Back in the darkness of my apartment I closed the bedroom door and slumped to the floor. I took the backpack from my shoulders and unzipped it slowly. Reaching inside I fumbled through my props until my fingers, fat and sluggish, came to rest on the doll. They way it remained cool even in the humid summer air sent a chill up my arm.
Outside the rain was beginning to let up. The dull grey of the late afternoon peeked through the cracks between the blinds painting abstractions on the walls of the room. I lifted the doll up into a sliver of light examining the coal black recesses of its eyes. Two dead stars set wide apart on its round cloth face. On the street below a dog began to bark and I listened as a woman’s voice rang out to silence it.
“You’ve been given exactly what you asked for.”
My shoulders sagged and I pinched the skin between my eyebrows. Yes. I supposed that’s true. Though it hadn’t been much. A few dollars in my pocket, a steadily growing audience, a bit of recognition for my craft. I had to admit that it felt good to regain some control over things. I snapped my finger and the lamp on the nightstand flickered to life. Against the protest of my aching muscles, I stood and laid the doll on the bed face down.
What time was it? It didn’t seem to matter much anymore. I hardly ever slept before, and now I could scarcely remember the last time I had shut my eyes. I grabbed a cigarette out of the pack on the nightstand and held the palm of my hand out toward the ceiling. A small orange ball of flame appeared and hovered just above my skin like a tiny sun. The glowing plasma fluttered and arched and crashed down again under the pull of its own gravity. As I brought it to the tip of the cigarette, the ball hissed and sparked. A wave of my hand and it vanished as quickly as it had appeared.
I walked to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror. In the harsh white light of the naked florescent blub I looked like a ghost. I took a long drag and the cherry red tip jutting out like an exclamation mark reflected brightly in my eyes. Blowing a puff of smoke I pulled my head back and stretched the grey cloud into a thin line like a snake. It’s body coiled in the air before me as it unwound it slithered its way slowly toward the shower curtain.
I reached my hand out and noticed that my skin seemed too thin, the veins and sinew beneath too easily recognized. Pulling the curtain back I looked down at the boy laying in the tub, his eyes black like the doll’s, his skin turned thick and brown like bark. The snake moved silently and wrapped itself around my shoulders. Peering down at the boy the snake’s mouth curled back into a grotesque fanged grin.
“For everything a price. Isn’t that right my friend?”