i am being aimlessly guided by a decrepit side street.
the smell of who-knows-what hangs in the still like an occupied noose
as i strain to ignore the unpleasant moisture on my brow,
the imperceptible perspiration of emotional exertion.
my heels can decipher the coded cracks in the concrete
and converse with muffled clackings that echo from alleyway walls.
they say, "our coordinates are flawless; this is the path to freedom."
i think, to reach it alone would be more bitter than any confinement.
‘cause i left some love in an empty room miles from here—
it’s collecting cobwebs instead of affections
while the idol of unrequited passion burns
and its ashes are faxed to four far corners of a hardhearted world.
i reach a dead end and feel the breath catch in my throat.
there is nothing here but the empty cocoons of the homeless
who have hopefully lifted themselves on dusty wings to a better place
leaving me searching for signs of life in the litter they've left behind.
there is a poster haphazardly taped to the bricks;
no lettering, no information, just the face of a man.
he stares blankly at me from his paper veranda
as if i were a television set, some mundane form of entertainment.
then, unexpectedly, a hole rips through the flyer
to compensate for the boot-clad leg freeing itself from dried pulp
and stepping heavily onto the pavement below.
i stumble back in mixed horror and disbelief as appendages creep lividly from the wall
until the man with the advertised face stands before me.
he pulls a pack of parliaments from his trenchcoat pocket
and wordlessly offers me one as his lighter births infant flame.
soon, the nicotine fog hangs like an opaque grey curtain between us.
then the silence is shattered, with shards of stillness breaking against the asphalt.
"i hope you weren't attempting to be stealthy. i could hear you for miles."
the voice emitted is raspy, the sound of a dull razorblade on the neck of a convict.
i shiver fiercely in response with a zero-kelvin cold.
a frankenstein hand fights through the smoke to grasp my ashen face.
his finger to my lips is a canker sore forming.
"a pretty lil' thing like you shouldn't be caught dead in this mess."
his forked tongue forms the words of nothing i don't already know.
i push him away. "just cut to the chase. we don't need to drag this out.
you know what i came here for, so let's get it over with."
my heart spasms in protest, but i suppress it with clenched fists.
as it dejectedly thuds in my chest, i can taste the bile rising in my throat.
he raises an eyebrow, then sniggers, showing off a yellow shark-toothed grin.
"the princess has a temper! well, you've come a long way for this, sweet cheeks."
he reaches into his coat, pulls out his leather gauntlets blackened with singe.
"say exactly what you need, doll, and your old pal lucifer will handle the rest."
my lungs deflate, punctured by pins and needles of stale air
and the blood dries in my veins like cruel sun blistering the desert.
half of me begs for lockjaw. the other half manipulates the corners of my mouth.
"erase him from my mind. i can't spend my life obsessing."
a glint of guilty pleasure in the devil's red eye seals the deal.
soul extraction's just like getting a tooth pulled, i tell myself regretfully.
it's just another part you don't need, a bland and disposable item.
but it doesn't quell the fear; i'm shaking hard enough to register on a richter scale.
the man in black embraces me, grasping my ribcage in his massive gloved hands.
a flash of doubt sears through me, yet i stand frozen, crucified.
i feel satan's minions pulling at memories like loose strings
and there is chanting in my ears; evolnilr igafognir effuseht eta ivellai sihth tiw.
i come to with dry heaves and a migraine sent from hell itself
to find that i am home in bed with the sheets around my ankles.
i rise and move to the mirror, see the dark circles traced around my eyes,
and dissolve into sobs without knowing why.