On The Edge
A belated Christmas present to Snakes&Sheep.
On a table in a crowded restaurant, there is a glass which is either half empty, or half full, depending on who you ask. If one looks at it from different angles, one could also debate the position of the glass. "It's scooted in." "It's on the edge." "It's in the middle." Who is to say who is right? Are things always as they seem?
On a brisk autumn night, a girl sits on a park bench staring up at the moon. She came home to a house filled with the scents of food cooking, and the news on in the living room. She enjoyed a nice peaceful dinner with her family. A sudden gust of wind blows her hair out of her face to reveal the angry violet bruise on the right side of her face. In her rush to get out of the house, where her family was questioning her new bruise, she forgot a jacket. Her skin is going ice cold.
She sits, shivering and rubbing her arms to keep warm. There are leaves falling all around her, their bright hues deadened by the moonlight. She can't discern the sound of steps through the sound of the leaves dying in colorful clumps on the ground, only to be pushed away by the wind. She looks up, the light from the lamppost bringing the bruise up brighter against her pale skin.
"That's a bad bruise. Don't you have a home to go to? It's frickin' freezing out here." The girl remains silent as she sees a girl who looks like she isn't too far from her age, with wild thick hair billowing in the wind. "Well? Do ya?" The strange girl asks again, tucking her hands into her pockets. "I don't want to go home." The girl's eyes, previously hard, softened a little. "Well then, do you want somewhere warm to stay tonight? What's your name?" The girl on the bench nodded, rising to walk with the stranger, "I'm Elise."
The table on which the glass sits is bumped often, jerking it towards the rim of the table and backwards towards the center.
Five years later, Elise still hasn't gone home. She rather enjoys her life to a certain extent. She is free from her old life as Elise, with her abusive boyfriend and overbearing parents. At least that's how Elise saw them. Sure, occasionally she would get a case of the homesick blues, but a little bit of cocaine, or a sip or four of vodka would help her out.
The girl who took her in, Zenna, was a dealer, and even though she had sort of taken Elise under her wing, she wouldn't just drop drugs to her without a price. There was a slight discount, but how was she supposed to get money to cover the rest?
About this time, Elise found out about a semi-booming business where she could get as much money as she needed just for sleeping with people. She thought it a fine idea, but dreaded giving her actual name out. One night, Zenna came in with a new shipment, and as she exchanged Elise's last bit of cash for her baggie of chemical energy, Elise asked about it. Zenna only smiled, and tried to talk her out of it, but Elise had gotten down to the point where she needed her chemical energy to keep going. She was sure that without it, she would simply fall apart. So, within the hour Elise had been left behind. Corynne had taken her place.
Corynne went out every night. Giving up little pieces of herself time and time again. As often as she needed to just so she could keep her energy boosts rolling. The money rolled in slowly, but in decent amounts. It wasn't long before she knew just what a customer wanted, just what they needed. Faces became a blur. Names became noise.
She commanded her own show for the first time in her life. She lived without restriction. She lived without worries. She lived how she thought she ought to be living. Each month each week, each day brought in more money, and more of her favorite drug. Each month, week, and day she might skip sleeping for a night or two. Each night she would get more money. The areas around her eyes began to darken, giving her an owlish look. Her lack of appetite because she filled her empty belly with both powdered and solid energy was making her ribs visible. Her curves were melting away with each strand of hair that died or fell out. With each strand of a memory of being Elise.
The liquid left in the glass is always thrown into chaos whenever someone bumps the table, whichever way it sloshes determining the way it slides. The glass sweats, gathers and looses condensation. The room is hot. The glass slides easier and more frequently.
Soon, just buying from Zenna was not enough to cater to Corynne's appetite. Zenna had a cap to how much any buyer could get their hands on at once. Corynne was no exception. Zenna frowned upon Corynne's frequent use. So, Zenna decided to find Corynne a new scene. A new person to party with so to speak. Sure, she was harder for Zenna to make or purchase from another trusted source, but Zenna got her for Corynne all the same. However, before Zenna gave her the big bitch, she had to try one other thing.
Corynne woke up groggy after going her usual twenty-four without sleeping. She was hungry again. Just as she was about to reach for what she had left over from her original stash, Zenna walked in, carrying a needle. "Hey, Hon, You gotta try this. Don't use the coke, just try this." She said, her words slurred. Corynne debated whether to listen to Zenna or not, her hunger rearing its head and ramming into her gut, tearing through her digestive system. Corynne was just about to roll up her sleeve when Zenna sat on her lap and tilted her head back. "Open your eyes. Keep 'em open til' I tell you to blink." Corynne obeyed, fear tingling in her fingertips at the thought of Zenna stabbing her in the eye. Instead, a fine stream of the clear liquid in the needle hit her left eye. "Wink." Then her right one. "Wink."
Her eyes burned a bit, and once Zenna slurred out. "'Kay. Do what you want." Corynne blinked rapidly, her eyes still watering. "Jesus, Zenna, what was that shit?" "A big piece of cheese cake!" She suddenly shrieked, laughing hysterically. Corynne blinked owlishly, wondering what the hell Zenna was talking about. As Zenna's laughter died down, she stared at Corynne oddly. "What?" "You're adorable, Corynne." "What a-" Corynne was cut off as Zenna sealed over her lips in a sudden kiss.
Just as she was about to push Zenna off, she felt a warm feeling that started pooling at the base of her spine before spreading towards all of her extremities. Her heart beat faster. Suddenly, what Zenna was doing was feeling very nice. Zenna pushed her back onto the bed, only removing her mouth from Corynne's to attack her throat with a mix of suckling and teeth. All Corynne could do was revel in the feeling which seemed more acute than usual, and watch as slow paintbrush-sloppy lines started creeping along the ceiling in dark reds and greens.
Corynne starting returning all of Zenna's advances with a feverish energy that asked the question: Was she burning with passion, or was the building on fire? Clothes were ripped accidentally as they were removed from their owners, neither one of them remembering which body belonged to the other. Their sweat slicked bodies sealed together in their throes of passion. Burning. Their skin was melting, their blood boiling and there was no relief. Corynne's radio came on, and they consumed each other as if each burning body fueled the other to the sound of screaming guitars, drums rumbling like thunder with the basses, and vocalists with voices as clear, strung out, and at the same time rough as lightning falling from the sky.
It was only forty-five minutes, but it felt like they had spent an eternity burning alive. As they both tensed in surrender to orgasms that snuck up on them, a fine rain finally started to cool their charred skin. Sweat glistened on the two bodies that were still wound around each other. Neither one of them were able to catch the fluttering blue moths that were shimmering different hues of blue. Sleep was out of reach that night. It took the sun weakly trying to break through the pregnant thunderclouds grumbling and screaming their discontent.
As the sun disappeared and the clouds gave birth to innumerable fat water droplets making noises like crashing cymbals on the tin roof over their heads, Corynne and Zenna finally caught a moth, and ignoring its cries and pleading for release, ripped it in two, and fed each other the halves they had gotten. Heavy eyelids slowly shut, their bodies still fused together as if lightning had struck them.
A small child sees the glass but doesn't say anything. It watches as the glass slips closer to the edge as waiter after busboy after elderly couple catching the special bump into the table containing it. The glass is nearly empty now, though the liquid remaining still dictates where it goes.
Zenna had woken up before Corynne, the performance from last night coming to her like a herd of snails speaking French. Too bad she had taken beginner's Spanish when she was in school. By the time she had deciphered all of what had happened, Corynne was awake as well. Corynne was fluent in French.
They dressed and took a hit of coke together, Zenna glad that the little vial of X was all she had acquired, and Corynne altogether unaffected. Corynne didn't care what the people were gender-wise as long as they paid.
It was a couple of weeks before Zenna decided to give Corynne her other needle. The needle. If this went well, Corynne's appetite for coke would ease up, and Zenna could raise the buyer's cap again.
December 31st, at eleven fifty-nine, Zenna brought the needle in. She thought it was funny that Corynne could see her job like it was nine to five. Every single holiday for Corynne was spent lounging in her room. As Zenna approached her, Corynne sat up, a smirk splitting her face. "What's that? More cheese cake?" Zenna shook her head, motioning for Corynne to roll up her sleeve. She carefully set the needle on the nightstand, before taking out a rubber tourniquet and quickly tying off Corynne's arm. "Zenna…" She breathed, "You shouldn't have." The radio blared the voices of a crowd thousands strong, five, four, three, two…One dose of brown sugar slipping into Corynne's bloodstream.
Zenna waited a little bit before she drew the tourniquet away from Corynne, and let her lay back and enjoy a habit sure to give her a rush. Zenna left the room, only sparing one more glance at the girl she considered a partner. A partner in what? Life? Crime? High times? Friendship? Love? Who knew? Certainly not Zenna, that much was clear.
Corynne enjoyed the sudden rush of pleasure and happiness. She felt as if she were being pinned down and roughly pleasured by a second or third rate lover, but pleasured all the same. It wasn't until hours afterwards that she crashed, feeling the depression picking at the edges of her brain. She turned over and hurriedly snatched the wastebasket towards her as her belly, filled with actual sustenance, emptied itself. "Why…why…why?" She muttered to herself, tears streaming from her eyes as she heaved again.
Suddenly, time starts to morph, slowing down with each tick of the second hand on the clock on the wall. The glass finally is hovering dangerously close to the edge of the table. Time continues to slow to a stop.
It had been ten months since Zenna had given Zenna her first dose of liquid love. Corynne found a newfound energy in the fluid, and as Zenna thought, started easing up on the snow, which started bringing in more revenue for Zenna. She could sell larger portions to a larger field of customers. However, Corynne's business began to suffer. She would go on the nod quite easily, which would interfere with some of her customer's satisfaction. She couldn't understand it either, since it had only became truly a problem to her work in the last two months, or was it three?
It was still of no matter to Corynne, as long as she could get her hands on some more. She had a moment of weakness a week or so ago, when she had forgotten to stock up and had to go two days without her chemical friend. She tried to use more coke to whet her appetite, but soon discovered that she couldn't stop the dragon inside her from throwing a fiery fit. It charged through her system, bellowing all the way, "More. More. More. More." As the snow melted into her gut, she also realized, she would now be fully awake to enjoy the dragon's rage.
Zenna had to give Corynne the doses when she needed them, because she never taught Corynne how, much to Corynne's chagrin. Soon, she became restless with the family-like system Zenna was creating with her drug regulation. One night, she mentioned her usage to one of her customers. How she was going to be itching for a fix when she got home. How she needed more love inside her.
The man smiled. He was known by all of his customers as Snake. Whether it was from his cold, calculating eyes, or how he had the tendency to wrap around you and milk you for every last drop of life, money, and blood that you had. Either way, Snake knew what Corynne was craving. He gave her a free dose, instead of money, and even taught her how to mainline all by herself. "Just remember. If you ever have a craving again, come and find me." He even gave her his card. How nice.
Corynne meandered home later than usual, Zenna sitting with her latest customer, sorting out money versus ounces at the table. Her eyebrow rose, "You're coming in late for a work night." "Let's just say I've made a new friend." Zenna's eyes narrowed but she said nothing more. After all, there was a junkie awaiting his fix, and she could tell that the poor guy was going to explode if he didn't get something in his system soon.
It was a while before Zenna confronted Corynne about either the lack of her needing to shoot up, or the vials of brown sugar going missing. She went in one night to find Corynne just getting the needle into her arm. As soon as Corynne was finished, and removed the tourniquet, Zenna went in and shook her roughly. "What the hell are you doing?! Since when did you learn to mainline yourself?! Who taught you? Why have you been stealing from me?" Corynne looked up at her blankly as if her eyes were nothing but cloudy brown marbles. "If…You want the money for the needles, I'll-" "Shut your mouth. You know just as well as I do this isn't about the money. You've got another dealer. One who taught you how to shoot up. I want to know who it is."
Corynne dropped her gaze. "Never got the dealer's name." "Don't. You. Dare. If you start bullshittin' me-" Zenna's threat was cut off as Corynne exploded, coming to a stand and bringing her hand up to shake Zenna roughly. "Who the hell do you think you are to try and control me?! You're not my mother! You're my dealer! Or at least, I thought you were! What kind of dealer are you to hold out on your buyers?!" Zenna's eyes flashed with flaming anger that could have burned the dead ends of Corynne's hair. "That's a load of shit! I've never once cheated you out of a fix! Not once! I've even gone out of my way to get you something new! Maybe if you're going to be an ungrateful little bitch, you don't need to live with your cheating dealer!"
Corynne didn't answer Zenna. Nor did she turn to dramatically pack her clothes and storm out. She stood there, her iced over mud puddles bearing the fading heat of Zenna's gaze. "You know what?" Corynne mumbled as Zenna's face started to express shock at her brain registering what her mouth just said. "You're right. I'm sorry Zenna. I guess this is goodbye." She said, gently removing Zenna's hands, which closed around empty air and fell as Corynne left the room, shutting the door with a click behind her.
Her face fell. And a porcelain mask hits the floor. She turned and sat on the bed, burying her face in her hands. No tears escaped her as her nails dug into her soft skin.
Time has nearly stopped. The glass is halfway off the table.
Corynne wandered the streets aimlessly for an hour or four before she felt the hints of the craving crawling along the edges of her flesh. Around the edges of her pulsing heart.
She plucked Snake's card from her jean pocket, even though she knew the address by heart she read it again. 5500 SE River Terrace. It was right by a river, as the street name suggested. At least…What could pass for a river in a big city such as this one.
She got there at midnight. "The witching hour." She muttered under her breath, staring at the large door frame and brass knocker looming over her like death itself. Snake based his business out of a renovated Victorian style house located near the edge of town. The other Victorian homes around him were empty. She hesitated only long enough to feel the next wave of need before knocking on the door. She waited for what seemed like four more hours, driving herself insane. "What if he isn't home? Shit. Maybe I could go back to Zenna…" She couldn't entertain that thought train for long. She was about to knock on the door again when it opened.
In all of his height, snake loomed just as the doorway had, making Corynne feel very small and insignificant. "What would it be that the little mouse wants today?" He sneered. It was just his usual way of saying hello. "I-I-I would like another fix please." Corynne stammered, blinking owlishly up at him, hoping it would ease the process for her again. Snake looked down at her small body, eyes ringed with a natural dark ring of skin from sleepless nights, flesh pasty, and hair dead and frizzing as usual. Corynne stood there and squirmed, prepared to sob shamelessly and go back to Zenna if she had to.
Finally, Snake stood aside, his body covered in darkness. "Fine. Get your ass in here." Corynne heaved a sigh of relief, a barely audible, Thank you passing over her lips as she crossed through the doorway. He led her down to the basement, and she inhaled deeply, the smell of his chemical kitchen overwhelming her senses yet again. There were a few overstuffed chairs off to the right, and she seated herself in one of them, watching as Snake tied his long blonde hair back into a ponytail, entering his kitchen. She relaxed into the chair, relieved that her fix was coming soon.
"So how are you intending to pay this time?" Snake inquired with disdain. "Uh…" Shit. Corynne hadn't thought of that. The green bills she knew he wanted were back at the house with Zenna. She sat in silence for a few more minutes, hearing her pulse thud in her ears before snake prodded once more, "Well, Corynne?" "I…uh…Could pay you with my body?" It had worked a couple of times before…She hoped it would work one more time. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she missed the dangerous smile that cracked Snake's face in two. "Are you sure about that?" He questioned, Corynne still not quite hearing that edge to his voice that would have made any other human or animal run for their lives. He came around, slipping into his dealing façade once more as he held the needle, filled with her liquid happiness, her watery eyes, her ocean of a soul that was begging to be running through her veins.
She inhaled shakily, baring her arm to him as she said, "Yes. God, yes. Please. I need to feel the needle." She begged, watching him nod once and get out his tourniquet. She inhaled deeply once more as the tourniquet was tied, and watched with eyes glazed with want as the needle punctured the tender yet scarred skin of her arm. Five…Six…Seven seconds and the deed was done. She shuddered as the needle was drawn from her arm, and sighed when the tourniquet was pulled off.
Snake left her, and went up the stairs. "To get a condom?" Corynne thought lazily. She had her shirt off when he came back down, a lacy bra covering her chest, and her pasty skin stretched tightly over her ribcage. Snake gave her a withering gaze. "I take it you're ready to begin paying me, aren't you?" He asked, Corynne nodding her head semi-eagerly.
"Well, Come and give it to me." He said testily. Corynne obliged, determined to give her dealer what he had paid for. She strode over with all the fierce determination of a model on the runway, hoping she was halfway exuding the sexy aura she was trying to create. She placed her hands at his lower back as he placed one hand on her hip. Her hands traveled up his back, across his shoulder blades, to his chest, and finally up his neck, where she suckled like a nursing puppy on his Adam's apple until he used his other hand and forced her up to his lips. She sealed their lips together tightly, engaging his tongue in a fierce battle as her hands wound around his back and tangled in his hair.
She struggled to make it to the next step as his hand tightened on her hip to the point of pain and distracted her. When she tried to pull away to protest, he roughly kept attacking her mouth, making sure to ravage it with his tongue to keep the both of them busy. She was about to reach for his other hands when she suddenly felt one of his shoulders twist in an odd way.
Suddenly there was a blinding pain radiating from just under her ribcage. She screamed, but it was swallowed by the man overpowering her. Her captor finally release her mouth, her lips bruised and slick with saliva as she cried out again at the feeling of the metal buried inside her, nestled among her vital organs.
Snake smiled serenely at her widened eyes and throat tearing shrieks of pain as he violently twisted the knife into her. She felt and heard the tearing that made her want to puke, completely sure her throat was bleeding as tears began streaming from her eyes like open faucets as she cried out, feeling an excruciating burning sensation. "You feel that, don't you?" he said, as he unceremoniously ripped the knife from her body and laid her out on the floor. "That sensation my dear, were parts of your colon and liver being shredded, and your stomach acid pouring out to greet them. I could let you suffer for up to four or five minutes before the blood loss would kill you…"
He paused, turning around and opening a desk drawer and shuffling papers and other things around before pulling out a dull black pistol and a bullet. "…However, I think even though you're nothing but a lowlife, sneaky, skanky little girl who got herself into a big mess, that you don't deserve to suffer for that long. Go on. Kiss the bullet for luck." He said, shoving it in her face. She broke past her pain long enough to do as he said. "Thank you, Corynne." He said pleasantly, loading it into the pistol and cocking the gun.
Time begins to flow again, starting in slow motion. The glass is teetering off the edge, the liquid inside all gone, never to be seen again. It dances on the rim of the table, turning once, twice, three times before beginning a descent that starts gaining speed.
"No…Pl-Please…" Corynne begged. "Sorry Corynne. Let me help you welcome death with open arms." Snake said calmly, leveling the gun with it aiming right at her head.
The glass was falling, falling, falling.
The glass hit the floor at a regular speed. Smashing into a thousand glittering pieces as the unforgiving shock of the concrete raced through it. Tiny little cracks racing around the glass at five thousand meters a second before breaking apart into a frosty scattering of tiny crystals. The child smiles. He saw it coming as soon as the family left their table. A small, shard shaped like a bullet lies under his chair.
As soon as Corynne opened her mouth to scream feeble pleas one last time, the pullet entered her brain, scrambling the egg yolk that had long since been fried and gathering dust. Her blood decorated the floor. The pink of her brain smeared out under her head which hit the floor for the last time like a toddler's finger painting mess. The copper scent mingled with the chemical one. Blood in heroine.
The child crawls under the table as waiters and busboys rush to clean up the mess. His parents are too busy watching the scene unfold to notice their child go missing for a few seconds. Grinning, he picks up the glass bullet, and curls his pudgy fingers around it.
The tendrils of drugs, sex, and sins around a dying heart…
The child smiles and opens wide as his parents finally realize what is happening.
Release it with its final pulse.
In one motion, the bullet is past the child's teeth and down his throat.
As his parents scream for aid, he give a smile and croaks out, blood seeping from behind his teeth, "See Mommy? It's all gone."