There is a wait so long. Here comes your man.
“Like the coldest winter chill. Heaven beside you, Hell within.”
-Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains)
Jones was standing in his usual spot on the corner, watching for Nico's Mercedes to come gliding down the street, when the sound of live music caught his attention. It was Blues, rusty and rumbling in muffled dissonance from a dive bar up the block. The front door of the establishment swung open, spilling the raunchy melodies within onto the street. Along with the music, came a large man with Red Sox ball cap cocked crookedly atop his head. He was waving his fists and spewing obscenities, clearly drunk. The bouncer (who was significantly larger than the man in the ball cap,) stood in the doorway wearing a leather vest and an impassive expression. Mr. Red Sox regarded the larger man for a moment before uttering some inaudible insult and lumbering away in Jones’ direction.
Somehow, Jones just knew an altercation with the Red Sox man was inevitable. He considered taking a quick stroll around the block, but that same intuition told him Nico would arrive at that very instant. Instead he backed up into the alley, hoping the man in the cap would simply pass him by. It was then that he first noticed something wrong.
A foul smell, like burning garbage wafted from the darkness; the source of the odor became immediately apparent. A few feet into the alley there was a sewer grate. The air above it was distorted in a blurry heat wave; a muddy green vapor drifted out of the hole. The smell was putrid. Jones had to stifle the urge to vomit. Yet something else had caught his attention, drawing his focus so strongly that he didn’t even notice the man in the Red Sox cap closing in.
There was something sitting atop the sewer grate. At first, Jones thought he was looking at a rat; it was , the kind that looked raw and puckered, like a scar. Jones truly had no idea what he was looking at until it moved. With a sensation of shock and revulsion, he realized it was a finger.
A living finger.
Before his mind could process the utter absurdity of what he’d seen, Jones was overcome with the overwhelming smell of alcohol and a meaty hand was grabbing and pulling at him.
Memory of the finger retreated to a small confused corner of his mind as Jones’ vision was filled with the flushed snarling face of the man in the Red Sox ball cap.
“Don’t get stupid with me,” Red Sox chanted over and over, his eyes swaying in his head as if floating on a tide of booze.
You’re plenty stupid for us both Jones thought, surprised to find his sense of humor as he was shoved further and further into the alley. No longer satisfied with shoving, Red Sox cocked his fist back.
Just in time to dodge a looping haymaker, Jones tripped over his own feet, landing hard on his back. From out of the sewer beside him, shot a hand covered in chapped pink flesh, seizing his arm in a searing, crushing grip.
At the same time, the man in the Red Sox cap charged forward. As he prepared to drop kick the skinny junkie on the ground, a second hand reached up from the sewer and grabbed the leg of his pants.
“WHOWHATTHEHELLISTHAT?!?!” the large man shrieked in a string of terror as two more hands darted out, snatching at his clothes.
Jones fought frantically to break free. As he planted his feet for leverage and gave a huge pull, his arm slid out of the Hands grasp. The puckered blistered flesh tore from the things palm like skin off a rotten apple. With horror, Jones realized the bones beneath were glowing and hot, like charcoal embers. Just as he thought he would escape, two more hands shot out grabbing the leg of his pants and side of his shirt. The hands tightened and pulled hard, dragging him towards the mouth of the sewer.
The man in the red sox hat was screaming. Several more hands came out and pulled him to his knees.
Just as the hands were finally about to drag both men into the sewer, the man in the ball cap fell over onto them breaking their grip. Seizing the chance to escape, Jones scurried away on his knees. Gasping for breath and shaking violently he turned to see Red Sox hat.
There were dozens of hands now. They clutched the man all over in their bloody smoldering grips. They had covered his mouth and were yanking him through the narrow sewer grates. His bones popped and snapped as they pulled him down. Desperately, he worked one hand free, reaching out for help.
Jones was about to move forward and take his hand when the decadent purr of a luxury cars engine sighed behind him. He looked over his shoulder to see the blue halo of Nico’s headlights glowing in the street behind him. Jones took one last look into the pleading, terrified eyes of the man in the ball cap and walked away.
After he gave Nico the money and got what he came for, Jones checked down the alley. All that was left was the tattered red sox cap and a dark liquid dripping from the bars of the sewer grate.
Jones shivered partly from the withdrawal, but mostly from the memory of the glowing embers of bones beneath the hands soft mushy flesh. He felt certain he knew what was down in that sewer. The fact that he still came back, after what happened filled the young addict with a black spell of self hatred. It was a sensation that made him even more desperate for Nico to show up.
After several hours, the goods finally arrived. Jones paid the dealer and stuffed the gear into his pocket, anxious to get home, fix, and forget Abaddon Street until his habit forced him back once again. Before taking off, he looked down the alley. What he saw slid an icy needle deep into his guts.
A single pink hand was sticking up out of the sewer grate. The Red Sox cap, now soaked in a dark, greasy looking slime, lay before it. The hand swayed gently. Jones wasn’t sure if it meant goodbye or hello.
“Don’t worry, it won’t get you.”
Jones jumped, startled by the gruff voice behind him. He turned to see a small, disheveled looking old man.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Jones said, feeling somehow guilty for being caught seeing the thing in the sewer.
“Sure you do,” the old man answered. He was wrapped in a filthy blanket and there was a bottle in a paper bag in his hand.
Jones said nothing, too ashamed to uphold his lie.
“But like I said,” the old man went on after talking a long draught from his bottle. “You don’t have to worry about it pulling you down there.”
“Why is that?” Jones asked in a small frightened voice, though he already knew the answer.
“Because, it already has you, up here.”