And then, you must not be Alice."

"I'm not."

He reached up and grasped every single one of his strings, until his entire face drooped with grief.

"Then there's no hope for us."

"What on earth do you mean?" she asked, startled.

"I was to lead Alice through the gauntlet of purgatory and bring her back safely. She was supposed to save our faces."

Mary Ann stammered.

"You mean your…your emotions? So you can take out the strings?"

Dennis-who-was-Virgil nodded gloomily.

"Where did they, um, go? Your emotions, I mean?" she asked, feeling rather stupid.

Virgil pointed directly upward. Mary Ann followed his finger. Looming over them was the stone building.

"This is the Central Storage Unit. Alice was supposed to be our only hope. Chamaecyparis predicted it."

"He hinted that I might be in danger," Mary Ann recalled, growing angry again. "He threatened me."

"And rightly so. You had best be on your guard, particularly tonight. People will see you, not a string upon you, and they might get a bit jealous of your emotions."


"Try to take them for themselves."

Mary Ann stared. Her lips twitched involuntarily, and she wondered irrationally whether this tiny action might be picked up on by Virgil; whether he was considering taking her face…

"Wait just a minute. I may not be sober right now, but I know you can't just forcibly remove someone's emotions. It doesn't work like that."

Virgil arranged his face into a sad smile.

"Would you like to stay here and convince them of that?"

She turned and saw a dirty group of people huddled together on the street. She was quite positive that they had not been there a moment ago, but at that moment in time they were undeniably real and threatening. Their faces were blank and cold, but their eyes burned as they regarded her. Mary Ann shivered, and she decided to try and keep her face as stoic as possible.

"What do I do?"

"I don't know. Everything's gone wrong. I suppose you will have to come with me until we sort it out."

She followed him like a beaten puppy, unsure of everything. She heard one of the dirty old women moan terribly, and pressed herself as close to Virgil as she could.