- A man sitting alone on a low wall, a thin black plastic bag of unknown contents next to him. Figured he was waiting for his ride to pick him up.
- The Mexican street food lady scraping the grill and packing up her stand with the help of four other people, her van parked next to the sidewalk where she sets up.
- A coyote brazenly skulking around in front of the shops. I wondered where the rest of its pack was, surely not far off, simply unseen.
- A homeless man, or perhaps just mentally ill, standing on the very edge of the curb facing directly into the street, a white terry cloth towel completely covering his head, obscuring his face from the angle I walked behind him.Just feet away, near a shrub there were two big pieces of shit, human by the looks of them. His? Hard to say, but likely considering the scene.
- A man, just ahead of me, picking up his pace when he sees the bus he’s been waiting for coming up the street. I watch him enter the bus and look for a place to sit as the bus takes off again. “The man is blue now” I think as the cold lighting inside the bus changes him into something even more distant from me.
- A building, still under construction but already nicer and more modern than anything else around here, graffiti already ruining its brand new windows. We ruin everything, want the world to look how we feel.
I was asleep when he came down. I actually heard him before I saw him, heard him yelling about something – itâ€™s what woke me up.
There was that sound of his boots on the stairs and everyone who was still awake tensed up the way you do when youâ€™re trapped in some insane assholeâ€™s murder basement. He walked up to the first person he could, the redhead guy closest to the stairs, barely more than a kid, late teens, maybe early 20â€™s.
â€œJust LOOK at this!â€ mister boots says to the guy as he holds out a phone with I guess a video on it. The kid looked, of course, did whatever the hell mister boots asked him because what else are you gonna do? I couldnâ€™t see, but boots was describing everything and apparently it was nanny-cam footage of a babysitter smacking a baby around.
This really pissed mister boots off and he sure as hell let everyone know about it. â€œHow the hell could anyone do that to a baby?â€ he said, honestly sounding aghast like he couldnâ€™t imagine some of the awful shit humans do to their own kind.
â€What the fuck is wrong with people??â€
Red just shook his head slowly, unsure of what the hell was happening Because he was pretty new here as far as guests in this place go. He hadnâ€™t seen some of the shit the rest of us have.
â€Yeah, thatâ€™s really badâ€œ the kid managed.
â€This world…â€ mister boots said, looking down at the phone as he turned to head back up the stairs.
Somewhere else in the place, somewhere deeper below us was the sound of someone screaming suddenly, the kind of scream you imagine characters in a Lovecraft novel would let out when whatever happens to their tiny unraveling minds happens.
Iâ€™ve been here a while, and Iâ€™ve seen some fucked up shit but that scream got to me, but mister boots just kept walking slowly up the stairs, distraught about what he was watching.
â€This world…â€ he said again before disappearing.
As dungeons go, there’s probably worse ones. The smell of cleaner can be a bit much but it’s almost pleasant if you had to pick a stink to be trapped in.
I won’t even try to guess how long it’s been, me being down here. Lost track of days and weeks with no changing light, just the permanent gloom with no real pattern to when he comes down, making it hard to tell when he sleeps or wakes, if he sleeps at all.
“I made too much toast” he announced last time he showed up, with not a slice of toast in sight. “If anyone wants some I can bring some down.”
Some did, and so he did. It strikes you as weird what people are capable of enjoying when in the worst situations. Sometimes a piece of toast, some decent sourdough in that case, connects you to a different world, a better world that isn’t haunted by a sleepless lunatic, a world that isn’t blanketed in cleaner masking the smell of nightmares just underneath.
He seemed happy a few of us accepted the toast, happy to be part of such a small, almost normal moment, and then he got that look in his eyes again, like this world was barely there to him and he was seeing something else, hearing something else.
“Not tonight” he said to whatever he saw through the walls. “They just ate.”
I’m not getting out of here.