“Do you wanna take a hit?” a smooth sounding voice asked.
Becky felt strange. She looked down at herself. Her arms were bare. The fine hairs stood erect on them. She had on a short skirt with knee high black boots and a tiny red top that showed more flesh than it covered. She felt exposed. She crossed her arms over her chest and uttered a dry sob. “What’s going on?” she asked herself under her breath.
“Well, I’m not into that sort of thing, but go on then; I’m a college girl now, gotta have a bit of fun.” Becky Ponting held out her hand and took the innocent looking cigarette. Then she – the daughter of two straight-laced, hardworking parents who had scrimped and saved to be able to pay her way through college – took a long, deep drag. Her lungs caught fire, and her entire chest began to itch, but she closed her watering eyes and held her breath. The sensation passed and she exhaled, enjoying the slow flooding sensation that washed over her like the waves of the ocean as they march their way up and down the shore. Each drag she took brought on a new series of orgasmic waves. Just as with the ocean, they came in a regular pattern, growing in strength. Just as one wave began to recede, a new one came and hit the shores of her senses. Becky felt her skin tighten. Her nipples hardened against her university branded shirt. She had only been on campus three weeks, and it had been her first real party.
Trapped inside of her own mind, Becky felt the drugs hit, too. Not in the same enveloping sense, but rather as a howling, screaming wind. Her world darkened, and a thick mist appeared. It enveloped her, wrapping her within its cool embrace. Then it began to squeeze. It tightened until her ribs hurt and her bones creaked like rusty hinges. She tried to cry out but all of the air had been forced from her lungs. She was held firm, and forced to witness moments of her past replayed with clarity that she had missed the first time.
“Not a good sight is it?” a voice said from the mist. Becky spun around; she saw nothing but grey.
“Who said that?” she called out, unafraid even though she knew it was not a friendly voice that had spoken to her.
“That is not important now. You must watch, see how it all began for you,” it hissed. “He seemed so innocent, didn’t he?” the voice whispered in her ear.
Becky knew who it meant before she even saw him enter the scene. He was the man that would change her life over the course of one bank holiday weekend.
He stood leaning against the wall, a roll-up cigarette hanging from his mouth even as he spoke. He stared at her. She flinched as he smiled as it felt as though he could see her. His face was cold, the features sunken, and his skin grey and sickly.
“Yes, now you can see him for what he was.”
Becky didn’t speak; she just watched, her eyes tearing up as she remembered more and more about how the evening had played out. Memories which, until that moment, she hadn’t realized had been locked away and erased for the main part. They were not memories at all – how could something be a memory if you don’t remember it from the first time? No, these were the blanks of Becky’s past coming back to haunt her.
Like a series of slides or an old stop-go animation, Becky saw herself walking the hallways and pathways of the campus. She saw the college lecture halls with her sitting at first in the front few rows – center stage – her hand raised regularly, her shy disposition forgotten in the name of education, by her quest for knowledge. She watched as she began to slip further towards the back of the class, her arm raised less. Her skin became paler and paler. Spots erupted over the once smooth flesh, while her eyes had sunk deeper into their sockets as if ashamed of what was happening. Her clothes became baggier, the sleeves always long, to cover up the bruises and the tract marks. Then she was back at the party again.
They carried on smoking and drinking for a while, the high never getting too strong, but simply giving them all a mellow blanket to help ease the pain that was the first few weeks of university. People came over took a few drags and left, yet Becky stayed. She smoked less than the others, and she had been holding the same glass of Bacardi and cola all evening. She could have left, but she didn’t want to. She had the attention of a boy – man – and Becky could feel the cotton of her underwear cling to her moist folds in a way that it had never done before.
“Hey, beautiful, you know, if you don’t want it to end, I’ve got some good times waiting back at my dorm.” That had been his opening line. Becky had been won over by the way he held her gaze and held her hand, stroking the palm with his fingers as he drew it close to his lips and kissed her knuckles.
“Don’t listen to him!” Becky screamed “Don’t go, walk away.” Becky turned and began to walk through the now green tinted cloud, her footsteps echoing as if wandering an empty warehouse. She fully expected her body to obey, yet when she looked around Becky was shocked to see her body move in the opposite direction. It was then that Becky truly realized where she was. The eyes she was looking through were but windows. She was trapped in her own mind. Through these windows her real self was nodding, the world rising and falling in short jutting movements. The man walked ahead of her and Becky followed, powerless to resist even now. Becky wasn’t aware of it, but she had begun to weep.
“Your lust for carnal pleasure that night cost you everything. You were nothing but his whore after that,” a high pitched voice seemed to come from within the cloud. It sounded like it came from a small being, something wrinkled and mean, with cold heartless eyes, razor sharp teeth that would grate together as it talked.
Becky spun around. “Who’s there? Come out…let me see who you are. What have you done with me?” she called out, but she saw nothing and got even less as a reply.
“YOU’RE DEAD, BITCH! Rotting in the ground, and he has your baby,” the voice spat.
They were in his flat. The man was making a drink, and, although the real Becky was already too high and drunk – she had always been a good girl until college, never drank, and that had only been her second joint – to pay any attention, the inner Becky watched on. She saw the man open the wine, pour the glasses, and then…yes, there it was…a small packet of white powder was poured into one of the glasses. He walked back towards them, and once again Becky protested inside herself. “No, say no, get up and walk away; there’s the door, just move.”
“What’s your name, beautiful?” the man asked.
“Becky Ponting,” she replied, stuttering. The realization that this man couldn’t possibly be a student began to dawn on her. He lived nowhere near the university, and the furnishings looked too expensive to be anything but those of a man with money sitting already earned in his bank account. She took the glass of wine and drank. It had a sweet taste, and she quickly finished the glass.
“It’s nice to meet you. I think we are gonna have a lot of fun together,” he said, although the words had all slurred together by the time they arrived at Becky’s ears.
Becky’s vision blurred and she realized then that something was wrong. The man moved in, his hands pawing at her breasts. Before she knew what had happened her shirt had been ripped open and her bra unclasped. The cool air hit her naked chest, stiffening her nipples, and when his mouth engulfed her she gasped.
The high continued to rage through her body until everything went black. She blinked – or so it felt – and found herself in a strange bed, with sheets that felt dirtier than they looked, and no recollection of how she had gotten there.
“Where am I?” she asked.
For the Becky trapped inside, however, the night hadn’t gone so fast. She watched as the man stripped and abused her. She felt his every thrust, from the burning sensation as he entered her to the pulsating finale. Tears rolled down her cheeks, while another, saltier liquid fell from between her thighs, hitting the floor with a wet smack before being eaten by the mist.
As Becky watched, she saw everything begin to change. They were no longer in the bedroom. The floor was cold; there was a lot of noise, a baby crying and people staring. Blood, there was blood on her hands, she could feel it, hot and sticky. Becky also felt pain, a pain so sharp and severe it caused her legs to buckle, and she fell to her knees in the dark cloud that had now charged to the same deep purple color as rolling thunderheads. Becky fought for consciousness and lost. When she opened her eyes she was back in bed. He had turned her onto her stomach and a new burning sensation racked her delicate frame. She saw his face in the mirror, red and sweaty. His eyes rolled back into his head every now and then as he fought to control himself.
Becky saw in the mirror as his face turned into that of a bald, sweaty salesman. His face reddened from cholesterol, his wedding ring tight around his chubby finger. Becky recognized him. He was the trick she had pulled.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Becky asked. Acknowledging her death was easy; she had come close several times, either from a bad fix or an aggressive trick. Besides, while she had ended up as little more than a cheap crack whore, Rebecca Ponting was not stupid – easily led maybe, addictive personality definitely, but stupid…certainly not. She understood the purpose of what she saw, it was to make her see, to remind of what she had done – but it didn’t mean she wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“You need to see the error of your ways before you can be judged,” a voice rang out, causing the cloud to grow thicker and thicker. Her world whited out save two round windows that forced her to look back into her old life where –
She now sat on a bed. A needle hung from her left arm, while a man’s erect cock slid through her free hand. They were all images that Becky could partially remember, their clarity lost in the haze of the drugs. Becky had made her peace with death long ago, acknowledged that she would die a junkie, and she knew it would not be pleasant. The only thing she had ever hoped was that she would face it, look death in eye, and not hide away. Becky was relieved that death had brought nothing more than memories, and delighted that the cravings had not followed her into the grave.
The voice that surrounded her began to laugh; a lunatic laugh, the sort you would expect to hear walking past an asylum just before medication time. The laugh was cold and cut through to the bone. “You think that you accept death, but you still cannot bring yourself to embrace your mistakes. Look at you, just happy that your cravings have gone. Well I’ve got news for you. You are clear-headed here in the judgment chamber simply because of necessity. Only a clear mind can truly accept the consequences of its actions and be judged.” The words came quicker and quicker, like a gospel preacher building up to the big finish. “Make no mistake, you are trapped inside an addict’s body, and once you get to your chamber you will feel it all. That is a promise I can make to you. Now watch and ask yourself this question, my brave little girl.”
Becky froze. That was what she used to call her daughter all the time, and she doubted that it was now said by pure coincidence.
“What you’re seeing now…how can you be so sure that they are your old tricks?” The voice fell silent and was gone.
“Hey, what do you mean? No…no, please don’t say that. She’s my baby; she’s just a baby, for fuck sake.” Becky felt her legs buckle and she fell to her knees. Her brave little girl was all alone in the world and the only person who knew she existed was him: Deejay Afité. Her hands felt dry and rough as she rubbed her fingers over her palms.
”My parents will take her, someone will tell them what happened to me and they will take my daughter with them. I know they would, so don’t lie to me.”
Becky was near tears. She knew who the liar was. She had been living under a false name for over a year; her parents hadn’t seen or heard from her in going on three. They hadn’t spoken to her since she ran away from college. The fact that she had been pregnant and given birth was a complete unknown to them. The chance of them ever actually discovering that she was dead was marginal, and so the notion that they would ride in and rescue her baby was nothing more than foolhardy.
Becky concentrated hard. The decoration was the same, the flat the same as it always was, the walls a pale and dirty cream, stained with years of smoke, drugs and all manner of bodily fluid. The same picture still hung on the wall exactly where she had hung it, but that didn’t say anything. She looked around desperate for some clue when the voice returned.
“You look a little bit flushed. What’s the matter, honey, you don’t believe your daughter’s all growed up and fucking for herself? I know your type…don’t care about yourself, and think you’ve accepted it all. Well I’ve got news for you: everyone has a weakness.”
When Becky looked through the eyes (windows) again she saw the scene had changed. They stood in a bathroom; the tub was filled with what looked like a small chemical laboratory. Naked flames danced in the dark corners, casting an eerie orange glow, as if the fires of hell were trying to break through into the real world. Glass flasks and tubes twisted and turned in a meandering snakeway, creating a volatile maze. Even locked deep inside what she still considered to be herself, Becky could feel it: the air in the room was heavy and dead. It tasted stale like the air in the bar the next morning before the windows could be opened.
“You’re lying,” Becky coughed, holding back her tears.
“Why would I lie? The truth will hurt you much more than any future I could create. This is your hell. I am just here to see you judged.”
Becky thought it through and realized that, to a large degree, what the voice had said was true. It spoke with reason, like a school teacher, bordering on patronizing and always condescending.
“No, I won’t believe it,” Becky answered, welling up even further. Then, as if on cue, the body she inhabited looked up and into a dirty, cracked bathroom mirror.
Becky screamed. Her hands yanked at her hair, which came away in clumps. The face in the mirror was young, a teenager, and clearly not Becky. The skin was sallow, the face thin, clearly lacking in all forms of nutrition. The teeth were yellowed and hung crooked in her mouth. Large boils and spots had sprouted over her face. Yet the cool green color of her eyes made it impossible for Becky not to recognize who the girl was.
“My baby!” she shrieked. “No…no, I won’t let it. Send me back, please, just let me take her away,” Becky pleaded. Her breaths came short and sharp. She stared at the girl in the mirror, the reflection of her child, truly an image of her mother.
“Your time has come. You have seen your sin. Your addiction is hers, her sustenance a level on from your own. The pressures of a modern world call for modern relief.” There was a flash of light; an explosion. The sound of shattering glass was all she needed to hear.