New Fiction by George Gad Economou: “Helen”

I went to bed alone; that much I know for certain, despite the bottles emptied, the junk injected, the glass smoked, locked within my apartment for days, abhorring the light, avoiding the sun, embracing the permanent midnight fighting with the page during the waking hours, battling with the numbness of the soul, the desolation.

I woke up next to her; the cold, pale corpse of my childhood’s love.

In the substance-induced dreams I was back at junior high, when my heart was still unbruised, my liver virgin. With the whole world ahead of me, all roads wide open, all I had to do was pick the path and follow it to the end. It’s too late now, yet in my sleep I smiled broadly, for I recalled how it feels to be outside the pit of shit. And there she was, too, smiling at the beach, when the question was popped and the first dagger was driven through a heart that was destined to be broken into millions of pieces oh so many times. Yet, I didn’t know at the time and even the pain of love felt real and delightful, for it ignited a fire in the soul; a fire that was never meant to be extinguished.

And as I slowly opened my exhausted eyes, I stared at the decomposing body lying next to me; my arm around her waist, my body pressing up against hers, and I wanted to move, to jump, to disappear, but I couldn’t; chained to the bed, the substances still in control and all my muscles too heavy to obey the desperate commands of my panicking mind.

Suddenly she moved, turned to look at me, and the cold, dark eyes pierced through mine, staring straight into my soul. I couldn’t move, yet I saw a future that never unfolded taking place inside my head; a future that didn’t involve countless empty bottles of bourbon, cooking crack-cocaine, smoking meth, shooting junk. In the cold, dead eyes I witnessed warmth, safety, sanity. I smiled, despite the fear that overwhelmed my barely beating heart, and I wished to close my eyes and disappear into the fictional future reflecting in those dark eyes I hadn’t had the chance to stare into because of wrong decisions.

Her mouth opened slightly, exposing the falling teeth, the rotting gums, the green tongue. An invitation for a kiss and I was still not ready to kiss the devil, even though I had sold my soul years ago. Her hand reached for my cheek and the blood froze in my veins, a chill traversed all of my bones. Numb, I wished to jump out the window and disappear into the night, but couldn’t move.

She pressed her body closer to mine, and once more I could see a future in another city, with brighter prospects. I also saw the mediocrity of that future, the lack of the one thing that has maintained my sanity throughout years of abuses. And I couldn’t decide, couldn’t pick the right choice. It didn’t matter, either, because she was right there, next to me, rotting away with every passing minute and all I could do was accept her touches, her embrace, her forceful kisses.

With no end in sight my mind was too exhausted after a week of sleeplessness and of abusing every drug known to man. She smiled and despite the rotting teeth and gums I saw the hidden beauty, a beauty which I lost due to wine decisions, and a single tear rolled down my eye.

Abruptly, her face was replaced, and others took her place in my bed; I was surrounded by corpses and ghosts and I couldn’t run away. Standing accused in front of those I hurt, and those I lost, I could only accept the jury’s verdict and I was condemned to a slow, painful death and I smiled at the idea of the grave.

The ghosts evaporated, the sentence had been dealt, and the jury was therefore disbanded. Yet, she remained, her empty eyes still reminding me of a life never lived, of moments never experienced; was it for the best? I asked myself, and there was no place where I could find an answer.

From within the darkness the eternal flames appeared a preview of what’s to come and I smiled, barely, at the future waiting around the corner. A final kiss from the frozen lips and warmth flooded my numb body; it lasted only a second. She was suddenly gone, I was still there, and the flames were extinguished. With nowhere to run, with no dreams in which I could find refuge, I got up.

I sat heavily on the couch, stared about the dark room and breathed in the perfect stillness of the night. All alone, once more, and my sole companion were my memories, those of the past lived and those of the future that remained a stillborn.

And as I filled my glass pipe, getting ready for yet another week of staying awake amidst the binges, I heard a loud, complaining sigh from my bed and the blanket was raised.