With the closing of the door, the sounds of Newark came rushing back to my ears. The lights in the shop tuned off as the door slammed shut behind me. I couldn’t see the shopkeeper in the darkness but I could feel his gaze on me from behind the counter. He probably wanted me gone and I was more than happy to oblige.
While I was glad to have money in my pocket, I never wanted to return to that shop. There was something about that typewriter bringing up old memories, the creepy owner, and the bout of sickness that left a bad taste in my mouth. The stomach cramps continued, feeling as if someone was twisting my guts like spaghetti. I could have puked at any moment but I held myself together walking down the street and around the corner. There was a dealer I knew not very far from the shop.
Each step I took towards to my destination, my body gradually felt worse. My head started throbbing. It hurt so bad that my vision was blurring and my eyes seemed to be pumping like hearts in my skull. I could barely anymore stand with the cramps feeling like someone was plunging a knife into my stomach and twisting it over and over again.
Stumbling into the darkness of a narrow passage between two buildings, I fell onto my hands and knees in anguish. My organs felt like they were being rearranged inside my body. The metallic taste of nausea filled my mouth prompting my stomach to lurch and then expel its contents to the ground. All my strength went out, my vision faded, and then the world slipped out from underneath me. As I faded away into unconsciousness, I could have sworn there were leaves the color of blood in my vomit.
The sound of a mechanical roaring awoke me from my unconsciousness. I opened my eyes as a garbage truck approached slowly towards me. I tried to roll out of the way, only to find that my body was completely numb. Luckily for me, the truck wasn’t going fast. One of the garbage men was striding right beside the behemoth vehicle toward me.
“Find somewhere else to sleep, buddy. We got work to do,” the garbage man shouted over the rumbling
engine. My head still throbbed and the engine’s reverberations were overwhelmingly loud. At least the stomach cramps had gone away. Before leaving, I took a peak at the ground, and there was nothing there. No puke, no leaves, just oily, stained pavement and empty pistachio shells. I apologized to the garbage man and hobbled away from the path of garbage truck, feeling both of my legs tingling painfully with every step.
The pistachio shells reminded me of the shopkeeper. I shuddered at the thought of being in that shop the night before and remembered that I had money and crank in my pocket. I slipped my hand to check if they were still there. All of it was including something more. The gothic kid, cross-scythe necklace was still there too. It reminded me of the rusted typewriter and I wanted that more than I wanted to get high. At least, the cross-scythe was something to trade away. I had no idea who among the group of tweakers would trade anything of value for such a shitty trinket. I could probably pawn it for a couple dollars, if need be.
With my head still feeling like it was going to explode, I headed to the safety of the warehouse. Perhaps safety is the wrong word to use for a place where getting stabbed or attacked for no reason other than being the only other person there is completely normal. What I really mean is, familiarity.
I stopped at a corner store for a bottle of water, a jar of applesauce, and some aspirin. My stomach welcomed them without protest and the headache went away almost immediately. Feeling somewhat restored, I trekked back to the warehouse as the morning sun arose in the sky.
I debated continuing to my dealer but the sharp pain of a returning headache put an end to the issue. There were two people in the warehouse when I arrived. One seemed to be having a conversation with himself about men in white masks floating around him while the other was fixated on ripping a pile of papers to shreds. Nothing about them interested me and I passed with no incident thankfully. I found a spot beneath a stairway and wrapped my coat around my head to block the few rays of sunshine that entered through the windows.
I didn’t expect to fall asleep again given that I’d slept the night away in the middle of an alley. It felt strange to feel exhausted since crank binges are supposed to keep me up for days. It felt more like I was crashing. That was impossible unless I had spent more than a day or two in the alley. With no way of really knowing and honestly not really caring about it all that much, I closed my eyes hoping to stop the headache building up again. Somehow, I drifted off and fell asleep once more. That was the first time I dreamed of the Blood Tree.
The dream always begins in the same place. I’m standing in a clearing surrounded by a forest of snow covered trees as far as the eye can see. As I walk further through the woods, the path grows smaller and tighter with the trees coming closer together. They create a tree tunnel of connecting branches that forms a thick ceiling which blocks the sunlight from passing through. Voices whisper unintelligible words through the trees. The further you go down the tunnel, the voices get angrier and faceless creatures swipe with chipped, broken claws from behind the dense foliage.
In the distance, at the end of the tree tunnel, there’s a light shining down upon a single pale tree. I call it the Blood Tree because of its crimson colored leaves reflecting against the white, snow covered trees, making it seem like the entire forest is drenched in blood. There is no snow on the ground near the base where the leaves rest on the naked ground.
Behind the Blood Tree, there’s a pond with the leaves floating on top, giving the illusion of a blood filled pool from a distance. Once I reach the clearing, I can feel the tree radiating comforting warmth. I reach out to touch it but I always awaken before I can get my hand on it. I still have this dream even today.
I awoke drenched with sweat in the darkness beneath my coat. Pulling it from my head revealed that the sun had done its work for the day and gave away for debauchery in the night. Feeling rested and in the mood, it seemed like a good time to finish up the rest of my supply.
The other tweakers from earlier were nowhere to be found. I had the place for myself which was rare. I was perfectly fine with that, especially having cash and crank on hand. As much as I wanted to get more from my dealer, I wasn’t going to risk collapsing out in the middle of the streets again. I took one last look around to make sure no one was going to bother me. I grabbed my pipe and lighter, and pulled the crank out from my pocket.
The dull ache instantly magnified across my body. My heart pounded like I had sprinted through a marathon. The stomach cramps turned into full on spasms. With clenched teeth through the pain, I trembled, half in pain and half in anticipation for the rush to come. I lit the pipe and inhaled the toxic vapor into my lungs.
The pain disappeared as the euphoric warmth rushed from head to toe. A feeling of well-being overcame my senses making all the headaches, vomiting, and stomach cramps seemed like someone else’s problems. Those were the usual feelings I got from the rush. Everything else afterward that happened was all new territory. I can offer up theories that my stuff was bad or that I had psychotic break. With time, I’ve come to the conclusion that the necklace had something to do with what happened.
All the colors in my vision seemed to vibrate with life. They interacted with each other in low whispers reminding me of the clawed people in the tree tunnel on route to the Blood Tree. Weird auras formed around everything making them glow with reds, greens, and blues that I don’t imagine exist unless you’re tripping like I was.
I felt great until I saw was a man approaching me from the middle of the warehouse. His aura was a sickly shade of yellow and he reeked like he’d bathed in cat urine. He was probably just another roughed up meth head but something about him wasn’t right. I was used to being around all sorts of unpleasant people and none of them really scared me. This man was menacing like an animal waiting for its prey to realize they were about to be eaten.
I curled my hand into a fist and readied myself for a fight. Then I glared into his eyes and lost my will to fight. They were not human eyes. They were a greasy pink color that reminded me of ground beef and there was some sort of yellow goo floating in them that looked like runny eggs. The heat of his breath assaulted my nose and stank like a landfill on the hottest day of the year. His entire face was covered with infected sores that oozed pus and blood. I tried to squirm in his grasp with no success.
His grip was inhumanly strong. He squeezed my arms hard enough to make me feel like my bones were going to snap. He delighted my struggle baring tiny nubbins of black and yellow teeth, rotted with decay.
“Get off me!” I shouted in his face. The man ground his tiny teeth together then smacked his lips making a nauseating sound with the moisture on his lips. He didn’t answer or acknowledge that I had spoken. Before I could react, he put his claw-like hands behind my head and pulled me to him until our lips pressed together. The contents of my stomach lurched back up and burst through the cracks between our locked lips. I could taste the acidic regurgitation passing into the man’s mouth but he didn’t seem bothered. I punched, kicked, and twisted to no effect. I was locked into that horrific kiss until he was satisfied he had his fill. His tongue danced into my mouth wriggling further into the back of my throat until I felt it detach from his mouth and disappear down my esophagus.
The man released me from his grasp allowing me to writhe on the ground. I could feel the appendage wiggling through me like a slimy eel. I panicked and struck myself in the stomach over and over trying to kill whatever was inside me. I stuffed my fingers down my throat only to dry heave and leave cuts in the back of my throat and on parts of my tongue.
The man must have grown bored of my antics and decided to torture me more. He placed his dirty boot on my chest, knocking the wind out of me, while he searched my pockets. With a repulsive smile, he pulled the last bit of crank into his mouth and swallowed it. Then he pulled me to my feet. I was afraid that he would try to kiss me again or even worse. Instead, he leaned in, and garbled into my ear:
Then the world went white with searing hot pain. It was pain that made the headaches, stomach cramps, and withdrawal symptoms feel like a happy little walk through the park on a warm summer’s day. It was an agony from beyond the realm of human understanding. It was as if every cell that made up the composition of my being was set on fire all at once. Every muscle in my body locked, dropping me to the floor with a painful thud.
I always knew I would die because of my addiction. I’d be killed from an overdose, a deal gone bad, or just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time with someone willing to kill for a fix. I never imaged that I would die like this. I never thought I’d be begging for someone to kill me.
There was nothing I could do. I tried to yell and nothing came out of my throat. My mouth was wide open with my jaw locked in place. It allowed me to make a wet choking sound instead of words. The torture seemed to go on forever until it stopped when my stomach turned. I felt my bowels release and the eel slowly made its way up from my stomach and slithered out of my mouth. The man scooped the eel from the floor, placed it into his mouth, and swallowed it. The man’s last gesture was placing his blood soaked claw on my face and closing my eyes. It was a mercy that I passed out from the shock.
That was the last time I ever got high.