They told me not to, but I did it anyway. Who are they to tell me what to do? “It is dangerous,” they said, but what do they know and I like a little danger. What’s food without spice? Walking through the Slums is not really fun, but it is different, a break from the humdrum. The service station and row houses are pretty in a run down shabby sort of way. The Red Light gives me a tingle, a little jolt between my thighs, like a forbidden thing that I’m going to do anyway. The broken neon in the motel always makes me smile, a little touch of truth peaking through the bullshit.

I think about the restrooms, how sweet it would be to just hang around in there and be hit on by the perverts…maybe one of them might even do something this time, but that wrecked mustang pulls me. There’s something sexy about that car, even as beaten and rusted out as it is. In 2023, who can claim they got laid in the back of a 1965 Mustang…and to be wrecked as badly as that car…makes me wet just imagining. The Bilco doors catch my attention, DANGER in big red and white! That’s like a golden ticket invitation, but damn it, they are locked.

I press on and cross from asphalt to dirt, like stepping into the past. The swamp reeks like a sorority mattress at the end of the semester, but what the fuck, I love the smell of old sex…it’s almost as good as the smell of fresh! My feet slip a little in the muck as I creep over to the large window by the side of the porch. The glass is grimed, I can’t see in and I move towards the back of the house. I turn the corner and something rushes at me, so fast, it’s a blur, my world spins, something has a hold of me from behind, cloth pressed to my mouth, it stinks, I take a breath to scream and my vision fades to black rather abruptly.

I hear something.. music.. a voice.. humming? I sit up or try to, I can’t move much. My eyes are slow to open, but I can see… I can see…. a cement wall… some shelving of worn metal, boxes, jars. Turning my head, everything is a touch out of focus, but sharpening. There are pipes and some fluorescent lighting hanging from the ceiling but not putting out much light, lots of shadows. I am in a basement or some dressed subterranean room. In those shadows I hear low humming, a tune I feel I know, but can’t place, and a repetitious rhythmic rasping like metal on stone. It’s so hard to keep my head up and looking down I am tied to some sort of table. My mouth is dry, my nostrils feel caked, dried out. Breath is shallow and not easy. A groan escapes me, I swallow hard. My left arm, I see stretched out away from me on some kind of extension of the table. Where..

A shadow falls across me. I look up to see a form, a figure, not very distinct, a shock of hair on the head, badly fitting clothing, but what really catches your eye is the surgical saw on a tray with bandages, a needle, and a small medicine bottle. The head has no features.. burlap? Eyes and mouth moving, “Sew pour aghost a weight,” doesn’t make sense. The person settles down between my arm and my body and pinches my arm for some inexplicable reason. They nod and the humming gets a little louder. I hear something that sounds like … smacking of lips?

They fill the needle from the bottle and inject into my arm. A a cold numbness spreads up and down my arm. My fingers tingle, my body feels heavier, but my head lighter. My vision becomes more cloudy, darkened, eyelids heavily flutter…. My arm hurts, a dull ache in my bicep. The sound of shredding. Something spatters my cheek like a light but warm rain… maybe an overhead pipe sprung a leak… ?

I must have slept because I wake again to the sweet scent of cooking. I am sitting up now, at a table. Still in the basement. The person is fussing over a propane camp stove and I can not do much but watch them set the table with exaggerated care. Two places. The food smells delicious and I am so hungry. They sit opposite, doling out food from pan to plate with a serving spoon. I fumble with the fork but manage to stab a morsel of meat. “First we give thanks,” the voice booms but I think it is my hearing that is off and my lips and tongue stumble over an apology. I hear an “Amen” and repeat it then we into tuck into what smells like a delicious meal.

I don’t recall drinking but I feel drunk. This brings to mind a joke and I laugh. What’s so unpleasant about being drunk? Ask a glass of water! “Are you enjoying the meal,” they ask and I nod, slobbering down my chin, feeling stupid and clumsy. I am fading in and out of clarity, but they seem to say something like, “Your taste is exceptional, my dear.”

This fading to black is becoming a habit and I’m pretty sure I don’t care for it. My eyes flutter, and slowly focus. I am in the slums lying, behind a house, lying on a pile of trash. I try to lift myself up but fall to the side because where my left arm was is now a bandaged stump. I crawl, stumble, and stagger to the street near the bus stop. “Bus tha’ss a good idea right there,” I think to myself and when it arrives, fall up the steps into the seats. The driver looks at me for a moment then turns to drive. I do that fade to black thing again.

Feeling somewhat better, I open my eyes to a clean, bright room, a fancy bed with clean sheets and a doctor next to me. “You’re all right. You’re ok.” He assures me with a confidence that is not instilled within me, but whatever floats his boat. I feel fine. “We’ve given you morphine to deal with the pain. Do you remember what happened?” I feel taken aback by the strangeness of the whole scene, “Gimme a hand here, Doc. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”