Story copyright 1995 by Ray Miranda.
is a horror writer from the Bronx whose fiction has appeared in
Marc Warren felt himself starting to nod. The steady
rocking motion of a subway car generally had that effect on him,
especially in tandem with a dime bag of dope. Through narrowed eyes he
could see the other passengers staring at him with undisguised revulsion.
And why not? Unkempt, unshaved, unwashed, he may as well have
had the word "Junkie" tattooed across his forehead.
stare," he mumbled. "Fuck 'em."
He wondered how these
judgmental assholes would react if they knew the sacrifice he had made in
their behalf. Or even if they would give a shit at all, for that matter.
I hate fucking New York, he thought to himself for the
billionth time that day. But it does serve its purpose.
Marc stumbled out of the train station, and headed toward Valentine
Avenue. Home was a shitty one bedroom in a decrepit apartment complex.
The halls reeked of old wine and piss, but Marc never let that bother
him. He'd been subjected to far worse. His apartment was on the top
floor, wedged in a small corridor right off the elevator. It provided the
isolation he desired. No, that wasn't right, was it? Not
desired. Required would be closer to the truth.
Tossing his jacket on the threadbare sofa, Marc made his way into the
bedroom without bothering to turn on the lights. Darkness made the
apartment almost bearable, transforming the thrift-shop relics strewn
about into amorphous shapes that merely insinuated poverty. Edison's
brainchild only served to drive that fact home.
the lumpy mattress, he opened another packet from the bundle he'd
purchased earlier. Marc lit a scented candle on the milk crate that
served as an end table, casting an eerie pall across the room. He
carefully emptied the packet into a tarnished spoon, not wasting a
granule of powdered comfort. He tightened the rubber tubing around his
arm, and held the spoon over the candle until its contents were bubbling.
Arming the syringe with its payload, he slid it into a vein and released,
granting Mother Heroin access to the highways and byways that stretched
throughout his body.
Lying down, Marc permitted himself a quick
glimpse out of the single window gracing the room. Night was falling,
and in a short while the moon, that pale and bloated pellet that
corrupted the night sky, would arise. It was the moon that had been
responsible for his rapid plunge down the social ladder, dumping him to
live among the flotsam and jetsam of human debris.
that was responsible for the liquid death that poisoned his body each
No point in anger; the dope wouldn't allow it in any case.
Just relaxing, floating away on a shimmering opium ribbon, drifting
toward a tranquil place devoid of judgment, devoid of heartache.
Devoid of beasts.
Sometimes, when the baking soda cut was
a little too heavy or the quality of the dope was low, the dreams would
come. Dreams of a former reality; dreams of parties and women and
respectability. Then the dreams would change shape, darken, and the
perfectly sculpted women and the subtly fawning men would be
Or at least, one beast in
Marcus Aurelius Warren. King of the Beasts.
Tonight, the dope was good and the cut was low. Skinny had hooked
him up right and proper. There'd be no dreams. Just sweet, sinking
oblivion; a slow cruise to nowhere. That was just fine with Marc. Even
nowhere was better than here.
* * *
morning sun filtering through the grime-encrusted window slowly nuzzled
Marc back into consciousness. Chalk up one more night free of mayhem;
one more life saved.
Mother Heroin, Tamer of Beasts.
slowly rose from the bed, stumbled over to the bathroom, and splashed a
handful of rusty water on his face. He allowed himself a furtive glance
in the mirror above the sink, then quickly turned away. His
once-handsome features had eroded into a topography of lines and creases
stretched taut across the landscape of his skull. The eyes that once
broke a thousand hearts were dull and lifeless, sunken deep within their
sockets as if trying to hide from some imagined enemy.
the face of a junkie.
It was a shitty face for anyone to wear,
and he took a minute to remind himself about that other face, the one far
worse than the used-up countenance he now sported. Bitterness welled up
inside of him as he remembered. The hunting trip, the attack, the bite,
the pain, the change. Rending a human being into scraps of offal with
teeth as sharp as daggers; gorging himself upon the sweet flesh of one he
had called friend. The shock, the guilt, the repulsion after the change
had reversed itself.
He found it nearly impossible to live with
himself. Yet it was equally difficult for him to end his own life.
Knowing what he had become, there were no guarantees a suicide would even
take. And so, he hunted and killed by moonlight, and drowned in
self-hatred at daybreak, until the solution finally became clear to
The first time, being unacquainted with these endeavors, he
had administered himself a partial dosage. The result, while not
catastrophic, did not merit a repeat performance. He had undergone a
partial transformation, not quite man, not quite beast, stumbling around
the room in a lycanthropic jones.
Being one of those rare souls
who actually learn from their mistakes, Marc increased the hit on the
No change at all. The beast was subdued. No
need to resort to silver, not when white was just as effective.
But much more habit-forming.
At first, his drug use was
resricted to the times when the moon was full. But Mother Heroin is a
jealous lover; her embrace not so easily dismissed. The monthly trips
downtown became weekly, and in a short time became as much a part of his
daily regimen as washing his face or combing his hair.
even more so. Personal hygiene had gone the way of platform shoes in
terms of relevance in his life.
But the jones kept on tickin'
till he did the stickin'.
And so began his descent down the
escalator of society, becoming one of those nameless, faceless people we
happen to encounter in our daily
travels; the ones who remind us,
"There but for the grace of God go I". And we shuffle quickly past him,
unaware that this glassy-eyed, disheveled washout is actually a hero of
the greatest sort. A man who sacrificed his humanity in order to retain
it. A man who chose to eradicate his own future so that others might
A beast among men.
A king among
Heading downtown on the "D" train.
To keep a date
with Mother H.
And keep us safe from harm.
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