Sweat and mist mingle on your skin like a dirty rag. The air is thick with city life, wickedly holding oxygen from your lungs. You turn down an unmarked alley barren of windows and doors and barely wide enough to pass through. Your shoulders scrape against the course brick and tile as you turn a corner, and then another, leaving all light and life behind you like a movie in a far off room.
You slip through the cracks between buildings to come to a familiar stairwell. Coarse rumblings growl through the earth and pavement as you approach the distant red glow rising up from the tunnel. The air thins slightly as you descend, subtly cooler, and wetness beads and trickles down your body.
A wave of aromas break the musk of the basement corridor. Some are sweet while others are smoky or metallic. Shadows fickler down the length of the tapering passage. At its end is a bar top and counter that span the width like a thick, black barricade. An overhang bears a chalk board with scribbles too abstract to read and the source of the only light. Before the bar is a stool immersed from above in red while adjacent to it, as if in parody, stands a figure almost completely covered in shadow. Delicate hands poke from the silhouette and rest motionless on the counter. The shine of rubber extends from the finger tips back into the darkness.
You sit on the sticky cushion, welcomed by a feminine voice too soft to reach the walls but fully commanding your attention. Ghostly soft and merciful in the diffused light, her porcelain white face seems suspended in a velvet shroud, framed by elegant strands of hair flawlessly imitated by thin rubber tubes. You surrender an arm, placing it on the counter for her to slip a needle into. Blackness rushes into a translucent tube, winding and twisting beyond sight. She gently places a highball glass in front of you and begins to pour into it an amber liquid. You look up at her, but she does not reciprocate, leaving your haggard words struggling to find her ears.
With a subtle nod, she slips away from the counter. You put the drink to your lips. Lucidness floods into you from the scent of liquor, the rank sweetness sending cascades of saliva through your mouth. Anxiety holds you still, tightening its grip of doubt until the moment she returns. A small box wrapped in black paper is put before you in precise, deliberate motions. There is a discrete white card on the side with a name you recognize. A shudder of relief tickles you as you drink, the torrid liquid whisking life into your withered husk to flush the world away.