Do not read if you may be offended by explicit sexual references.
Kirsty had never envisioned herself living in a burnt-out warehouse, with a crippled preacher pimp and his Satanist boyfriend, nor did she see herself selling toothless blowjobs for chump change to the various night creatures by the canal, under the bridge, among the pigeon shit. It just happened that way.
God had his funny little games for everybody.
Long after her disabled mother had died, or after Kirsty had killed her depending on what side of the fence you sat, and after the incident with the boys in the red car, the one that left her feeling like she would never be clean again no matter how many showers she took, there was nowhere else to go except around the U bend.
Once the video recording of the gang of goons from the estate running a train on her face did the rounds around every school in South East London, her mother’s groans like old door hinges thankfully barely audible in the footage above the jeering and the face slaps, she had been christened cock thirsty Kirsty and promptly expelled.
The very same day, waiting for the bus home, feeling sullen and defiant, glad the nightmare of school was all over finally, she discovered that she couldn’t find her travel card and the coppers in her blouse barely added up to forty pence. A bus came and went. She checked her pockets for the card again, even though she knew it wasn’t there. It was a long walk back to Catford.
The red faced, knob nosed man who picked her up in his smelly van had coaxed her in with the promise of a ride home and a fiver to boot, in exchange for a few minutes of her precious time, as he put it.
They ended up parked down the wrong end of a lover’s lane, and as Kirsty bent forward and bit into the dashboard like a rabid beaver the flabby man who smelled of toilet cleaner and sewer rats entered Kirsty’s backdoor with all the grace of a blind burglar armed with a sledgehammer.
Kirsty thought she knew pain. She was wrong.
She couldn’t remember passing out, all she could remember was the raw agony that climbed up from her torn behind all the way to her eyes and back down again like a river of broken glass, flaying her from the inside out.
The man had dumped her, in a hedge no less, but he did good on his promise. There was a fiver greasy with blood crumpled in her palm and she was only a few metres from her aunt’s place.
When she could walk, she swaggered bowlegged to the offy and bought a bottle of white thunder and a bottle of white ace and drank most of the white thunder by the time she got back to her room.
Her natty haired aunt hadn’t said boo. She was passed out in the stained arm chair, her eyelids fluttering like the images on the TV. an empty bottle full of fag butts was at the foot of the chair.
The pain, an arsehole full of it and a lifetime of it wouldn’t go away. Kirsty learned how to drown her sorrows with the cheapest nastiest gut rot, like a professional drunk, necking the vinegary bottles of bum wine until the vomit would come out of her nose.
One night, after too much, she found herself out, out of change, out of luck, and out on the corner, waiting, waiting for something to happen, her pockets empty, her throat dry, her options as dire as her head ache.
A car pulled up. A window wound down. A stranger’s face appeared, although soon they would all merge together and look the same. Kirsty got in. Kirsty got out, a few pounds richer and a few pieces of soul poorer.
One car became a hundred, cheap coke turned to cheaper rock. Teeth turned to stumps.
Her waxen limbed aunt threw her out when Kirsty had finally found what made aunty dearest so sleepy. She had been searching the house, tearing it to shreds, going through cupboards and drawers for something at least half valuable, something she could pawn off for enough scratch to keep Twinkle Toes the gold toothed crack man off her case for another day. And there in a jewellery box, Some dirty brown powder in a little baggie. A burnt spoon, coated in thick syrupy stains. A syringe. A piece of foil and a vague reek of vinegar.
It explained all the blood dots on the sheets, and the swan necked nodding mid-sentence, and the constant scratching. Aunty had peeled herself like a satsuma, and bits of her were scattered across most of the house.
Kirsty had never felt so light, so free. Her body melted into boneless sludge and her sins absolved themselves as time stopped. The river of pain that ran through her, for a blissful moment at least, froze over and stopped flowing.
Even as her aunt hit her with a rolling pin across the back of the head, shrieking and wailing like a grieving widow as Kirsty yawned chunky bile into the crusty toilet bowl, she felt something better than happiness, better than comfort. She felt nothing. The blood running down her face was as meaningless as tear drops or rain against a windowpane.
By the time it was her twenty fifth birthday Kirsty was as toothless and as shrivelled as an exhumed mummy. Her hair was lank and already going grey and when she pulled it back into a severe ponytail she looked into the mirror, and reminded herself of a shrunken head.
The abscess scar in the crook of her arm was as big as a bomb crater. It sent shivers of something like horror up her arm whenever she ran her fingers over it.
Her veins were going, going, gone, and she was shooting up into places she never dreamed of.
Her man had croaked it five years ago, after Scotland yard had arranged a lead overdose, despite being convinced by his Houngan grandfather that he would never die of a gunshot.
Apparently swallowing down bullets with a chaser of rum wasn’t nearly as effective at proving a point as being shot in the face with one.
She had done a stretch in Holloway afterward, for conspiracy to supply,
Where a con called charity broke Kirsty’s cheek with a pool ball in a sock.
“Should’ve named you Patience,” Kirsty had said, as the screws split them up.
She had fallen in with Sweet tooth and Gerald last year, and it was sweet tooth who had first suggested she get off the beat and offered her a place to stay, all in exchange for a bit of ‘loyalty’.
She was wary, and the last thing she needed was a pimp, never mind two, but she had to admit to herself, she was fed up, and probably didn’t have much longer left. If a rogue punter didn’t do her in soon then she would probably do it herself. and there was one haunting the beat in a beat-up Volvo, a punter gone rogue and feral with a taste for tainted blood, Long John Slither, the Southwark Strangler himself.
The warehouse looked like it had been cleared with dynamite, with the smashed in windows and charred office furniture, but it was a level up from the narrow ledge under the bridge, with the slimy flagstones and petrified bird bones.
They had given her a damp sleeping bag and let her choose any corner of the warehouse she liked, whilst Gerald got to work on a fire, collecting old boxes and pieces of scrap wood to toss on the coughing smoke.
As a Satanist it went without saying he enjoyed a good burn. Staring into the flames reminded him where he was going when his smack sick heart finally blew a gasket.
Sweet tooth kept Kirsty supplied with rock and brown, along with the occasional hamburger, all in exchange for the odd blow job if sweet tooth could get it up, which wasn’t often these days.
She had to service a skeleton crew of regular punters the pair of them had coaxed back for her of course, leading the men across the wreckage into the stagnant block of toilets out back and letting them do whatever they wanted to her for a couple of quid and a hit of whatever they had.
As regulars go, they were an odd bunch but they weren’t bad.
There was Elvis, a handsome Bosnian crack head who had a hand shaped like a lobster claw after he took too long playing hot potato with a grenade back in the motherland as a young boy.
Kirsty liked him, despite not being unable to understand a single lick of what he was saying, his throaty eastern European accent thick with Roadman slang and Cockney diamond geezerisms after having been dragged through a civil war and kicked across South London’s various sinkholes.
Then there was Mad Roy, a flat nosed ex pug from Yorkshire with cirrhosis and a zig zag of meat cleaver scars over his head, as if someone had used his bullet shaped dome as a chopping block.
He could’ve gone all the way and made champ, had he not beat his best mate to death and took a twenty stretch of bird in Wakefield nick instead of a standing eight count.
He was always telling Kirsty about his comeback fight as she cleaned herself up after he had finished, in between bursts of shadow boxing and gulps of gut rot.
“I’m fookin comin back fer title. En’t nobody stops me this time!”
Sweet tooth himself was wheelchair bound. The diabetes had ravaged his legs until he cried uncle and the doctors gave them the chop from the knee down.
“Took my legs but gave me a good nickname,” he liked to boast.
His arms were so swollen and distended from abscesses they resembled warped cardboard left out in a rainstorm.
He picked at an old guitar that only had two strings, and he had a trilby hat permanently ensconced on his bulbous head.
The elastic hat band was stuffed with used syringes and cigarette butts, and several of sweet’s own cavity plagued teeth, plucked from his bleeding gums by an enthusiastic Gerald armed with a pair of mole grips.
He sucked on a wine bottle constantly, pausing only to deliver one of his ranting sermons of god’s wrath and the impending judgment the almighty would pass on all sinners. He claimed he had been a preacher of the gospel before he turned pimp, but Kirsty doubted his veracity.
He wasn’t much of either.
“He will rise, oh lord yes he will. And he will wash all this shit down the drain to the pit, where the lord of all wickedness holds court, oh yes sir. Make peace and repent.”
The wine would drool out of his mouth, and Gerald would snigger.
“Let him come and flush me down to the pit. All of us, it’s where we belong. Death to all things.”
Gerald was partially blind, and he had a colostomy bag that leaked down his legs from time to time like a big shit stuffed tea bag.
There was a hole in the roof of his mouth, and when he drank or tried to eat a handful of beans it usually fell onto the floor unless he held his head at a jaunty angle.
He had tried to prove his devotion to Satan and all his works by swallowing a good mouthful from a rusty can of Nitromors he had found, adamant the dark one would spare him and leave him unharmed, considering all the sacrifices he had made in his altar, an old closet in the back of the warehouse full of candles, and the rotting corpses of various pets he had kidnapped and murdered.
Gerald claimed it brought them good fortune, and the only reason they had any food or drugs at all was because of the closet. The skin shed he called it.
It seemed Satan didn’t give two shits how many cats Gerald had decapitated and thrown into the skin shed for his benefit however and the Nitromors had burned a hole straight through his bowels.
At night time, long after sweet tooth had succumbed to the wine, Gerald would leer at Kirsty over the crackling lick of flame, draped in a bin bag he liked to think of as a cape, telling her how he met Satan himself. He said Satan looked like an elephant crossed with a spider and how Satan had blessed Gerald with supernatural powers.
“He gave me control over insects. The flies, you see, they are my spies. If I wanted to, I could conjure a swarm right now.”
He told Kirsty how cats and dogs would be just the start.
He would soon move onto bigger prey. That’s how he said it. Prey.
“If only sweet tooth will let me, our luck will change, forever. It’s how all the celebrities are so rich. They all kill their first borns.”
Kirsty had only looked into the skin shed once, on accident, and the smell had knocked her harder than a rig full of fentanyl.
A cat was nailed to a shelf and there was a dog with a candle in its mouth instead of a tongue.
Gerald had loomed behind her, his face wrinkled beyond its years, widened eyes no more than pits leading all the way to nothingness.
His rail thin body was smudged in sooty jail bird renderings.
‘Dust is my destiny’ was emblazoned on his temple along with an arthritic looking and purple grim reaper and ‘cut here’ was scrawled above a dotted line that circumvented his vulture-like neck.
Kirsty had no idea they were lovers, the bible basher and the devil worshipper, doped to the gills as she was, not until she heard them grunting one early morning, just as the fire was smouldering and coughing its last.
She peeked out of her sleeping bag. Gerald was straddling sweet tooth, riding the old cripple like a donkey. They were kissing, the god and the devil, right there in front of her, broken limbs intertwined to form some demented scrapheap centaur.
She shifted to get a better look, and something underneath her, glass or gravel, crunched and they both froze and ceased. Gerald looked over.
Kirsty played dead, but she felt eyes on her, which she knew meant big trouble, because she usually couldn’t’ feel anything.
Kirsty didn’t say owt over the usual breakfast of a pipe of crack crumbs and a shot between the toes, her new favourite spot, but they were eyeing her mighty strange and she baulked at the idea of giving them head ever again.
The next night she feigned sleep and heard then having an argument in whispers.
Gerald was asking Sweet tooth’s permission to kill the harlot to change their luck. He wanted to cut out Kirsty’s heart and eat it, and throw her body into the skin shed, for the beast himself to devour.
Sweet tooth was agreeing, but wasn’t sure if it would work.
“Hell, if it doesn’t work ask your god to bring her back. He’s supposed to be good at that kind of shit. She doesn’t do nothing except gum your dick and do all our gear. and don’t you lie to me and tell me she does it better than me. She wouldn’t even let me bite her when I had my turn with her, the little turd. She wouldn’t even wear this.”
Kirsty heard the flap of latex and knew Gerald was waving around the flaccid Halloween demon mask in front of Sweet tooth, the mask he took to wearing whenever he got really frenzied, the very same mask he had snatched from a gaggle of little trick or treaters a few months ago. Kirsty had flat out refused to put it on. Sucking his devil’s tail was one thing, but masks and hell play was a different kettle of piss.
“How would we do it?” Sweet tooth said.
“With that blade your daddy gave ya. Give the bitch a hot dose and when she’s good and out of it, we make a zipper out of her neck.”
Gerald had always made her feel weird, but she had never been afraid of sweet tooth until recently. He had been smashing the juice something fierce, and he had pulled a straight razor on Kirsty in a flash of steel that came from nowhere, all over who had dibs on the final back washed dregs of a bottle of wine the night before.
His reddened eyes were bulging, mouth froth spraying and Kirsty was sure he would have cut her to ribbons had he had legs. She had jumped back and retreated to her bag, calling it a night.
Sweet tooth started to loudly forsake god. Kirsty heard the bottle smash amongst other smashed things.
“You took my legs, you no good clown! I dare you to come down here. I dare you to come down.”
Now here she was, playing dead in the sleeping bag, laying there like a great maggot, listening to these two fools planning to kill her.
She decided to endure the pain of her first rattle. She hadn’t been sober since she was sixteen, and the pair of demented zealots had gone cold on her, even though she knew they were both holding something.
She got up as pale post-mortem blue light came in through the broken windows, and she looked about to gather her things, before realising she didn’t have anything except the scribbled to pieces colouring book.
A slate grey cloud like an enormous splatter of porridge passed overhead as she looked at the crumbled book.
She didn’t even like the colouring book particularly, and cartoons gave her the willies, but her hands needed something to do when she was flying high on planet rock and fidgety and her nerves were as brittle and sharp as cut glass.
Gerald was flat on his back, arms crossed, eyes open as always, and Sweet tooth was slumped forward so much he looked ready to pitch face first into the remnants of the fire.
She reached into Sweet tooth’s grimy blazer. She pulled out the pearl handled cut throat and sunk her hand into the pocket again.
She pulled out one baggie, two, then fumbled with a third.
She crept to the bathroom and boiled up a monster shot, enough horse to lay three people stone cold.
She left her doings on the sink, arranged just in case, and with trembling hands she stuck the spike into Gerald’s cheesy neck where he lay and pushed down the plunger so hard, she thought the needle would fire out inside his throat from the force.
The mad fucker didn’t even stir, his eyes just rolled into the back of his skull to gaze at the damaged brain that had crouched behind them for so long.
She considered slashing the cripples throat, but she put the remaining baggie and the razor back into his blazer pocket.
She climbed back into her sleeping bag, the aches filling her joints like cement, playing dead once again as Sweet tooth’s howls of grief filled the warehouse.
He was crying like a baby, and then he was gurgling like one, and Kirsty knew what he had done.
The crude oil coloured blood had gone everywhere and it had set like jelly, and the blade was stuck in sweet tooth’s swollen hand.
She walked to the shop and spent her last quid on a litre of white thunder and then she walked back to the bridge and climbed up on the ledge.
After a while she started to shiver, and her skin started to crawl so ferociously it felt like it was about to strip itself off her flesh and somersault down the street.
she couldn’t make up her mind if she was burning up or frozen solid.
Later her belly tied itself into a knot and tried to strangle itself with her intestines and she pulled her keks down and shat off the edge of the ledge like a monstrous pigeon.
She remembered it all at once, in a tidal wave, a tsunami of things she had spent nearly ten years trying to forget. Her mother groaning in the cupboard as the boys did what they did, sculpture stiff where Kirsty had left her the morning after, the sock in her mouth hanging out like a furry tongue.
It was too much hurt, too much at once. She had Overdosed.
She climbed down, said sorry to no one but herself and jumped into the canal.
The brown filth only went up to her waist, so she had to sit down and allow herself to sink, the leaves and silt covering her and going in her mouth. It was freezing and the leaves may as well have been razor blades as they danced against her skin.
She wanted to die, or thought she did, but she remembered the last baggie in the old man’s blazer, and the works still perched on the dusty sink in the toilet, just where she left them.
She clawed her way to the surface.
She climbed out of the canal like a swamp thing, using the carcass of a shopping trolley as a stepping stone, and then she made for the warehouse again, savouring the thought of another hit, one more, the last one to see her through whatever horror was to come.
She hit the beat. It was dark.
As she dreamed of relief, of salvation, and as she shivered, Kirsty didn’t notice the large battered Volvo slowly tracing behind her, hugging the kerb.
Image: Google Images.