1. Dirty Bomb (Novel in progress)

Like a metaphor for a broken dream,

The sun sets on the claret coloured sky,

My eyes shut,

Mind ambivalent to whether it will rise again.

As the dark new moon,

Casts its stark silhouette across the City,

It illuminates nothing,

For this is a story about the end,

And every end has a beginning.

ACT 1

‘THE END’

Chapter 1

Whack.

Whack!

WHACK!

My head crashes hard against the solid brick exterior wall.

Sitting hunched on the floor, I lean my whole body to my right. Slumping until I almost topple. Like a pendulum I muster everything I can to throw my weight back at the brickwork. Driving every last bit of force into my skull. Smashing the side of my head on the concrete. Hoping it will break.

I feel my brain judder. Teeth jar, as the sharp pain shoots down my spine. Everything wobbles. My vision is starting to blur now. Jaw swinging uncontrollably. My bottom lip would be dripping with drool if I had just one last drop of moisture left inside of me. Soaked through, my body shakes. Clothes drenched from the cold sweat.

Whack. Whack!

I must knock myself out.

I struggle to focus my eyes. There is one last £20 stone sitting on the filthy plate on the floor in front of me. Ash, cigarette ends, charred cans. Their otherwise innocuous exteriors pierced to form makeshift pipes. The paraphernalia of a crack den degrades the dark air in the damp squalor of the room where I have taken rot.

One last miserly rock of cocaine. All that sits between here and despair. The abyss into which I am ever approaching.

It isn’t working. I can’t lose consciousness. I will have to smoke that last stone but then there will be nothing. No way of fighting off the horrors that will come.

My dirty, junky hand reaches out to the plate. Shaking like Parkinson’s disease. It looks like someone else’s, detached from my body. I can feel nothing. Is that blood seeping from the wound in my head. Or is it sweat? The drugs have made my mind, body and senses numb.

All I can think of is that next rush, trying to satisfy the hit of the one that went before.

The warm liquid drips from my temple, down my cheek and into the corner of my mouth. It is blood, I can taste it. Just. Good. It gives me the moisture I much need to lubricate my mouth. I lap it up. Ready to clasp the can and inhale that precious last gasp.

First I must fix the pipe. I pick up an empty coke can from where it sits on the floor down by my knees. It is folded in the middle to create a dip. A reservoir where the pile of cigarette ash is positioned. A nest for the rock of crack to perch upon. Like an urn, split and its morbid guts open for the night to see. It fuels my hunger.

I had washed up my last eighth just a couple of hours ago. How long have I been awake? Days. I have no idea. It has been too long and I am reaching the end. Three ounces later.

The empty coke can in my hand. Soiled like the dozen or so others strewn around me, with the stain of spent ash at its core. Hurriedly I find a piece of dirty card in amongst the debris. Torn corner of a cigarette packet, its filthy surface matches the black scum caked on my fingers and all around me.

I scrape the centre of the can. Clearing away the used ash to reveal the pin prick pierced holes in the aluminium below. The gauze, a ring of black roses on the wrist of its victim. A pox to the can and the mark of both salvation and the reaper to me. Quickly I find the pin on the plate, next to my precious white pebble. Scraping the tar from its shaft, I poke its prick into the gauze, clearing the holes of their slime.

Suddenly a siren goes past. It brings my consciousness back into the room and away from the fixation of the devilish tools, held tight in my hands.

I stop. Heart beats. Suddenly aware of the space around me. What is this place? The flash of red, white and blue light. A momentary multi-coloured strobe illuminates the furniture in the room. Blasting through the cracked glass and shaking frame of the window. Chairs, looming grey silhouettes. Am I in a graveyard? Am I even still alive, of this world?

I catch a glimpse of my shadow in the mirror on the table next to me. My buckled frame bent full double. Like a gargoyle, eyes gaping black holes in my gaunt withered skull. Mouth upturned. The miserable cracked up grimace of a sad crying clown. Slumped in this macabre malaise, reeking foul stench like the end of days. I muster all I can to reach out my arm. Bony hand curled, cobbled arthritis. A spasm and I knock the mirror down flat. I cannot bear to see my reflection. I am surprised that I even still have one.

The screeching muffles the forgotten rattle of the radio. Grinding on in the background. Inaudible over the clattering sound of my beating heart and drip of cold sweat.

Back to the task. I grab the ash tray next to me. A solitary cigarette left there to burn, from full mast down to the butt, without even a drag. Just to collect the fresh ash. I use the card, folded to scoop up a pile and pour it onto the gauze. A dusty aggregate, pedestal for the yellow white rock I am about to smoke. I pick up the stone. Both hands rattling. Hyperthermia. Barely able to bring the apparatus together. I drop the rock into the ash.

Right. Here goes. I exhale as much as I am able. Expelling every last bit of air to make room for the smoke to come. I breath in deep, then out again, hyperventilating. Emptying my lungs. Ready to fill them till bursting with the delicious fumes. To take the plunge and swim the gulf.

Carefully I lift the can to my curt, pursed lips. The mound of ash in the middle, pointing upwards. The rock nestled like an egg ready to hatch as soon as it is hit by the flame. A demented phoenix. Dark crow, clawing to pick the flesh from my bones.

I light the flame and ignite the rock. Glowing white coals, flickering red. I breathe in slow and steady. Moving the flame around the nest. Sure to burn and consume every last crumb.

The rush of air over the rock and through the holes in the can, into my lungs. For a second the sound of the radio catches my ear over the crackle of the pipe.

“It’s the end of the world as we know it,

It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”

REM’s chorus comes coursing over the airwaves and into my ears, filling my head.

Appropriate I think, inhaling deeper. Expanding my lungs and shutting out the song. It is certainly the end of my little run with the stolen cocaine. But will I ever feel fine again? It doesn’t seem likely. Soon the rush will come and for a few seconds at least, it will not matter.

The last white speckle burns.

I pull my head back from the mouth of the can. A whisp of smoke escapes from the hole into the air around me. The off white plume hangs around my neck. Crack pipe’s secretion like a dead bird, caught in the slick. Its weight pulls me down into the depths of the sea.

Darkness. Eyes shut, I hold on.

Drawing the breath down as far as I am able. I feel my lungs burning. Knowing that the longer the smoke is inside me, the more intense the rush will be. My croaking chest and poisoned blood soak up every last succulent drop.

Choking on my own suffocation I release.

Bang. The feeling hits me. Riding over my being from my heart to my head and out to the ends of my fingers and toes as I exhale. Exalted. Tingling.

An intense tsunami. Endorphins exploding, like peaking on a hundred ecstasy tablets all at once.

My brain catapults across to the other side of the room. An internal ejaculation. All I can hear is the drumming of my heart. Bongos on speed. My senses assaulted by the immense intensity of the rushing.

Almost as soon as the waves come crashing from the burning rock on the can to my trembling body, the dreaded staccato beat of clarity follows. Drowning in that moment of realisation. Uncontrollable anxiety, fear and paranoia will come with the next wave unless I get another hit.

Frantically poking around in the ash on my coke can pipe with the end of my lighter. Trying to resurrect some flame in the dead embers.

The black tar of crack remnants, empty shells. All the crystals burned, precious substance already taken flight into my veins. Scrambling around on the floor, I must find more.

My mouth bone dry, body violently shaking and clothes soaked through from my cold sweating carcass.

This is the moment that I had dreaded. When everything would be gone. I had snorted and sold the first ounce. Thrown it around, showing off. Then washed up into crack and smoked the second two. In my hovel on Brixton Hill. Windows and door shut to the world. And now it is gone. Not one last grain left. I would give anything for one more. But I have nothing to give. Not even my life is worth anything anymore. My body, a hollow soulless shell.

I rummage through the filth. Dying to find any last speck to smoke. Flicking the lighter, trying to cut through the dark. The smouldering heat of its flint no longer felt by my thumb. Its swollen blister a barrier to the burn.

There. Is that something? A rock I have missed. A stone unturned?

Fluff! Fuck! I scramble further. Panic sets in. I stop. Rubbing my hands frantically against my skull. Mixing the blood and sweat with my hair.

No! This cannot be true. Why? Nothing.

One last attempt. I throw myself headfirst at the cracked wall. Impact. I feel my cranium splinter. Relief. I slump to the floor. Unconscious at last.

“It’s the end of the world as we know it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”

The blackness sets in.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.