Alice had wandered into a dodgy area, she could tell by the scruffy people walking by in cheap clothes, wearing cheap make up, and the stores and restaurants selling counterfeit goods and adult toys. The buildings falling apart, and the sad eyes watching through the dirty windows told their stories. She’d been through these unholy conversing streets all her life, growing up there, but this one she hadn’t walked down before. It was a new treasure in this labyrinth. She had all the time she needed and plenty of money for the night in her back pocket. Masses of people walked in hurried crowds, up and down the street, pushing through the night, scraping through another day. No one looked at her, no one even noticed her. She was just a poor, lone teenager, nothing really to give, not worth the fight.
Something stopped her. A light, a sound – she didn’t really know, but amongst the traffic of people, she stopped and looked to her right. It was just a door. A plain white door marked and scuffed with decay of the years, hidden between two restaurants selling paper noodles and ‘lucky’ fish. Spray painted on the door with a stencil was the words Sad Nights. The paint had dripped and blended together roughly, but she could just make out the words in the neon lights illuminating the door. She didn’t know what it was, but it intrigued her. This door perplexed her, something so small and insignificant. Innocent it was not, however. In an area like this, the slimy fingers of greed and perverseness touched everything, staining all that came through with dirty marks of wasted and worthless life.
Nobody went in, and nobody came out. No one was guarding the door. She turned the handle and it clicked open. She took this chance quickly, not knowing what would be inside, but wanting so desperately to find out. She closed the door behind her and found herself trapped in a long narrow hall. There was only one light, dangling from the ceiling from a single cord. It was barely bright enough to sustain the room, and the far ends were plunged into the shadows. The floors, the walls and the ceiling were all cement and layers of graffiti were built upon it. Within this room of cement and behind a heavy door, she realised that it suddenly became quiet. There were no sounds of the dozens of people passing by, unaware of this interesting door. She was in complete silence; all that she could hear was her rapid breathing and the tremor of her heart.
She couldn’t really see what was on the other end of the hall, but she thought she could make out stairs heading up. Her mind was captivated somehow to this darkness across the room, but she subconsciously went for the door behind her, her hand grappling in the shadows for the door handle. But there was nothing. She realised then that the handle on the inside had been removed, which would explain why the door was unlocked. Panic shot through her as she realised she was locked in, with no way to turn back. Somehow, beyond the panic and terror, this excited her. Now her reasoning couldn’t force her to turn back.
The stairs were in complete darkness, and beyond the reach of the light. She couldn’t see what was at the end of them, if there was even an end. From the bottom of the stairs it seemed as though they continued right up into the deathly black of the night, swallowing anyone whole. Upon stepping on the first step, the red eye of a sensor, which she hadn’t noticed before, winked, and on switched violet lights, like the ones outside. They revealed to her the second door, at the top, not far away. The second door was much like the first one; white and filthy. But painted on it were words, like a poem or a song. The graffiti that covered every inch of wall stopped just at this door, and there wasn’t a spot of paint on it. The door held supremacy over the graffiti, and the other artists gave respect by staying away.
Little Alice this place is not for you
You have to stay away
Less you wish for death
These rules you must obey
Danger rules our kingdom strong
It’s here for our display
Little Alice these halls are paved with acid
And with bones, and painted grey
This place is not for an innocent mind
Or for child’s play
Watch it, you might be swallowed whole
By messing with decay
Little Acid Alice stay away
She read the poem twice, not sure if she should be scared that it was talking to her. Little Acid Alice. That was what her mother called her, because her hair was an acid yellow colour.
But she didn’t want to think about her mother, she didn’t want to think about anyone tonight. She didn’t want to be herself. She pushed through the second door, a surge of courage burning through the bad memories. She had nowhere else to go. Inside, a cloud of smoke reached her face, obscuring her vision. She knew the smell well, and reveled in the second-hand intoxication. It was a mixture of fine leaves, burnt in ecstasy. She walked through the cloud, finding the room open out, widening to a large dance floor, illuminated by dim blue and pink lights. Surrounding the floor were platforms that reached into more darkness, where patrons would slink back for business of all kinds.
It was a club; an unguarded club, which she had somehow found her way into. She almost laughed out loud when she realised this is exactly what she needed. She let the vibrant, repetitive music take over her mind and body, letting the rhythm flow through her veins, burn through the capillaries and bring life into every muscle. Excited, she found her way to the floor, mixed in with the bodies of other dancers. She blended with this new kind of people, smiles and money filled their eyes and coloured their faces. Hands found her, found her arms, her waist, her thighs, but she kept her eyes closed, diving in with only the other senses to support her. Her throat burned with acid coloured drinks that kept her body moving and her brain cloudy.
“Can I sit here?” asked a voice, out of the fog of intoxication. The girl with dark hair leaned in close to shout over the music. She smelled of cheap perfume, something coconut scented. She sat down, taking a gulp from the drink in her hand. It glowed in the darkness.
“I’m waiting for my boyfriend.” Said the dark haired girl to the other. Alice had forgotten she was there.
“I said, I’m just waiting for my boyfriend.” It was like Alice had just noticed the girl for the first time, noticed her badly coloured hair, even in this light, and the heavily applied make up, and the tattoo on her collar bone, covered up by the strap of her dress. Alice recognised a familiar distress in her voice.
“Huh? Why what?” Asked the girl.
“Why are you waiting for him? He should be waiting for you.” The dark haired girl didn’t know how to answer. “Boys are dickheads. Got mine who ditched me tonight instead of taking my out like he promised me.” Little Alice smiled and downed what was left of her drink. Giggling she left the dark haired girl in wait for her boyfriend.
Music and movement occupied her thoughts. Her head felt light and the room spun out of control. It was just the way she liked it. She felt like she was in a dream, walking on air without feet and feeling the heart beat of each individual against her skin. How long was she there for? Hours? Her mind was no longer hers, and time took a very different meaning in her hallucination. The only way she could describe it was that time was going too fast and too slow, and she was drowning in it, guilt and fatigue her rocks chained to her feet.
Her phone was ringing again; she could barely hear it over the music. In the quiet shadows she took out her phone, the bright light confronting to her sensitive eyes that had become so accustomed to the darkness. Her boyfriend, Blake, had called her three times. Had he changed his mind? She headed for the bathroom – a quiet place, but before she left the main room, she turned back to the table she sat at before, where the dark haired girl still sat, alone, eyes darting around the room for a familiar face. Poor girl. As if she knew that Alice was watching her, the dark haired girl caught her eye. They held that gaze surprised. Alice smiled sympathetically, before entering the bathroom.
The bathroom was gruesome, much like the short hallway entrance. The walls were white tile. Maybe originally white tile, but now they were yellow and caked with colourful writing. Water covered the floors and the mirrors reflected back a milky image. She was alone and the room was quiet. Her phone shattered that silence, the cheesy ring tone of some pop song muffled to her numb ears.
“Blake, hi.” She answered, a girlish smile creeping over her face and her voice filling with teenage enthusiasm.
“Alice. Where are you?” he murmured into her ear.
“Nowhere, just a club.”
“Look, I need to talk to you. I can’t do this anymore. You have to leave. You’re just too young. You just can’t stay anymore. My business…it fell through, okay? I’m broke. I need to rent the place to someone who can actually pay me, okay…” he kept rambling on apologetically, but never really apologizing. She didn’t want to hear it, not now, when everything seemed to be going perfectly.
“No, Blake, you can’t do this! Where am I supposed to go? You can’t just fucking kick me out! I have no one else!” Her words were intended as a defense, but they came out as whimpers. The disconnection tone rang loudly and echoed against the tiles.
“Hello? Blake?” she called into the emptiness of static, pleading for a return of his voice, but she was met with only silence. That one moment between putting down the phone and realising what had just happened had seemed to go on forever, as her mind slowly put together the pieces, that her only hope for any life worth living, had just dumped her over the phone.
Anger and hopelessness built in her, bubbling to the surface and exploding through her. She suppressed a desperate scream, but let herself sink down against the wall. Where was she to go now? How would she support herself? To the rest of the world she was just a no-good teenager with a hopeless future and a restless need for addiction. No one cared for her type.
She sprang up with fury, walking into the light of the bathroom, kicking over a rubbish bin as she went. Rage fueled her muscles and she kicked and she slammed against every door, throwing them against the tiled wall, making a noise of anger that wouldn’t be heard from the nameless people out on the dance floor. They would enjoy their night, getting lost in the bliss of music and forgetful substances. How could she ever leave this bathroom, and face those people, living in the temporary excitement of life, just as hers was crashing down, like a tower, collapsing from the inside out.
She sunk to the floor at the end of the cubicle doors, reaching towards the end of her energy outburst. She sobbed, the tears ruining her make up. For weeks she had pent up all emotion, determined to face the hardships of this poverty, to defy what people had assumed about her. They called her a lowlife, criticized her and made her worthless as a person. But she had plans to fix that, to make a name for herself – all if she had a little bit of time, and a little bit of money. But all that had slowly come to nothing, as her time had run out. Her body trembled terribly, her muscles sore and sick.
“What are you going to do now?” she asked herself, no answers springing to mind. She looked to her phone, hoping that maybe, just maybe, she might have one last person she could call upon, just one person that she hadn’t turned to yet. Unfortunately, when she turned on her phone, there came up a picture of Blake and herself, some photo she had despised since taking it. And all over again rose that darkness; the utterly depressing black mass that boiled up inside of her that she could not control.
Alice stood up and threw her phone across the bathroom, aiming at her own reflection and shattering the long mirror that stretched out along the length of the wall. Glistening fragments settled on the floor and on the sinks, decorating the room like dangerous ornaments. She went over to the sink, despite the broken glass, the shards crunching under her shoes. She turned on the hot water and cleaned her face, warming up her pale skin, which had gone cold in the unkind bathroom. She laid her head against the tap, closing her eyes and exhaling into the steam that rose up around her face.
“What are you going to do now?” She asked herself again, a question that came up often in her life. She had always lived in an unplanned way; always living as if she could do anything, as if she could be anything and everything would be all right. But reality came around like a storm that took all of that freedom away, picking out each one of her dreams and crushing them under it’s weight. Her mind was a devastation site that would never be renewed, that would never be able to put back all the pieces and be good again. She was forever in this cycle of destruction, and she knew nothing could save her now.
Her mind was already dead; her only plan was to finish what had already been done. With no second thought she grabbed the largest shard of mirror she could find, despite it’s edges digging into her skin. She could barely feel the pricks in her hand, drawing blood. To her they were only evidence that she was still alive. In a quick, fluid sweep, she dragged the shard across her left wrist, digging deep into the veins. The blood slowly collected in the wound and seeped over her skin and through her fingers. But it wasn’t deep enough. She dug into the wound again, the pain more excruciating than before, cutting deep into the vital arteries, spilling blood by the litre. She did the same to her right wrist, digging in deep enough on the first go to be satisfied with the amount of blood that poured from her body like a flood of life. She threw down the shard of mirror, and watched her work unfold.
Alice laughed. It was the only thing she could do as she watched her life slowly leave through her wrists. She could feel the blood leave her head and when she looked at the remaining mirror pieces on the wall, her reflection was white and ghostly, the only colour coming from a smear of blood on her cheek. She smiled at her reflection, finding it genuinely smile back to her. This was what she was supposed to do then, she realised. Though she couldn’t help but feel the regret that saturated her heart, like the blood saturated her clothes. But it was too late to do anything about it, and pushed that feeling into her subconscious. The dizziness hit her hard, without any gradual warning. She was plunged into this wave of movement, her mind swimming in air. She stepped back loosing her central balance and fell to her knees. The glass was pressed into her knees, but she barely noticed the pain anymore. Her acceptance of her near death granted her the numbness she experienced, and all she felt was the dizziness and the excruciating effort it took to breathe. Maybe she wasn’t meant for this world. Her mother had always told her that everyone serves a purpose in this world, a purpose destined from the world before, and praised in the world after. But for Alice, that purpose was just not visible. Maybe all she was meant to do in this life was exist, and all she could hope for as she closed her eyes is that she had made a difference in someone else’s life. Someone else who would be good to this world. Someone who would serve a purpose.
Somewhere in the distance she heard screaming. She heard panic and distress of the unlucky person who next walked into the bathroom. She had hoped that she wouldn’t be around when that happened, but it’s not like many of her hopes had ever come true. She opened her eyes again. She was on the floor, amongst the shattered glass, soaked in her own blood. She could only see the underside of the sink, just barely. She could still hear the unfortunate person on the other side of her and, with her remaining energy she tried to turn her head, and tell the person to leave her.
“Please, someone help!” screamed the girl out the door. She kneeled beside Alice despite the broken mirror. Alice turned her head, to face the dark haired girl, her face cast with the bright light above her. She was like a vision above her, like a dream. She didn’t seem quite real. It was like looking through a veil. She tried to speak, to say to leave her, but the words would not form on her tongue. Instead only exasperated groans escaped her mouth. She took this, however, as a good sign, as she was that far gone, and it wouldn’t be too long before she would be gone from this world for good.
“Don’t close your eyes!” pleaded the dark haired girl, “don’t go! We can still save you!” Alice pleaded with God, or whatever was out there that that wasn’t true. She rolled back on her side, and closed her eyes again, ignoring any attempts by the dark haired girl to keep her conscious.
Soon the screaming and pleading stopped. All sound stopped in fact, and it was peaceful. She felt no more pain and she could breath again. She felt perfectly healed; she felt better than she was back in the club, better than she had ever felt before in her life. It was more than physical – it was mental as well. There was no black mass bubbling in her mind, no pressure on her heart, crushing her chest. She was content. She opened her eyes, to welcome this newfound state of death. It must be beautiful if she felt this good. She opened her eyes to darkness. Not darkness of the world she knew before, or childish fears of what lay waiting in that darkness, but of clean darkness, of something new and untouched.
“Alice.” Said a voice. She was sure it was the voice of her mother, but she could be wrong. There was something different about that voice, something she couldn’t recognise.
“Mum?” She called back, desperate for a response. She couldn’t see her, but she could feel her, somewhere amongst this perpetual darkness.
“Alice, why?” It was a question she couldn’t answer, but old regrets and guilt formed all over again in her new stomach, sparked by the great disappointment in her mother’s voice.
“I didn’t know what else to do?” Alice called back, tears springing to her eyes.
“Don’t be like me.” Called the voice again. She realised what that change in her mother’s voice was. It was that contentment Alice felt that must also resonate in her mother. In life her mother had always sounded desperate, always thinking about the future, what their next plan was. It was what sent her to the edge. It was what was growing in Alice.
“But you’re happy here? Aren’t you? I am.”
“But you won’t be.”
Suddenly that cozy darkness, which she had already begun to love, changed to a bright, intense light, burning her retinas. She was forced to close her eyes, and suddenly the pain was gone. All she was left with was a ringing headache. She opened her eyes again a few moments later, hoping to be returned to that blissful darkness, but was met with a situation she had prayed she wouldn’t have to face.
“Doctor! She’s waking up.” Called a familiar voice. “Alice? Alice? Can you hear me?” Alice couldn’t see with perfect vision, but she could just make out the face of the dark haired girl from the club, a concerned look as she tried to wake her.
Fuck, was the only word that came to Alice’s mind.