Johnny Spirit sat beneath the bridge downtown beside the tracks on an old battered mattress placed among train cars splattered with graffiti. He took from his coat pocket the handful of mushroom caps that Evil Jesus had given him, popped them into his mouth and began to chew on what tasted like pliable copper. Unlike most he was loath to do it as they made his mind a train-wreck and the come down was unnecessary but he needed them to get tonight’s job done. They let him get far enough into the thin veil that separated all things to where his own natural abilities would kick in and take it from there. It was very much like jump-starting a vehicle in the dead of winter.
Far across the silent, broad street under the sole streetlamp a fire burned high in a rusted steel barrel. Beyond it on the facade of an abandoned factory a doorway led into darkness. Something bad had happened there not long ago into the past or perhaps into the future. It was hard to tell and it wasn’t his business unless someone paid him which was why Johnny was here to begin with. He needed to eat, pay rent and maybe get a bottle of Jack to help manage his own demons.
After a half-hour had passed in silence the mushrooms started to kick in. Johnny felt nauseous and cold. His thoughts took shapes of their own and took him to places he needed to forget but simply could not and it was all part of the trip:
Her face appeared again like it did every time he closed his eyes. She was laughing as she danced between trees drenched in soft summer’s eve light.
The image faded, replaced by another of her some time later -the same lovely face contorted into a mask of anguish as she screamed for him to leave, followed by the heavy presence of silence and emptiness that had since remained like a long, dark hallway.
No…I’m sorry, Sweetheart. I’m so sorry for what happened to us.
Then came the little apartment room swallowing Johnny up to the moment that he was trapped with the elfish nymphet happily hurling bottles at his face as she laughed at him and at his pain. She was all scars, stitches and rage under a barrage of flower tattoos -a girl that was nothing but damaged and as such had damaged Johnny in return by trying to love him the way that others had taught her.
Some people’s sickness you can’t see until it’s far too late.
Again his world transformed to become the burnt-out husk of their house after the fire where everything was blackened and wet as he wandered through alone in the night still clearly recalling the kaleidoscopic din of sirens and lights. It was a place that he had never really left and Johnny hated himself for it just like he hated the four walls he lived in and despised even more the need to ever leave it and walk out into the brutally confusing world.
Johnny, get a grip. You’ve got work to do.
Johnny jerked his head up, opened his eyes and forced himself into the present. He had to own this trip or it wouldn’t work. The nausea dissipated and he couldn’t feel the cold or anything else now as he experienced the weightlessness that was the dominion of dreams. It was how Johnny knew that it was time. He needed to find the girl in blue by the station as it was Johnny’s ticket to where he wanted to go tonight.
Johnny began to walk in the direction his mind told him to go and it wasn’t long before he heard steps falling, skipping along beside him. He turned to face a girl of about twelve whose light-blue dress and dancing shoes spoke of how long she had been residing here unseen except for when she needed or wanted to be.
“Do you think I’m pretty?” She asked.
“I’m bad, but not like that.” Johnny replied as he lit a cigarette. The act of it taking more of his concentration then it had a right to. “I’m not interested in that or in you in general, not really anyway.”
Johnny felt sorry for the girl as he took in her dead visage, her pale dead legs beneath her tattered dress, her pale dead everything. He wondered how many of the missing have fallen to her in these parts in this town.
“You sure know how to talk to a lady.” She crossed her arms.
“I’m looking for Victoria.”
“Oh? And what do you know about Victoria?”
“She’s been hurting some of my friends and I want her to stop. I thought that things might be better off if her and I had a conversation in private.”
The girl’s laughter was humorless and beyond her years. “What makes you think that I would help you?”
Johnny reached into his pocket. “Because she takes possibilities away from you. Help me, and I’ll help you. All I want is some information and in return I’ll give you this.”
Johnny pulled out a small black key and handed it to her. The girl knew what it really was and smiled. She nodded over to where Johnny came from, to the barrel fire and the door behind that led into a very bad place judging from the feel of it.
“I think you already know where to find her.”
Johnny looked over to see that the fire was still burning like a beacon. There was still nobody tending it. And the door was still open like an unanswered invitation. “Fuck.” He said.
“Not for you. Not tonight. Not if you go in there.” The girl cupped her mouth and giggled.
“A grand says I do.” Johnny turned and started walking.
“Oh, poor Johnny.” He heard from somewhere behind him. “She’s not really the one your looking for, is she?”