Rata and Jack made their way down the slimy wooden gangplank set haphazardly into the shittier sections of the road, sections where feet and scooter tires would sink into sludge.
The grayish sewage running in rivers next to their feet as they walked, the stream following them down the street where it disappeared into a ditch.
It had been raining and everything was overflowing, the filth flowing and birthing mosquitos by the thousands, the Rats running riot, unchallenged by cat or dog.
Since Jack had come to Asia, fleeing a dreamless council estate and an all but guaranteed two stretch in Brixton nick after he had glassed some gold toothed road man outside a kebab shop, he had wanted to find the bottom of the bottom.
He had wanted to come face to face with true self inflicted misery.
After ODing on a strip of beautiful blue Vallies in Bangkok and waking up in hospital with tubes in his arms and prick, the nurses gawping, He had taken the bus into Cambodia after some derelict in Patpong had sworn the bottom there was bottomless.
“Anything goes there pal”, the sexpat had said, red faced and drooling his beer, the ladyboy sat next to him looking into the middle distance, bored, smoking a cigarette as a girl fired ping pong balls from her snatch across a neon lit stage.
He found himself in an old colonial town called Kampot, chugging beer and belching out spliff smoke by the river with a load of dreadlocked crusties.
After smearing himself across the road in an ugly drunken skid that introduced him to a lamppost head first and destroyed his rentabike, he woke up in hospital again, this time weeks later and with a big pink smiling scar across the side of his skull. He had paid the bill, spending nearly all of his money and headed to Sihanoukville, a squalid city attached to the port like a big ripe tick.
He had met Rata, the self proclaimed king of the chicken farm, the bong tom lek moi, in the middle of a week long bender, spying his skeletal face in a bar full of dangerous looking brasses called the monkey’s paw as Jack sucked on a double JD and Coke.
“Corr you got some ink on you mate haven’t ya,” Jack said, his eyes feasting on the endless weave of patterns and scribblings dancing on Ratas copper skin.
“Bidhi Sak we call them bong,” Rata had said, in better than expected English, explaining how he had helped his father kill a wandering monk when he was still a boy and used the blood mixed with vulture shit as ink for his first, a now blurry vision of a buddha with its head lopped off.
“My father had great magic, you see bong.”
Rata had explained that he descended from a long line of Kru Thmup, Khmer black wizards, men who rejected buddhism and cast spells and told fortunes for profit and never ever washed.
“What’s that thing round yer neck?” Jack pointed to the little pouch hanging from a leather thong sitting in Rata’s cadaverous chest, hiding among a bunch of gold tiger teeth and chains and various other amulets.
“This one we call the koan kroach,” the child of smoke.
“You give girl boom boom, you make baby then you kill the girl and open her and dry the baby over a fire and the baby gives you powerful magic . It tell you the future and stops bullets and knives bong.”
Jack was engrossed, his wide eyes and black heart drinking all the delicious darkness in.
This place is great, thought Jack.
Jack was hooked, he had been from the moment he went off with Rata to the beach and smoked ice by moonlight, the mechanical engine like charge of methamphetamine growling within Jacks feeble putty mind as Rata reeled off story after story, taking him to bars and showing him the sights, truly Virgil to Jacks Dante.
Jack had begun to sell the ice that Rata hooked him up with to the bus loads of gullible Barang that came looking for a good time, Jack saw them and smelt their money and their eagerness to part with it like a shark smells blood and soon he had made up all the money he had wasted on hospital bills.
He had started to shag a part time prostitute called Ti on the regular, and she spoke with a strong Australian accent even though she was born in Phnom Penh.
she had had a son with some Aussie mug who had made a mistake and fallen in love with a damaged goods beach girl and even though she smoked boat loads of meth her body was mint and the sex was incredible, fucking in the sea despite the sand in your arsecrack was amazing, especially when you were flying on meth.
She would lay on his bed, her lithe caramel body glowing with sweat and she would purr and she would touch herself, rubbing her clit in circles, her pubes in a nice tight little triangle and Jack would smoke more ice and fall on her and they would fuck until they collapsed into a boneless heap as the sun came up.
Yeh life was good thought Jack as they strolled down the boards, the stink rising, condoms and nappies and plastic bags everywhere, and could you believe it a stringy looking cow actually eating it, bending its neck to drink the filth as it flowed past, Jesus Christ, and there, the low block of buildings to his right known as the chicken farm, the nastiest cheapest den of whores and drugs in the whole stinking town.
Tired old skanks with boob tubes and hot pants and pvc boots cat called from doorways as they walked by, the eyes of each of them sunken deep in wells of tiredness and abuse, horrored and startled and nearly mad, lips wrinkled and foreheads lined, fake tits beginning to go south.
“Suck your dick handsome boy. Fuck my pussy no condom,” they called.
Wow, Jack thought, this is the place where even bad dreams go to die, I can get the very worst for the very least.
They entered a doorway into a tight brown corridor with a bare bulb blinking and they walked down the corridor to Rata’s room, past doorways, some open and some closed.
Jack could hear the flesh slapping flesh as he passed the doors and in one open doorway was an old hooker squatting on a bare mattress, a tattooed fat man with bulging frog eyes next to her, her sagging breasts bare, and she was sucking on a makeshift pipe made from a soft drinks bottle and foil, really sucking on it, eyes wide and glowing and her black nipples stiffened and she passed the pipe to the fat toad like man next to her who eagerly awaited it and she let out a great plume of smoke.
“Soksabai,” Jack said in his poor Khmer, waving to the brass and laughing at his own ironic wit, his own deadly edginess.
In another doorway further down the passage stood a hulking Ladyboy wearing a cream tutu, veins and sinew rippling, the bleach blonde greasy hair scraped back, pulling the rubberized face upward in a heinous grimace.
She was sucking the soul out of a cigarette, her arms folded, an anchor twitching on an iron muscled forearm.
“Who tha fuck is that,” asked Jack staring in wonder, his eyes wrestled to the floor when the lady in question returned his gaze with a pair of bottomless black pits.
“Daisy, bong. she is very dangerous,” smiled Rata.
She hates all handsome Barang boys and she loves to use her knife on them before she takes their money. She went to the jail in Phnom Penh many times.
They got to Rata’s flimsy plywood door and Rata opened it and they got in the low musty room and sat down on a mat woven from dried grass and Jack prepared a pipe while Rata fetched two dusty glasses and a glass jug full of a toxic looking dark brown liquid. Jack stared into the vessel and could see a tangled knot of old dead snakes and centipedes marinating inside.
Rata uncorked it with a hiss and Jack could smell it through the cloud of meth smoke, the foul chemical stink of bootleg rice wine sending a ripple through his vibrating body.
Rata smoked and then they clashed glasses and said; “JUL MOI!”
And necked the shot.
“Fuck me that is disgusting.”
Rata laughed and lit an incense stick.
Jack felt the bile rise, felt it slither up his gullet to escape and he was up and running across the hallway to where Rata said the toilet was.
He pushed the door open and recoiled, clamping his teeth tight together to keep the vomit trapped in his mouth, good god what a mess, the toilet was full to the brim with water and particles of shit and shreds of tissue and it was all spilling over the edge, forming a bubbling puddle on the stone floor.
Jack swallowed down the mess burning his mouth, forced it back down to were it came, banished it and stepped away from the paint peeling reek of the tiny toilet, and as he stepped back something poked him in the back, something pinprick sharp and Jack spun around and there was Daisy, her rubbery face gurning and twitching into horrible nightmarish shapes, a curved hunting knife in her big tattooed hand, the blade dancing, cutting through the murk of the corridor.
“What the fuck do you want?”
“Shut up cocksucker.” Daisy hissed, yellowed peg teeth bared, her previously lifeless black eyes very alive now with seething resentment and hate.
Jack put his shaking hands up and Daisy pushed with a boulder sized fist against his chest and pulled and latched the door behind them all in one fluid motion, a move so swift it had all the unreality of a fever dream, and then they were alone together, within kissing distance of each other in the fetid heat of the toilet, turds swimming around their feet, Jacks bare toes going splash splash and the bare bulb blinking, daisy’s hot breath on Jack’s face.
What have I done bruv what have I done?
The words stumbled out of Jack’s mouth, tripping over his quivering lips. Daisy pushed the edge of the blade to Jack’s neck and pushed him against the wall, pinning him there and then her purple black tongue slithered out of her cracked lips.
She kissed him fiercely, Jacks mouth crammed with the taste of ashtrays and bitten off ears and old semen.
Jack recoiled, gagging and squeezed his eyes shut as the tongue crawled slug-like across his cheek, leaving a trail of slime on his face. He felt a strong hand at his groin and he looked down and it was climbing down his pants like a big monstrous spider.
He tried to slap it away but the blade bit into his neck.
Daisy was breathing heavily as she tugged at Jacks terrified prick, squeezing his balls as he squirmed and then daisy stepped back, eyes demented, the knife held out like a lance and Daisy was tugging down her tutu.
Tears began to roll down Jacks face and he pissed himself, the urine running down his shivering leg and joining the pool of filth that filled the room.
Don’t fucking move Barang boy. Do not fucking move.
Daisy could barely get the words out, her dead face flushed, her tongue snapping out, and then the tutu was at her knees floating in the filth and an enormous swollen cock sprang free from a pair of lace panties she pulled down , enormous and nearly black, the end pierced and shining.
She clutched at it with red chipped nails and
told him to get on his knees and suck for his life.
SUCK MY DICK COCKSUCKER!
Jack couldn’t speak, he could only shake his scarred head like a child so Daisy jabbed him with the knife, once, twice, the blade stabbing into his puny chest and arm and he yelped and he dropped to his knees in the muck, gasping for air as the stink shot up his nose and as he gasped Daisy clasped a thick fingered hand around the back of his head and thrust.
After that Jack was never the same. He smoked more ice and came down with vast amounts of opium. He became so rotten even Rata shunned him. He washed in the sea if at all
and his nails grew long and he lost his shoes and he began to steal from the other Barang, trying to con them with a story about how he had missed a flight and lost his passport or been in an accident or got robbed. Soon he was creeping into hostel dorms and going through bags and taking phones. Picking cigarettes off of the streets.
He swapped his passport with a tuk-tuk driver missing an ear for a bag of ice and he began to talk to himself and tear at his skin, scratching it raw.
The beach boys who worked the night shift at the monkey’s paw wouldn’t serve him and most of the other bars on the beach would ask him to leave after he had bothered the customers for small change or tried to neck left over drinks.
The prostitutes scowled and recoiled from him and called him chkai chkot, fucking crazy dog.
One night he wandered down the beach near the Monkey’s Paw with Ti as she told him it was over in her Australian accent, told him he should get help, told him he had gone bad. He hit her in the mouth and she fell to the sand holding her mouth as it trickled blood as he ranted, bending down and tearing at her clothes, her breasts bursting out of her top.
Young leopard and Mr Wut and Boom Boom saw Jack hit their sister as they drank beer and played pool with some Barang girls in the Monkey’s Paw.
They saw Ti hit the sand and they ran over and Young Leopard hit Jack with a beer glass and Mr Wut hit him with a pool cue that broke and Boom Boom jumped and kicked him in the chest.
Jack fell next to Ti and the boys hit him and hit him until they had to catch their breath, until Jack was crying and gurgling and spitting out his rotten teeth in pieces.
Ti stood up and covered herself and ran into the Monkey’s Paw and the boys beat him and beat him until they were spattered with his blood and his head flopped limply and they dragged him to the sea and rolled him into the waves and laughed as the salt water foamed into his toothless mouth and bloody eye sockets. They went back to the bar and washed their hands and drank beer and high fived each other as Jack’s body bobbed face down in the water, the waves throwing him onto the sand and pulling him back in.
The prostitutes laughed and played pool with the boys and Srey Ti was soon settled, drinking a double vodka with coke and they stayed up drinking and smoking late into the night and in the morning Jack’s body was gone.