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Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death

A beautiful Death

I’ve written several drug addiction stories — this is the first to be published.

What follows is the full text of A Beautiful Death, which was originally published on The Courtship of Winds. You can find links to the original publication at the end of the story.

A beautiful Death

Drug Addiction Stories by Adam Fout — A Beautiful Death

“Is it going to hurt?”

The girl ignores the words, sizing up his veins.

“Why don’t you bang it?”

She pauses, whispers: “You know why.”

She settles on the right arm. A word streams through her mind: Perfect.

She belts him, his anticipation a moist shiver against her latex fingertips.

“But what about—”

A prick.

An insertion.

A ribbon of blood.

A push.

Quickly now. Quickly now.

The boy gasps. His eyes flutter. His question suffocates on lips fading blue.

She answers anyway, a savageness in her voice. “’Cause I gotta’ stay awake, boy.”

She holds him gently for a moment, then drops him to the couch. She’s nauseated, shaking. She turns away, but his face echoes in her thoughts: a beautiful boy, a beautiful life. She snorts a tiny line off a filthy ceramic plate on a filthy glass table, unconsumed pills vibrating lightly across the plate as their pulverized brethren inject themselves into mucosal membranes. A deep, soul-wrenching sigh drips out of her throat.

There.

Ok.

Ok, let’s go.

She begins with electronics. He has several TVs, three gaming systems, a MacBook.

Her backseat full, tiny traces of the boy’s blood still drying on her gloves, she returns to the apartment to check his breathing.

Slow, but there.

Good.

The Oxy crystallizes deep in her skull, thoughts sharpening, focusing:

The closet next.

A shoebox stuffed with brick weed, childish words scrawled across the lid: “Tylers STASH hand offff!!!”

Worthless.

A tiny strongbox, locked.

The boy’s pocket produces a key. The box produces cash.

Bobby would be disgusted with me.

One last sniff off the plate before she dumps the remaining pills in her purse.

Screw Bobby.

A glance at the kid.

Shit. Shit-shit-shit!

His face is peaceful, the pale blue of a ten-milligram Valium. All the pressure of college smoothed away by opiate bliss, lungs relieved of their eternal labor. He is nothing now, a tiny body deflated on the couch, a mannequin in a glass display case, thin, thin, thin, a webbing of blue veins against a patchwork of muscles and trust.

Weak. He’s always been so weak.

She dials 911 on his phone, dots of blood framing the numbers.

“1403 Apple Lane. OxyContin overdose.” She runs.

She drives.

Sirens pass.

She sighs.

Powder-blue gloves fly out her window.

Then the shaking starts.

Silent tears shed shame. She passes one of the thousand churches in the grotesque Midwest city, cicadas screaming lazily in the heat. The marquee doles out admonishment for all passersby:

“For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

She glares upward. She prays: Screw you, God.

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

“Hello!” The woman is a beam of plastic shining down on the girl.

Fake smile.

Fake words.

Fake concern.

Fake.

Fake.

Fake.

“Come on back!”

The girl follows the woman. They enter an office.

They always have an office. They always think they’re so.

Important.

The woman sits behind a desk, but her smile has slipped away. Visibly, she remembers her smile, retrieves it from her purse, places it lovingly on her face.

“Please, have a seat.”

Smiling, saccharine.

The girl sits, a constriction growing in her throat, a cancer, a need.

The girl speaks:

“Let’s get this over with.”

The woman’s smile freezes.

Cracks.

Reforms.

“Yes. No need for this to be … unpleasant.”

The girl almost laughs. Restrains herself. Laughs anyway. Once. The tears are close. Insanity closer. The laugh defeats them both.

For now.

When the woman speaks, her teeth dazzle. “Sooo, we’ve had—behavioral—reports. Ummm-ahhhh-hmmm.” The woman’s hands work, twist, contort.

Jesus, she’s never done this before, has she?

“But!” The woman’s confidence seems to return. “That’s not the main reason we’re here, is it?”

They always smile.

Like a dog.

“Your grades have not met the requirements of your academic probation.” A shuffle of papers. “And, as this is your second probation –”

“Look, are you kicking me out, or what?” Lightning twitches through the girl’s legs, her arms, her bones. She feels it spark across her synapses. The sweats are coming powerful, and in a few hours, muscle weakness, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting.

Hallucinations, perhaps.

A line before bed, a full night’s sleep, and then straight here.

Nine hours.

Too long.

The woman’s plastic smile widens, punctured by sweat. “You seem nervous-s-s.” The final S hisses, slithers off her tongue.

What the hell, lady? “Of course I’m nervous. You’re about to kick me out of goddamn college.”

The woman’s smile shatters. She glances impulsively at a small cross nailed to the wall, back to the girl. “There’s no need to cuss. Yes, you’re right—you’ve been … removed … from the university.” She pauses, sighs, empty of false empathy. “Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait two full semesters to return.”

But the girl has left, a rancid sweat stain the only proof she was ever there. The woman sighs again.

Makes a note.

Sends an email.

Collapses a future.

The girl oozes down a sidewalk towards the university parking lot, dark constructs in her mind raging against the noonday sun. She crafts lies now, carefully, subtly. They mesh with the constructs, merge into truths, meld with her past, internalize.

The tears flow freely.

The need overwhelms.

A call must be made.

But first, the lies.

I haven’t been kicked out. It’s my last semester. Just finishing up my classes, Mom.

She mutters, a mantra, “Just one more semester, Mom. Just one more semester, Mom. I just need a little taste, Mom.”

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

“Thirty-FIVE?!”

The dealer’s face is granite.

“Are they at least brand name?” A glare. “Come on, Jim.” Her fingers trace collapsed veins on his fleshless hand. “You know I can’t afford—”

“You better afford it.” Snatches away hand. His face ice, obsidian. “I’m sicka’ your shit, and no more trades. I’m not gettin’ busted for an old MacBook. You pay, like everyone else.”

She digs deep.

Finds an approximation of an emotion.

Pouts.

“Twenty-five? Please?”

His face is iron, steel.

She pushes.

“You used to do fifteen, Jim, you used to—”

She chokes on the words. His rage cracks. Shards of titanium.

“Ok, ok, ok, thirty-thirty-thirty, please, Jim, please, I’ll buy twenty of ’em, just, please-Please-PLEASE Jim, JIM, I can’t get sick, Jim, I can’t, I can’t get sick, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!”

“Fine!” A bark, a roar, “Fine, Jesus.” He counts.

Her desperation turns to butterflies of anticipation, like the moment before the boy picks you up for prom.

Before he sees your makeup.

Your hair.

Your dress.

Before he judges you.

Unworthy.

I was high at my prom.

He mutters: “He’d kill me, you know.”

The butterflies burst into flames. The words flow around her mind, through her soul, and when they pass, they leave behind nothing.

An emptiness where something once was.

An emptiness where something can no longer be.

He softens. He chuckles. He remembers. “He always said—”

“Stop.”

A glance, shared. A memory, suppressed. A knife, twisted. Her facial muscles slack, her eyes matte.

He nods, understanding seeping through cracks. “Sorry, I … sorry. Have an extra, on the house.”

Desperate need returns life. Her hands sweat as they gather pills. She pushes a damp stack of cash his way. She would never ask, but she has to check. Her withered fingers shudder across tiny outlines, tracing minuscule letters on the surface of the pills:

O. C.

She takes the first deep breath she’s had in hours.

Brand name. Thank you, God!

A knot releases.

An incantation begins in her head.

Hurry, hurry, hurry!

’Bout to be sick!

Hurry, hurry, hurry!

’Bout to be sick!

“Can I get high here?”

“I don’t—”

“Jim, PLEASE.”

“Sure, sure, sure.”

The pills plink on the glass table. One. Two. Three. Four.

“Wait … damn. You’re doin’ four now?”

“Jim!”

“Right. Do what you gotta’ do.”

Don’t watch, Bobby.

Please?

You understand.

Don’t you?

A sniff, and oblivion.

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

The girl stares into the fabric of the couch. The pattern holds another, deeper pattern, if only she could discover it. The woman in the chair across from her continues to stare.

The silence.

Lengthens.

The woman bends, breaks.

“This will be pretty boring if you never speak, you know?”

The girl ignores the words. Her attention has moved to her cuticles.

Pick. Pick. Pick.

The skin comes off in flakes, littering fabric worn flat by decades of uncomfortable conversations.

Admissions.

Denials.

Acceptances.

“You’re not required to come here anymore, though your insurance – your parents’ insurance – will cover at least a dozen additional sessions.”

The girl’s hands flicker to her hair, fidgeting, adjusting, pulling. A tiny rope of strands makes its way to her mouth. Neither speak.

Too quiet, too quiet, too quiet.

The woman shuffles papers, writes a note, two, three. She sighs, then looks at the girl. The girl does not look back.

“Do you want to talk about –”

The girl freezes, a pale film enveloping her emotions.

“That’s okay, that’s okay. We don’t have to talk about … that.”

More silence.

They are mirrors of each other. Opposite hands reach for opposite strands. Opposite calves cross opposite halves.

Their thoughts sputter.

Twist.

Converge.

“Do you want to talk about the drugs?”

The girl smiles, grinds her teeth.

Grit on metal on rock on need.

“I couldn’t come here without getting high. I …”

The woman lifts an eyebrow, clenches her pen, her jaw.

“I … I can’t really do much without pills, ya know?”

The woman has not moved. Warily, delicately, the woman speaks.

“Do you think,” carefully, carefully, “they’re a problem?”

The girl sniffs, hard. Bitter particles explode in the back of her throat. Her body shivers.

“No. They’re not a problem. They’re the opposite of a problem.”

Thinking hard now.

“They make everything okay. Well, not okay. Nothing is okay. They make everything …”

She trails off.

A silence is conceived, grows, lives, dies.

The woman is a rock, a stone, eyes downcast.

“They make everything … blank. Empty. They let me … forget? No. I can never forget. They let me …” The girl sighs. Her soul crushes her lungs. “They let me not be ME.”

The woman nods, a thousand notes pouring from her pen.

“And I don’t want to be me.”

The woman opens her mouth, but she is too late.

The girl has left.

The woman shakes her head. Mutters.

“She’s not ready.”

Sighs.

“She’ll be back.”

Writes.

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

A tone resounds through the barren apartment, a phone chirping for attention. The girl ignores it before the compulsion grabs, shakes, breaks.

It’ll be different this time.

No, it won’t.

A filthy mattress draws the eye from the emptiness, an apartment desperate for a tenant, not a ghost. The girl perches on shredded sheets, host to a menagerie of dried body fluids. Grease and cigarette burns cover the thing, perhaps her only true possession.

Her digital leash calls to her again. Her hand snakes into a purse, retrieves. The girl’s digits dance, muscle memory guiding fingertips across a filthy touchscreen, contracting an invisible sheen of MRSA.

A gift for the future.

The phone lights up. A blue icon with a pale F explodes across the screen, reflects against twin pinpoints nested in irises of gray.

She enters an email, never checked.

A password, never forgotten.

And in her vision, a number in red.

108.

A waterfall of messages. They spill across the screen.

Begging.

Bothering.

Crying.

Dying.

She sighs.

She screams.

She scans.

“Hey you got n e –”

“How much 4 –”

“I just need –”

“Hey its dereckk can i get –”

“Eyy i cant get ahold of –”

“Do you know where I can find–”

“Hey you ;-)”

“Hey r u still –”

“Hey I met u at that party???”

“Heyyyyyy –

“U think u cld hook me up –”

“Hey babe.”

She pauses. Taps. Reads.

“Hey babe. Look. I know it’s been a while, and I’m sorry I disappeared like that.”

Bastard … he always thought you were an idiot.

“I couldn’t do it anymore. I really didn’t know how into drugs you were, I guess. I didn’t think they’d grab me like that. We were both just so SICK, but I’m so PROUD of you for getting clean! I just was thinking –”

She stops reading. Moisture dots the screen.

Disgusting. I’m so damn weak sometimes.

A swipe. A deletion.

The feed feeds her emptiness, endless posts flowing across tempered glass.

Nonsense to swipe the pain away.

She reads:

“OMG i cant beLIVE we r havin another bby!!!!!!!”

And you can’t even send me a text? I hope you get fat.

“Oboma AKA OSAMA is a crook!!?! Your stupid if u think—”

Swipe. Swipe. Swipe.

God I hate people. Why the hell did I get on here?

She scrolls once, twice, thrice. A post catches her eye:

“Tyler, I cant belive we lost u so soon. My little angle, u wer my wrld, my–”

What?

What-what-what-what-what?!

She reads closer, her throat a collapsing star.

“My son left us only a few days ago bcause of that DEMON they call OXYCOTTON!!!!! IF UR KIDS R ON IT GET THEM 2 REHAB NOW!!!!! I WOULD DO ANYTHING 2 GO BACK AND TAKE TYLER 2 REHAB I DIDNT EVEN KNOW HE WUZ ON DRUGS!!!!!! HE WUZ INJECTING THEM –”

No.

No, no, no, no, no.

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!

The girl screams.

The phone flies.

The screen cracks.

Her fingers freeze.

An image rises in her mind – a boy on a couch, emaciated, lips a brilliant blue.

She gasps, but breath does not come.

She reaches for her secret, a tiny box of escape, hidden just beneath the decaying mattress.

A belt.

A vein.

A slap.

A shot.

And then, the vision bursts – an iron curtain crashes down between her and the pain, protecting her, saving her.

Her breath.

Slows.

Slows.

Slows.

I’m sorry Tyler, I’m sorry.

Blackness takes her. The pain dances away, smiling, laughing, whispering, beckoning.

It knows the truth.

She’ll be back.

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

Sitting quietly in the pew next to her mother, the girl waits for the service to start. She sniffs, Oxy grains etching calm into the back of her throat, microscopic lacerations of future cancer.

“A cold, dear?”

Her mother’s voice seeps with superiority, the gloating of the damned.

“The pastor’s about to speak, Mom.”

God, what’s her problem?

The girl’s mother presses: “Strange time of year for a cold, dear.”

The girl glares.

Bitch.

Revenge precipitates in the girl’s mind.

“Your nose is running, mother,” the girl whispers. “It’s blue.”

A smile almost cracks through the Oxy as her mother twitches, furiously dabbing her nose with a tissue. The girl’s father joins them in the pew, smiling obliviously. Her mother’s tissue comes away colorless. Rage flows off the bloated woman in waves.

Then, the pastor speaks, and they pretend to listen, pretend to care.

“We are – all of us – sinners.”

Nods. An amen. Her mother glares. Her father’s head bobs, a serene, stupid smile on his face. The girl ignores her parents, picking at her cuticle so she doesn’t pick her face. The pastor prattles on, a madness beginning to infect his words:

“But did He not also die for our sins? Have not some of us died-ah? While still in sin-ah?”

Her mother begins to cry. Her father comforts, a blankness rushing across his face. The amens gather momentum, a collective yearning for penitence burning through the congregation. The pastor is a conjuror at the precipice of a spiraling abyss, whipping the winds of shame in ever-tighter circles.

“But, even though we sin-ah, we should not give up on ourselves-ah!”

Her father nods, faith and regret warring. He whispers a mantra. “It was God’s Will. It was God’s Will. It was God’s Will.”

Her mother’s tears flow over God’s Will, dissolving, erasing.

Only pain remains.

The Oxy peaks. The girl floats above her body, detached.

An emotion knocks politely on the drug. The girl considers it, lets it in. She observes as her own finger pokes her mother.

“What?” Her mother’s words are needles. Quiet, angry, bitter.

The girl’s hand slips into her mother’s. A tiny tablet changes ownership, then tumbles from her mother’s Botox-smoothed palm to her collagen-infused lips. A peace offering, ingested without thought.

The girl whispers to her mother:

“It helps me forget … him.”

Her father looks, but does not see. Hears, but does not listen. Knows, but does not acknowledge.

Understands the need.

Despises the method.

Her mother whispers back. “What is it?”

“The same one I gave you last time.”

Her mother’s tears begin to clear, the body drying in visceral anticipation. A smile slinks across the woman’s mask of a face.

She hugs the girl close, crushing them both in the small space of the pew.

“I love you, honey.”

“I know.”

“We should not give up on ourselves-ah, for did not God say, ‘I know the plans I have for you-ah! Plans-ah, to PROSPER-AH!’”

Her father leans forward, mesmerized. He’ll soon be on his feet, his spirit flailing through his hands, his sad, sick, spiritual madness covering a sadder, sicker, spiritual wound.

The girl can’t take any more.

The Oxy says she doesn’t have to.

“I’ll be right back.”

“Okay, sweetie.”

Her mother floats in a dream.

They are both free from the pain.

For now.

The girl leaves this place of God, full for others, empty for her. She enters a car covered in rust and duct tape. She cries quietly as she drives, crushing pills on a CD case, blowing lines between turns through the brown and grey streets of the cold city.

A cooling blankness settles over her, a soft snow, quieting and enveloping. A buffer of nothingness against the dark.

But it does not last.

An image of a young man in camouflage rises through the black, bursts into her consciousness, scattering the snow.

He screams in her head.

She screams in the emptiness.

Crystals crawl up her nose, through her bloodstream, and into her brainstem.

And the man sinks.

Sinks.

Sinks.

And finally.

Is silent.

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

The girl enters the auditorium to a sea of stares. The professor stops speaking, watches her cross the room, hands on his hips.

“Good of you to join us this month, uh …” The professor’s quip dies in his throat as he stumbles over a name long forgotten.

She sits in a row of empty desks at the back of the academic cavern, aviators protecting pinpoint pupils from the glare of ancient fluorescence.

The professor’s teeth clack:

Once.

Twice.

Thrice.

His hand shakes.

Relaxes.

He returns to his scholarly duties.

The girl opens her bag, reaches for her book, and grasps only crumpled notes.

Oh yeah … got eighty bucks for it.

“Hey.” A boy scuttles over the seats, spider-like, thin limbs still unaccustomed to a body skeletonized by dope sickness.

Dereck. Another weak boy. All the way from high school.

He’s changed since then.

So much has changed since then …

He blathers: “Um. H-hey. Uh.”

Forgot my name?

She ignores him, savoring his discomfort.

“Uh, h-hey! I like y-your a-v-v-viators.”

Lord.

She leans close.

Closer.

Whispers: “Did you need something, Dereck?”

He nods, hands flexing, twitching. Miniscule white crystals hover at the edge of her nose. He licks his lips, dead eyes drilling into her nostril, searching for more. Her hand is a milk snake, slithering into his lap –he fills it with cash. It swallows the money, and eight tiny blue pills appear.

An explanation: “Those are Roxies. Instant release.” She watches his eyes die a little more. “They’re gonna’ hit you faster than name brand, so if you bang ’em –”

“I’m n-not stupid. I kn-know my t-t-tolerance.”

She lifts a single, deteriorated eyebrow.

He crumbles. “I’m s-sorry. I –”

Idiot.

She places her hand on his shoulder. His flinch causes the chair on which he perches to creak, drawing eyes in the crowded auditorium.

She does not care about the eyes.

A terror burns in the boy.

She speaks: “It’s okay. Shh, it’s okay. You can make it up to me. Just chop ’em up here and give me a taste.”

His neck cracks with the speed of his nod. “H-h-how m-much?”

She considers. “Half.”

Surprise oozes from his pores. “That’s … s-shit. That’s n-n-not t-too much?”

She glares.

He chops.

The professor lectures.

She sniffs.

He sniffs less.

She savors the moment, gasps slightly, her lungs freezing.

He scuttles away, his stench lingering.

She begins to nod.

Her pain shudders.

Sinks.

Settles.

Dies.

The moment passes.

A lifetime passes.

She jerks awake.

The professor stands above her, the wrinkles of his face pointing down. The room is empty.

The professor’s voice is contempt made flesh: “I recognize you now. What are you doing here?”

Huh? “What do you mean? I’m in your cla –”

“No, no you’re not. You’ve been removed from the university. I’ve received several emails about –”

“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about!” A burst, Oxy-induced anger coming strong.

This annoying, stupid bastard! My grades are fine! “They’re fine!”

“What? Look, you need to leave, you can’t be on camp –”

“They’re fine!”

“You can leave, or I can call campus police. It’s your choice. You’re not in this class anymore.”

Several students bob at the door, discarded bottles at sea.

They stare.

Their phones record.

The split in the girl’s mind widens, the lies solidifying to iron, to truth.

She stands, gathers her belongings, leaves.

“Don’t come to class next week!”

Whispers and titters fill her ears as she exits. The girl’s eyes are mortars. They sweep the huddled pile of fools. None can meet her gaze. They fragment, flowing back into the sea. She exits. The afternoon sun sears her skull. Her phone blazes with sound.

“Hey. Yeah, mom. Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. Look, it’s all bullshit. Yeah. They’re lying to you, mom. No, I just left class! Yeah, exactly. I don’t know; that woman is an idiot. Of course I still need rent money! I make seven dollars –”

The girl fades from view.

The sun sets.

And nothing changes.

Nothing changes.

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

“I saaaaaaid, hey!”

The girl is nodding out at the grill, ever so slightly, the tiny bobs of her head and the flutters of her eyelids little waves of tranquility in an ocean of chaos. The tips of her hair are singed. Wisps of smoke twist towards the oven hood, smelling of hair and grease, filth and shame.

Her coworker is lard and laziness and hunger. When he speaks, an emptiness oozes from his guts.

“Hey!” She bursts awake, pupils cinders deep in angry sockets. “The boss called your name over the intercom, like, three times, man.” Twitching, scratching, aching, yearning. “Say, before you go up there, you got any … you know.”

She slaps the spatula into his hand, ignoring his greed, his need, to feed, to feed.

She jogs to the front.

I can’t lose another job. I need the money – I need the money – I need the money.

Two cops in human clothing stand, waiting, a man and a woman.

Her manager, a vat of oil wrapped in a person, waits with them.

The douche smiles.

When he speaks.

His lips.

Smack.

“These officers would like to speak with you.” Gloating.

They glare at his idiocy. They correct him: “Detectives.”

He shrivels, eyes darting.

Lies tumble through her skull.

Fade.

Die.

“Come outside, ma’am.”

They exit.

The snake stays, but she follows.

The Lord of Pizza and Nothing uncoils as she passes, gives her a gift, a whisper.

His dripping lips sputter.

“You’re fired.”

Bastard.

The detectives pause. She races behind them. Their clothes are stained with sweat, the Midwest sun trying desperately to burn them all Burn them all. Burn Them All. BURN THEM ALL. “BUR – uh … what do you want?”

“Ma’am, I’m Detective Chavez – this is my partner, Detective Williams.”

The girl tenses. Her eyes begin to wobble slightly.

“Look, you’re not in trouble.” He glances at his partner, then to the ground, the girl’s face, the ground.

He mutters to the pavement.

“We’re doing things differently, now, I guess …” Stumbling, words tumbling, bumbling.

Williams fingers her hair, speaks.

“Ma’am, we’re not here to arrest you. We’re concerned for your safety. A boy was found dead, maybe a week ago.” Shit shit shit SHIT! “We know you were in contact with him, that you may have been doing drugs with him.” They know they know THEY KNOW! “Did you hear about what happened to Tyler?” Don’t say his name please please don’t say his NAME. “He died of an overdose. OxyContin. We found some text messages in his phone.” Oh God, God, GOD, save me. “We caught his dealer. And the guys who robbed him.” What? What-what-what? But it was me. I thought it was me. I thought … “They took everything, even his socks. Ma’am, ma’am, are you okay?” The girl is breathing heavily now, panic overwhelming the Oxy’s dampening effect on her lungs.

Chavez speaks: “Look lady—” I’m only nineteen Jesus how old how old how OLD was HE. “—we came to see if you need help. That kid was on some powerful drugs. We want them off the streets. We know you were getting high with Tyler—” Stop stop stop STOP! “Stop saying his name!”

She is screaming now, flailing, hands crushing ears into skull.

Tears flowing sickly.

Madly.

Uncontrolled.

Her breaths come in tattered waves. Her body is not her own.

The detectives look at each other as the girl fractures. Williams speaks:

“Did you know … uh … did you know your friend had—geez …”

A radio on Chavez’s belt screeches. He runs for the car. The girl sits down slowly, convulsively, gravity crushing her shoulders, legs limp.

Chavez yells. Robbery in progress. Williams hesitates, steps forward. “Ma’am, here’s my card. When you’re ready to get help, call me, okay?”

The girl does not move. The girl cannot move. Chavez is screaming.

“Shit …” Williams lays the card down next to the broken girl, turns to the car, leaves.

The girl is a red giant collapsing under its own gravity. Her manager watches from the window, laughing, oil leaping from his face, spattering the glass.

One thought streams continuously through the girl’s mind:

I need more. I need more. I need more. I need more. I NEED MORE.

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

Jim isn’t picking up.

Jim isn’t picking up, Jim isn’t picking up.

Jim isn’t picking up, Jim isn’t picking up, Jim isn’t picking up, Jim-isnt-picking-up, JIM-ISNT-PICKING-UP!

HE-ISNT-PICKING-UP! HEISNTPICKINGUP! HEISNTPICKINGUP!

Breathe. Iiiiiiiiiiiin. And oooooooout.

Okay.

Okay.

It’s okay.

I’m gonna’ be.

She breathes in.

OKAY.

She breathes out.

Jim isn’t picking up.

Jim isn’t picking up because Jim is gone.

Jim isn’t coming back.

They never come back.

Which means I have to call …

Call …

Her teeth grind.

Her bones ache.

The tears fester.

Which means I have to call …

Her.

Shaking, shaking.

And she’s crazy. She kills people. At least, she says she does.

Shit.

Which means I can’t go alone.

Which means I have to share.

Shit, shit, shit, I don’t have a choice …

I just need to go, give someone a cut ahhhhhhhhhh godDAMMIT!

Ok.

She breathes in.

It’s ok.

She breathes out.

That’s ok.

It’s worth not getting sick.

I just need to get some stupid junkie, toss ’em a few pills, and then …

And then I have to get the hell out of this state before those stupid cops figure out –

But that way madness lies, so she goes to work instead.

Out comes the phone.

In go the numbers.

Please god … God, please, I’m sorry.

“Hey Dereck. I know. I know. I know, I know, just shut up! Listen. You want to get some free shit? Of course you do. I got a job for you …”

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

“Th-thanks for th-th-thinking of me, I su-sure appreciate—” He blathers on, grinding her consciousness.

She ticks the radio up.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

A honk.

A finger.

Dead prairie slips by, choked slowly by men searching for freedom, shale buried beneath the dust.

A broken land.

A dying land.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re welcome.”

She is distracted. A sickness grows in her gut.

“I mean, y-you don’t m-mind if I get her numb –” His words commit suicide as her eyes slash his chest. She twists a fist around the steering wheel.

“Dereck, I swear to God.”

His hands palpitate with fear, twisting the seatbelt, the transgression dissolving on his face. She glances briefly at this worthless excuse for a human being. His fingers strangely retain their flesh, remnants of a time when ribs didn’t show under a shirt.

“Sorry! S-s-sorry, sorry, I’m … look, I’m j-just really grateful you th-thought of m-me. I was gettin’ s-sick and –”

Her anger throttles the steering wheel. Tiny bricks of resentment piled upon a foundation of self-destruction.

He rapidly changes the subject. “S-so, uh, is Bobby still, y-you know, overs-s-seas?”

Her teeth.

They grind.

You idiot.

“I mean, I kn-know he f-finished his s-second t-tour, right?”

Her eyes begin to glaze over. A redness grows in her mind.

“He’s been t-there almost f-four years …”

You goddamn idiot.

The steering wheel creaks in her hands, ancient leather disintegrating.

Her words are methodical, severed individually by a guillotine of memory.

“He. Got. Stop. Lossed.”

“S-stop-lossed? Is th-that like –”

“He’s dead you IDIOT! He got sent back when he wasn’t supposed to get sent back, and now he’s DEAD!”

In the silence, the radio screams.

The explosion fades, now, the fallout blanketing the car, a quiet snow of anger and terror, then tears are streaming and she is screaming and he is cowering and pain permeates the tiny disintegrating vehicle. And the radio sings and she is an animal and then she is broken and then she is nothing and he has melded with the car door and suddenly, like a tornado bursting through the sky into the void, the madness disintegrates.

And she is herself again.

She turns the radio up, types a number into her phone, and tosses it into his greedy, terrified hands.

He holds it tightly.

He shakes.

Her words are cold.

“Call her. Tell her we’re almost there. Then shut, your god. Damned. MOUTH.”

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

The wreck clatters to a stop in front of a house.

It is a dead neighborhood. It is a dead place.

“Just keep quiet and do exactly what she says. And whatever you do, don’t mention Bo – my brother. Got it?”

“I g-g-g –”

“Good. She’s probably going to search you for a wire or some shit. Just be ready, ok?” He nods, loose teeth clacking in rotten gums.

She’s sitting in a pool of sweat. She scratches at bugs that don’t exist, her stomach knotted. In less than an hour, her body will betray her.

The sickness.

It rises.

“Now come on.”

Please God please God please GOD let them be brand name.

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

Somewhere nearby, Chavez slows, parks.

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

“H-have you ever b-b-been here before?”

“Yeah. I don’t come often.”

Fear stalks her, just below the surface.

A knock. The door opens. The eyes that peer forth are shards of obsidian encased in a mountain.

“Come in.”

The girl enters, shaking. She glances at Dereck.

He seems …

Weak.

Inadequate.

Shit. If she decides to kill us, there’s not a damn thing he can do about it.

He enters, scratching, a mass of bone and desire.

He, too, flees the sickness.

Need makes him desperate.

The girl speaks. “Thanks –”

The inhabitant is a cyclone, an ancient gale bursting through a crag. “Just shut up.” It turns to Dereck. If it had emotions, it would be amused.

“You think this is your chance in, boy?”

Dereck clatters.

Shatters.

It rumbles.

“If you screw me, I kill you, you understand? You end up in a field, or the bottom of an abandoned missile silo, you understand?”

Arms like the Pillars of the Earth cradle orange pill bottles and a gun—gently, lovingly.

“They’ll never find your body. The only reason I’m talking to you is for Bobby’s sister there, you understand? Now take off your clothes.”

Dereck glances at the girl.

His shirt comes off.

His pants drop.

He starts to remove his underwear, but the Pillars are already around his back.

The girl trembles, heart beat-beat-beating to death.

Hurry, hurry, hurry.

I gotta’ get high.

I gotta’ go.

I gotta’ get high!

I gotta’ go!

The boy closes his eyes, ready for he-knows-not-what.

His ninth-grade teacher bursts into his mind. She looks at his pre-calc test, amazed. “Well done, Dereck!” She leans close to him, a hand on his already-muscular shoulder.

“You have a gift for this. Don’t ever stop.”

A rumble brings him back to the filthy present, the mountain’s voice rocks crashing in an avalanche.

“Clean. Good. I find a wire, ever, I kill you. You understand? The cops aren’t fast enough to save your dumb ass. You understand?”

Dereck is a sea of nods. He will not speak again in this house.

His body has stopped shaking, at peace with its perceived demise.

His clothes ripple back onto his body, hanging like sheets on a clothesline.

The girl hands over a stack of twenties. They are crisp, clean, fresh from the ATM.

The crag counts them once, twice.

“Good. I like new money. Pay attention, boy. See how she does it? You always do it like that. You understand?” Nods. A secret smile at the unspoken – he’s in. The girl is a pulse of anger at the betrayal.

Then she remembers her fear.

Quakes.

The thing turns to the girl.

“You won’t like this, but I don’t give a shit. You don’t come here again. You understand? You understand? Bobby would kill us both if he knew we were doing this. You understand? You make this piece of shit here bring you whatever you want. You keep out of trouble. You understand? You finish school. You understand?”

“I understand. Thank you.”

“You’re getting good grades, right? You’re making Bobby proud, right? He sacrificed his life so you could have this opportunity. He went instead of you. You understand? They didn’t blow up anything after the towers because of him and boys like him. He blew those goddamn sand rats out of their holes, and they paid him back by taking his head. That can’t be for nothing. You make the most out of what he did. You understand? They win if you don’t. You understand?”

Shut up shut up SHUT UP!

A humanness leaks through the rocks.

It whispers now.

“Don’t be another one of us.”

The girl’s eyes are fire, lava. “My grades, are fine.”

“Good.”

An orange bottle opens. A tiny pill the color of rotting vegetation tumbles into the mountain, crunches between regolith jaws. The girl’s blood has stopped pumping, her hands and feet are ice, eyes fixated on the pill. The orange bottle closes, leaps through the air into the girl’s hands.

The girl starts to quiver, shake.

The fear releases her, and she gasps silently, a deep, gut-filling breath that can never be completed.

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

Chavez starts the car. Accelerates.

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

The girl wants to leave.

Must leave.

Has to leave.

And yet, she stays, twisting one toe against the carpet, child-like.

Dereck stares at his shoes, praying.

She can’t leave.

Not yet.

Her need always wins.

Always wins.

“Can I … can I just use your bathroom for a second?”

The moment freezes, an image in crystal. Two paths explode through space and time, contingent on the words of the monster standing before them.

On one path, the girl and Dereck leave, return to their shithole town, and part ways. Chavez and Williams never find them. The girl heads towards California. Dereck dies of an embolism three days after they meet the mountain.

In a week, MRSA sends the girl to an ER in Flagstaff, the farthest west she’ll ever go. She leaves one shoulder and half her face at the hospital.

Rehab follows in six days.

She and her mother celebrate six-months clean together, then six years. She helps other girls get sober. They help her more. Her father finally opens his eyes. The family’s pain heals, but the scars are canyons, fissures.

In fifteen years, cancer takes the girl’s larynx before it takes her life.

But she is content before death.

Content with a life lost and found again.

Content with salvation.

But this is not the path the mountain chooses.

“He’d kill me …”

A sigh, a bass rumble just below consciousness.

“Screw it. Go ahead, but you hurry, and then you get out of my house, and you don’t come back. You understand? You understand, girl?”

**** Drug Addiction Stories — A Beautiful Death ****

Led by Chavez, the beast stumbles towards the ambulance, cuffs clanking, one leg bleeding. Williams pushes Dereck into their car, locks the door.

They meet at the entrance of the house.

Williams speaks first:

“The boy’s lucky.”

“Yeah.”

A silence.

Screams.

“Is she still back there?”

“Yeah.”

“Finish up.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Chavez walks back to the car. Williams enters the house, walks to the bathroom, stands there, cold.

She stares at the body.

Marble fibrils of sadness infest her chest.

Tightening.

Solidifying.

It’s as though someone has posed the girl, draped her lovingly from toilet to tub. Brittle hair falls across one eye, the other glazed, empty. The girl’s twisted left hand cradles a needle, her blackened veins so out of place beneath young skin. A miniscule drop of blood balances delicately on her forearm, frozen in a perfect teardrop. A look of surprise is carved into her blue face.

A realization, perhaps.

Too late.

Williams has not been breathing.

She gasps, stumbles outside.

She stares up at the sky, chest convulsing.

The light of the sun burns into her face, and the smell of the grass replaces the stench of death, and the air is crisp on her tongue, and for all the beauty of the land, the girl still lies dead in the house.

And this will not change.

Williams begins to breathe again. The air is a wave pouring into her, lungs drowning as they finally catch breath. A word struggles to escape her body, something to fight off this thing she has seen.

It breaks through the tide, emerges into the air.

“Beautiful.”

And it signifies nothing.

Read This Story as Originally Published

Read the story as originally published — and thank you for reading.

Part 1

Part 2

Read More Drug Addiction Stories

As mentioned at the beginning, I’ve written a few other drug addiction stories. You can read another one, entitled We’re Not OK, Are We? by clicking below. It’s much sadder than this story (in my opinion), so be warned — it’s not exactly a pick-me-up.

We’re Not OK, Are We?

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John Norris
John Norris
8 months ago

Well done! Thank you.

Jewels
Jewels
7 months ago

I read the first part and had to comment before finishing. This is beautiful. It reminded me of something I wrote in elementary school.I can only remember the first few parts. Something kkke.

A cut here and there
Into the skin it goes
The pleasure of it wins the pain
A dust of powder masks it all

Maybe I was a psychic and knew my future lol. Omg sorry for commenting so much

Jewels
Jewels
7 months ago
Reply to  Adam Fout

That was the very first things I ever wrote. After that I think my teachers were a bit concerned haha. But my parents didn’t quite understand. Coming from an Asian family they just told me to stop. I haven’t really written anything since. Other than tons of blog entries. I guess I’ve always been kinda clairvoyant? Who knows life’s weird.

nv-author-image

Adam Fout

I'm an addiction / recovery / mental health blogger and a speculative fiction / nonfiction writer. I have a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Professional and Technical Communication. I'm a graduate of the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. I'm a regular contributor to Recovery Today Magazine, and I've been featured on numerous recovery podcasts. I have personal experience with addiction and mental health. I have Substance Use Disorder (SUB), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Bipolar II, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), and Binge Eating Disorder (BED), among others. I have been in numerous drug rehabs, detoxes, and mental institutions, so I understand from personal experience how the mental health system works. I have been published in numerous literary magazines, including December, J Journal, and Flash Fiction Online, among others. I LOVE when readers reach out to me! Always feel free to send me an email at awfout at gmail dot com. I can't wait to hear from you!