I walk the alleyway, stepping around the burned spoons and questionable puddles, dragging my fingers over flaking bricks, moss and paint. Above me, cleft narrow from the intense black, is the faint dark grey of the night sky lit from below by the many lights that fail to keep anyone safe. I walk this alley because no one else dares to. I walk this alley to get some peace and safety.
The path runs blacker than black before me, and I follow the scents like a dog with its nose glued to the floor. I smell piss, smack and The Righteous; those who believe and who stamp down on those who don’t. I scrape my fingernails over White Power slogans and I caress the multi-coloured forms of gang-tags; The So’n’So Boys, E14 Rebz, Pinky’s Dart Masters…. I don’t fucking know. I’m not a bad person. I don’t know who these people are. I just stare at their art and wonder why they waste their time on robbing the working classes when there’s tens of millions of upper class coin waiting to be shafted for this kind of low-high-brow form. All the Best People have a gangtag covered in perspex in a gallery for chin-strokers to admire. Some of the Really Great People have a corner of their living room for a damp collection of bricks to admire in company and distain when alone.
I round the dog-leg with my heart racing. I don’t believe in astral bullshit but I sensed them before I saw them. An arm grabs me around the neck and throws me against one wall and then the other. Then I hear the voice; a young woman with the rasp of a fifteen year cigarette career, but with the vocabulary of someone who is no older than her mid-twenties. Cold steel catches against my seven o’clock shadow. I’ve felt a few blades at my neck over the years, but this one has been maintained. This blade has been taken care of. The bluffers keep it blunt and for show, the pro’s use it regularly and keep it lethal. It’s sharp.
She demands some things but I’m not listening. I think of my girl in her summer dress, dancing through the weeds. I think of her climbing on the old oil drums, flashing a glimpse of knickers I’ve never seen before, and may never see again depending on how I behave. I think of her in goggles and a thick winter coat setting fire to glue along the flank of her thumb and wrist, inhaling the fumes before shaking the vapours free, leaving her with a smouldering grey line on her skin. I think of her ex-boyfriend, the one who gave her black eyes and made her shoplift for concealer so she could go to school. I think of her gleeful smile as we chloroformed the swine, nailed him to a dead tree and watched his body fit and writhe into darkness as the blood ran red over white wood.
My new friend demands my belongings again and snaps me out of my moment. She whips the blade across my skin causing a deep cut, my skin parting over muscle and flesh like a silent scream. The blade is returned to my throat as the blood pumps warm down my shoulders.
I forget my girl for a moment and search through my pockets… I cannot find my wallet and phone.