|The Last White Night of an Unknown Voice
by J. (Channing) Wells
© J. (Channing) Wells -- all rights reserved
And, as the chilly October dawn rises over the city, well on its way towards noon, the sun finally reaches the proper angle to shine deep into the cleft of a concrete canyon somewhere in the lost, forgotten and long-dead streets.
The steep, cold light plays upon a body, for a moment in time. It lies, face down, in a pool of ancient oil and feces, mixed with fresher blood from the night before.
We are not certain how this body got here. Certainly, it originally hailed from slightly better fragments of town than this one, judging by the projected original state of the clothing, now torn and rent. The nylon stockings indicate that it was at one time a woman. There is little more that we can see, from here. Here are its hands, its feet, scratched and bruised in some attempt to fend off many attackers. Here are its legs, between which unspeakable things have occurred. There, its hair, tattered and muddy with blood. We cannot see its face.
We can project, hypothetically, that it was at one time a newborn girl, in some sunlit birthing room with wooden floors, somewhere far removed from this cold, wet alley, a mother's pained tears providing its first baptism as she laughed and laughed over the glory of two-become-three, her proud husband and new father standing beside, lost in glorious and anticipated bittersweet fantasies of how his life would be forever altered by Daddy's Little Girl.
Here, beneath the once-elegant coat, are her hips, subtle and attractive. Mommy once struck her there, on the bottom, when she laughingly ran into the busy street close to their small but proudly-kept urban home. Mommy needed to teach her that you never go into the street. Advice that she would have been well to take, for...
She has spent her years on the street. Not as a part of the dark and illicit underbelly of this wretched Pennsylvanian town, but in that pale shadow of the same, the City's Finest, those who like to imagine themselves as taking the bright polar opposite point on the beam. All illusion, of course. The rest of society can see that all they are is an anchor to the Tails half of the coin, keeping it firmly weighted down so that Decent Folk can always come up Heads. And with Heads always Up, Tails can never truly see the sun.
She was hated, oh, that was certain. Despised, by many. "Law-Abiding" citizens resented her presence in their lives. And when society decided that any one person or group of people had crossed its arbitrary lines, it was to her assigned to Protect and Serve, weighing her soul further with the hate of others. Even others of her own kind looked down upon her with scorn. She was a woman in a man's job, plain and simple. She had to be twice as much of an asshole as anyone else she knew just to keep her head above water, and her reputation reflected this, this... girl, this sensitive young woman, who flushed at first kisses in high school and soaked up the glory of winning softball plays. This tender creature was the Bitch from Fifty-Four.
She lies here, on the clammy-black pavement.
Why was she here? Certainly this was no place for her to be. Momma always said, stay out of the streets, and to look at it, this street might have been the epitome of them all. Okay, momma might concede, you can go into a few streets, jes' so long 'you DON'T visit this here one, this black dagger's cut in the asphalt jungle, lined with rotting brick walls and long-abandoned trash receptacles. Because that's where the dark things live. Uh huh. You mind, girl. You mind.
A clue can be found at the area of her neck, where once she wore a high-collared turtleneck to hide the marks of one single giddy night with an overly-aroused sixteen- year-old "acquaintance" of hers. The faint burn at the soft, white flesh is typical of electrostunner attack. The body shows marks of having been dragged, probably pre-mortem, to this very spot. And as for the rest, the scattered two-by-fours, some driven through with old and rusted nails, probably did the trick. There are quite a few of them, cast here aside.
Daddy was so proud of her when she graduated from the Academy. Daddy's Little Girl had all grown up. There was this silly thing where they threw hats in the air, and she had little hope of retrieving hers in the crowd, she knew, but she wanted to be a part of the tradition, despite wanting to keep this hat as a bookmark in time. So there was this quick, silly debate of how she would throw it, but just a little and watch carefully where it fell. Naturally, this all went to hell, she said, "screw it all" (but in a happy way) and just tossed the damn thing, little realizing that the friendly stranger who had been looking at her from day one of admission would be watching carefully as well, and that he would have a better view of where it fell.
She didn't realize when he approached her, shyly, that they would end up walking the beat together. And in these pleased moments of mutual assignment, she didn't realize that many years later, the both of them would mutually and quietly violate their employment code one night in her soft-quilted bedroom. And in these heady, glorious, addictive moments of passion, she didn't realize that two weeks later to the day, he would be quite literally shredded to bits by approximately, at final estimation, one hundred and twelve shells worth of buckshot.
These hands danced at weddings with Daddy. These hands pleasured herself in her lonely years in college. These hands accepted the Host and brushed her forehead with holy water. These hands once built a doghouse for old Casey, calloused and blistered for many days afterwards. These hands cushioned her first fall from her snazzy new bike, a fall that scraped the purple paint, drove pea-gravel deep into her palms, and brought pinprick tears to her eyes.
These hands drew a gun, one inevitable day, and shot a young man who was reaching for a goddamned English phrasebook.
Of course, he was acting erratically. He was Turkish, for Christ's sake, visiting relatives in America, and had just changed halfways into a wood duck two days ago, how's that for an interesting trip to the States, eh? Something to tell the kids about, at least.
The poor foreign sot wouldn't be having any kids to speak of. Kind of difficult, given his present condition. And that isn't referring to the SCABS, by the by. It was dark, and it was a dangerous neighborhood, and deep within her head, the scrolling video movie of Drew being splattered all over the sidewalk was still on continuous loop, over and over and over again.
A thunder of gunfire. A pause. Repeat. The glimpse of red eyes in the darkness, predatory eyes, eyes belonging to no human being. Except for they did belong to a human being, a scared little half-man half-chipmunk so overwhelmed with rage and despair and denied of any useful outlet for so long that the only avenue left was to take one of his beloved hunting rifles and to give Drew two in the chest.
And then, when he was down, he gave Drew two more. And two more. And two more. Until he completely ran out.
The little bastard was carrying a lot of ammo.
And she hadn't even been there to stop him.
Naturally, she shouldn't have been on the streets at all so soon after the Drew Incident, but she never would learn to stay away from them. She was back on the beat, in no time flat. No one looked deep enough into her eyes to see the nightmare images etched there in ghost-fire.
And when you're in a bad part of town, half-way between the light and the dark, and the human side of you hears the noises going on just outside of your field of vision and wants to do the sensible thing (run away), but the Superhuman side of your brain, the Cop side, insists that you stay put, delve deeper into the darkness...
...and when there's a brief, shouted exchange, and the fellow before you is acting all wrong, and you think, shit, what the fuck have I stumbled into here, and he's not even speaking right, what the fuck is going on, what the FUCK is going ON and you keep yelling and he's getting more and more nutty in front of you and you hear yourself rising to hysteria because little does he know it that all you're seeing, over and over again, is Drew, or at least what was left of him, over and over and over and over and
and he goes for his pocket
So here we have this body, a body that survived a brief and one-sided firefight against a hapless Turkish university student armed only with a dictionary. A body which once bled grey and ashen tears for the endless weeks and weeks to follow, a body that stood proud and firm as the Police Commission found it guilty of no wrongdoing, a body whose lungs sucked in the smoke of countless cigarettes deep in the dwarrows of its home in an attempt to soothe its raw-scraped nerves and ended up burning its lips and fingers until the blood flowed, and yet, nothing eased the pain.
Here we have a body whose lungs screamed out joy at roller coasters at the State Fair, a body that cried at weddings, a body that groaned in ecstasy, coupled in glorious lust with that One Perfect Man in a soft- quilted bed so very, very far away from this dank and soiled half-street deep within the heart of the very worst neighborhood of the great and proud city to whom she had once pledged her life.
She was a killer. A killer of one of Their Own Kind. That was all that they knew, and in the burning haze of the moment, they couldn't even see that. They couldn't see anything at all.
The light is fading, now. The black floor of this steep-edged alley is only kissed by the sun for a few minutes out of the day. And because the rats will probably find her long before anyone else even gets an inkling to start looking, at least in this part of town, I thought it might be important for you to see her now; ruined, wounded and fallen but not (yet) consumed and eaten by the city she loved.
Watch as the last rays of the cold, white sun peel themselves off of her form. One by one, very slowly.
Watch as they all drift away.
That's all you need to see.
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