The pale color of her stomach. Then her legs. Then her chest. Then everything else.

Stephanie tried to move her arm but it felt heavy and shackled. Her dry mouth tried to swallow but felt stuffed with cotton. She didn’t feel cold but she felt stretched and watched and very naked.

That was some ride . . .

Her flickering, barely opening eyes kept expecting to see the dirty windshield of her car. But instead, there was some kind of fan hovering over her. Stopped like the blades of an abandoned Army chopper.

Where am I?

Everything was slow motion. Her muscles ached and she knew she must have been out for a while. But for how long?

Further examination proved that she hadn’t been alone in this strange bed. She’d been with a man last night. Maybe a stranger was making coffee for her. Maybe he had left with a note on the kitchen counter. Or maybe he had simply escaped before the junkie he’d brought home woke up beside him.

Stephanie hardly ever used that term. The J-term. But she was tired and her mind couldn’t help spitting it out.

It took her several moments to locate parts of her clothes. Her jeans, a t-shirt, a blouse. They were easy to find considering the sparseness of this bedroom. There was only the bed, a small pair of tables next to it, then a black leather chair. She didn’t even bother trying to look for anything else. All she wanted was to get out of there.

The ground wobbled as she tried sorting through her memory like a remote flipping through the channels. The dark haze covered over everything since shooting up in her car by her apartment. What happened after that? She didn’t carry a phone that could give her any sort of clue. She could just feel the keys to her Honda Accord which hopefully was parked somewhere outside this condo/apartment/house?


Her voice sounded like someone else. Like stepping over a gravel road hearing the crunch underneath your shoes.

“Anybody here?”

The doorway opened up to a loft painted in soft white. The modern furniture was sleek and alabaster and looked brand new. Stephanie scanned the room with the high ceiling and the bookshelf with carefully arranged sets of high-brow books—not stacks of trashy paperback romance novels like she had in her place but hardcover cookbooks and literature and photography journals. A gray minimalistic painting hung on one of the otherwise bare walls.

She had a hard time breathing. Nothing in this place looked familiar or looked like her. This wasn’t her world.

Did I break into this place?

“Hello?” she called out again.

Half a wall separated the living area with the kitchen. It was sparse and modern and clean. No coffee waited for her. No pastry. No note. Nothing.

A part of her wouldn’t have been surprised if she had simply wandered into this condo by herself. She had done worse things. Far worse things. But she knew she’d had sex last night with someone. Naturally she had to assume it had taken place here.

Her body shook and she could already feel it. The longing and the need. If she’d been out long enough, she knew the sensation would start to grow. It wasn’t just a nagging addiction anymore. She was a slave, walking around in shackles knowing there was only one thing that would unlock them. Freedom was momentary and brief, then the irons would be clamped back on her.

Stephanie looked for a bathroom. There was a doorway on the other side of the bedroom with the light on inside. She wanted to shower and clean herself up but she didn’t want to stay any longer than necessary.

The tiles were an off-white with a bone-colored sink matching the shelf next to it. It made the bathtub stand out all the more.

It was black—no it was the color of wine.

This was her first image. Then she saw the dark water on the ground next to it.

Not dark water that’s blood. Dripping from a pale arm.     

The arm was barely draped over the side with a bloody wrist and hand. The dry skin looked pale and a bit blue. An almost bald head hovered just above the top of the tub, half the face floating in the murk. Stephanie simply froze, looking and wondering if she was dreaming and afraid to turn around and run. This bathroom was so clean like the rest of this place except the bathtub and the body inside it.

They she looked slightly above to see the syringe and the two glassine envelopes on the windowsill. They both had the number 10 stamped in bold on them.

She creeped over toward it to look. It wasn’t like there was any chance this guy was still alive. But would she recognize him? He didn’t look that old except for the mostly bald head. The eyes were open oh dear God they’re open looking up looking at her and now she could see the other cut right below his jaw bobbing up and down in the filth maybe still bleeding . . .

Her body lurched and the vomit made a yellowish-green butterfly shape on the bright tile.

She didn’t wait around anymore. Stephanie ran out of the bathroom and out of this condo and didn’t worry about covering up any sort of signs she had been there.

All she could see was the stagnant blood and the head hovering at its surface.

So much blood God so much blood