“Wake up, bastard.”
Light writhed through the planks that were nailed to the windows. Static pulsed through the pop music on the box radio, and the ceiling fan whummed incessantly above, kicking up motes of dust and sending them spinning. It stank of incense and the room was so cold.
“Wake the fuck up, I said.”
Ellie sat humming peacefully in a corner, drawing on the walls. Perhaps out of mercy, they’d given them crayons before they sealed them in…but no paper. Lucian watched his little sister draw with his hunger sitting heavy like a stone in the pit of his guts. She had made a smiling man wearing a crown made out of branches and leaves on one wall, with antlers sprawling out on either side of his head. The man had his arms spread wide, and Ellie had drawn all kinds of different flowers underneath them-irises, lilies, morning glories, daisies, all with an intricacy beyond what a six-year-old should have been capable of. Lucian could not see her face, only the soft golden spill of her hair, and the hospital band winking the afternoon sun back to him as her hand glided along.
“Can you even fucking hear me? Hello!”
The man she’d drawn had his hand positioned right where the edge of the corner was. On the opposite wall, she’d drawn a woman, and her hand was also positioned at that edge, giving the illusion of the two of them touching their fingers together. She’d managed to convey a grim, austere expression on the woman’s face. Her belly was heavy with child, and unlike the man, she wore no crown. Her arms were spread wide, too, but instead of flowers, Ellie had taken her black and red crayons and drawn tendrils snaking around her limbs and torso. The tendrils spiraled in beautiful, intricate patterns, wrapping around to cover the woman’s nakedness and curling away from her outstretched arms. Behind the tendrils, Ellie had used a gray crayon to make a giant, round spiral, giving the illusion that the woman was standing in front of a sort of tunnel. Scrawls of orange and yellow made up unkempt blonde hair, which tumbled nearly to her feet.
Under her feet was a pile of skulls.
The sight of the skulls in conjunction with everything else was the thunderclap that sent his composure scurrying. He needed to be gone from here. Lucian opened his mouth to call his sister’s name-and the slap cracked against the side of his face.
The horrible room behind the tiny door in the back of the church was gone immediately. Instead, there was the yellowed, bare mattress, the mess of dirty clothes in the corner…and Lori, bug-eyed, chewing her lips.
“What the fuck, little sister,” he growled, laboriously pulling himself up to a sit. He groped in the crack between the mattress and the wall and procured his pack of smokes.
“Little sister?” Lori trilled. “Little sister? What the actual fuck is wrong with you, Lucian? You’re crazy, you know that? You’re actually, literally fucking crazy. I’ve been sitting here for a half hour, listening to you talk nonsense in your sleep. Do you have any idea what you even do in your sleep? It’s fucking weird, Lucian. You need to-”
Her cocaine-sharpened words needled into him as he popped the cigarette into his mouth and lit it up with the last match in the book. Lori had been awake for days, now, nothing she said made any sense anymore. She’d be crying and telling him how much she loved him in about thirty seconds. He loved her too, but he was so tired. He leaned back against the wall with the pillow crumpled under his body and smoked his cigarette, tuning her out. The remnants of the dream sunk its hooks in and tore him up for awhile, but by the time he dropped the cigarette butt into an empty soda can, he could barely remember the details. The feelings, sure. But not what happened.
“You did my wakeup bag, didn’t you?” he asked her. She immediately bit off the rest of her tirade. The guilt that flashed in her eyes gave him the answer he needed. He sighed. He should have slept with it in his pocket, but what could he say? He’d done it to her a thousand times.
Tossing the blanket off of himself, Lucian scooted his legs over the side of the mattress and stood. His stomach roiled uncomfortably. Every bone in his body felt like it was throbbing. This wasn’t true sickness, not yet, but if he didn’t think of a way to score fast, it would escalate into something unbearable very soon. He yawned, stretched his arms out wide, and rolled his head. A sequence of satisfying cracks erupted from his joints. The ugly web of scars on his back quivered as he rolled his shoulders.
“I’m sorry,” Lori called, weakly, as he padded his way to the bathroom.
“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered, but not loud enough for her to hear. He didn’t want to fight. He didn’t have it in him to fight with her and be dopesick.
The bathroom mirror had a smear of toothpaste on it. It’d been there for weeks, he realized, as he turned on the faucet, maybe even a month. Neither of them seemed to care enough to scrub it off for all that time, but the sight of it bothered him now. It was an indicator of their affliction, somehow. As he tore a piece of toilet paper off from the roll to wipe it away, he paused. He could hear something underneath the sound of the tap.
His hand froze in midair as he listened. There was definitely someone…shouting something? That’s what it sounded like, but it also sounded muffled, like it was coming from the apartment downstairs. Was it coming from downstairs? He cocked his head, as if by force of concentration the volume would increase-
“Finn called you.”
A girl he did not recognize was standing behind him. For a split second, he saw her there in the mirror-her long dark hair, a gray polo shirt-but she was gone almost immediately. It was only Lori. He rubbed his eyes and shut the faucet off. He hadn’t been well, lately, he’d been going too hard. He was seeing things, hearing things.
Don’t you remember what happened last time? he wanted to say, but instead, he asked “What did he want?” Last time didn’t matter if this time meant they could get a bag.
“I dunno. He wouldn’t talk to me. He just told me to tell you to call him.”
She handed his phone over and walked away.
In the chaotic whirlwind that was Lucian’s life, Finn was one of the few consistencies. They’d met as children in the Church, and managed to remain in contact with one another even after everything fell apart and they were sent to different foster homes. Recently, Finn had picked up dealing. Occasionally, he asked Lucian to make deliveries for him. The last occasion was a disastrous, life-threatening encounter with a tweaker on the other side of town. Finn had compensated him for the trouble, but the experience was enough to make him wary. Lucian was out of money now, though, and they would both be sick soon. He was willing to risk it again.
He swiped open his screen and dialed the number, heading into the living room to have the conversation.
The phone rang once, twice, three times, four. He was about to hang up when unexpectedly, the call connected.
There was no answer on the other end.
“Hey man, what’s up,” Lucian said, to break the quiet.
No answer. Ragged breathing. Finn was there, he just wasn’t saying anything for some reason. Lucian pulled a cigarette out of Lori’s pack on the coffee table and started walking towards the stove with it. This…didn’t feel right.
“Come over. I need both of you to help me with something. I’ll make it worth your while.”
Both of you.
Why the fuck, Lucian wondered, as he lit the cigarette on a burner on the stove, did he want Lori to come too?
“Yeah, cool,” he said. “What do you need help with, man, should I-”
The call ended so abruptly, Lucian didn’t even immediately realize that it had ended. He hadn’t realized that Lori was sitting on the couch the whole time, either. She looked up at him expectantly, her eyes still wide from the stimulants.
“What did he say?” she asked.
We aren’t going to deal with him, this is fucking weird, was what he wanted to say, what he should have said…but he didn’t.
“Get your shoes on.”Recommended1 Simily SnapPublished in