by Whitney R. Holp
"Faerie Dust" first appeared in "Underside Stories" on June 23, 2022.
Chuck Snow woke, writhing, on the floor of his one-bedroom apartment. His skin was crawling, his head blistered in the sunlight that stabbed him with its vicious rays, rays that poured through a crack in the curtains. He crawled to the coffee table and reached for the ceramic box wherein he kept his stash. He withdrew the little baggie and poured out what precious little there was onto the small round mirror, then carved it into two tiny rippers. They were dreadfully small, but he’d made sure to leave at least this much, and he railed them both in quick succession.
Then, there was the cold, pulsing bloom in his chest; he could feel the blood coursing through his veins. His hands trembled as he turned the baggie inside out so that he could lick clean the powder’s residue from the plastic. He lay back on the floor, enjoying the wonderful feeling suffusing him.
He’d been getting quite a habit of late. After all the years of suffering minimum wage jobs, he finally landed a gig that paid him nearly double minimum wage. That's when he could afford extra. That's when his life got better.
He knew his buzz would fade and that he’d soon be aching for more. So he got up, dressed and went out looking to score.
Chuck lived in an old brick apartment building near downtown, just a couple blocks from Vic Park, which was the hub of the city’s drug trade. An entire city block. Officials had named it Victoria Park, in honor of the late queen; but in some quarters it was known as Victim Park, for here was where drug-dealers and their clients often came to meet. The Park was close to the bus station, so the homeless and transients were known to shelter within its confines. Buskers performed there, and it was rife with prostitutes looking to earn a few dollars.
Chuck wasn’t one of those known as “the park kids,” a group of homeless drug addicts who lived in the park; he existed on their periphery, just close enough to their outer circle that he was able to buy drugs from them. (“White Faerie” was their euphemism taken from a 1980s pop song later covered by Rammstein.)
At first, he didn’t see anyone he knew in the park, just the usual scattering of skaters, sunbathers and stoners. There were a couple park kids sitting in the shade by the bandstand, but no dealers among them, nor anywhere else in sight. Then he spotted the tall gaunt frame of Don Morton sitting on a bench by the playground. Don was a familiar figure to those who frequented the Park, not only because he always dressed in black, had a Mephistopholean goatee, and was cruel, but also because it was universally agreed that he had the best drugs in the city. Chuck was just about to head over to him when he realized someone was calling him.
It was his old buddy, Skip Schnee, from high-school. Many of Chuck's earliest adventures with drugs had happened with Skip, progressing through adventures with nicotine, alcohol, weed, mushrooms, acid, cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine, and onward. Skip was actually the person who’d got him onto Faerie Dust and even introduced him to his source.
Chuck had heard rumors that Skip was so hooked, he owed several grand to the man in black. This was highly unfortunate, as Don was known to sodomize or mutilate debtors as a means of collecting what couldn’t be paid. But once the hooks of addiction set in, one does anything to maintain an adequate level of intake, heedless of the consequences. And Chuck could tell just by looking at his friend that he was in a rank state of withdrawal. Desperate, wide eyes pleading, Skip asked if Chuck wanted to pitch for an 8-ball.
It was destiny – the reuniting of two lost souls with a common goal. Chuck handed Skip his share of the money and watched him trot over to take a seat beside the skeletal drug dealer. He overheard much of their exchange:
“You have my money?” said Don.
“I have this much,” said Skip. He handed Don the handful of bills Chuck gave him. Don counted it and put them in his pocket.
“This isn’t even close to what you owe me,” he said.
“Come on, man, you know I’m broke. I’m trying, man, I’m trying really hard. Come on, just give me something, just a little something to keep me going. I’ll bring more money soon, I promise.”
“Listen buddy, you’re not getting so much as a single grain of dust until I see some real cash.”
“But nothing. We’ll talk more when I’ve been paid back. Until then, fuck off.”
Skip looked like he would just collapse and let the shakes come down and carry him away; at this point it was hopeless to do anything but sit and quiver. Withdrawal made his mind like the keys of a typewriter, jamming all his thoughts; Chuck knew the feeling.
“Tell you what,” Don said with a tone of sinister tenderness. “I’ll give you a couple G’s right now, if you think you can have my money by midnight.” He caught Skip’s eye and continued: “But if you don’t have it by then, I’m gonna to cut off your middle finger and take that instead.”
Skip paused and considered this. It was an impossible bargain; he could only lose. Don’s temper was legendary among the park kids, some of whom said that when roused his anger was of such fury it would defy even death itself.
Nonetheless, Skip shook hands with the man. The little baggie passed from Don’s to his; the deal was done. Skip ran over to get Chuck and they hurried back to his place.
Within the safety and confines of Chuck's apartment, the ritual began. First the mirror was brought out, then the powder was poured onto it. Skip provided a razorblade, with which it was chopped up even more finely, then cut into a dozen quarter gram lines. It was ready. They both trembled in anticipation; this was what they lived for.
“Let’s dance,” he said.
They took turns insufflating the dust. Soon, the white faerie was upon them, her whispers tickling up and down their spines – an ecstasy of blood in the veins and waves of euphoria washing over them like fireworks going off in the brain.
But time passed, as it will, and soon the sun had set. A couple hours later the witching hour struck. Not long after that, there was a knock at the door.
Cold dread ripped down Chuck’s spine. He was terrified. He had forgotten all about Skip’s deal over the course of their indulgences, and now the man was here to collect his due. He could see the other’s mind race, trying to think of an excuse, a way out. There had to be. But panic had the effect of salt on his brain, killing all rational thought, much as the need for a rail had earlier. Chuck watched Skip answer the door: it was Don, of course, as it could only be. His face was like a mask, expressionless. He waited foolishly to be invited in. The door closed behind him and Chuck retreated from the room, wanting no part in what was about to take place; he went to the bathroom for a cigarette.
Through the door he heard Don say, “Do you have my money?”
Skip tried being coy. “I have it, I have it, it’s just not, uh, here…”
“Bull-shit,” said Don. “You remember our agreement. Give me what’s mine.”
Chuck peeked through the door in time to see Don pull out a huge butcher knife and charge at Skip. Skip tensed, eying the weapon – its blade glittered wicked sharp – then he grabbed Don’s arm and threw him against the wall, wresting the knife from his hand, and stabbing him with it – again and again. The blade did its work, piercing through fabric and flesh alike. Don’s eyes widened, his pupils shrank to pinpricks; he opened his mouth, a final curse upon his lips, and it was blood, not words, that spilled out. He fell back and slid to the floor, smearing the wall crimson.
Skip stepped back breathing heavily. He watched the body warily, knife at the ready, waiting to see if it would stir; it didn’t. After a moment’s consideration he knelt beside the so recently deceased and went through his pockets. From his jeans Skip extracted a fat wallet, some keys and candies; but the inner pocket of his coat was the jackpot: a three-finger bag of dust.
“Fuck yeah,” he said. Then he turned to Chuck, who stood watching in the doorway. “Help me with this, would you?” he said and gestured to the body.
“Okay,” said Chuck uneasily, watching the blood pool across the linoleum.
“But we’ll need some energy first.”
They reconvened at the coffee-table, where Skip cut over a dozen rippers, which were then railed in alternating succession. Thus energized, they set about getting rid of the evidence. They compressed the body into a fetal shape and stuffed it into a giant garbage bag, then wrapped the bag with a heavy blanket before storing it in the hallway closet. They scrubbed the blood off the wall and mopped the floor with bleach; the stained rags, they threw into the trash.
Tomorrow they would contend with the body’s disposal; tonight they celebrated. And so, with Marilyn Manson playing on the stereo, lines were cut – many more. Always in random configurations: lightning bolts to start with, then swastikas, constellations, etc. The mirror saw more dust in that one sitting than it had in a month. They danced well into the watches of the night and through the next day; it wasn’t until the following dawn’s first rays appeared that the faerie’s whispers ceased to entice as they once did. By the time Skip retired to the bedroom, Chuck’s heart was pounding like a trip-hammer and his brain was fried. He laid on the couch and tried to rest. He knew Skip was quite pleased with himself – there was enough dust here to last a few more days, and enough money to buy more when they ran out. “It turned out to be a good night after all,” he said.
Some time later Chuck was awakened by the sound of a door being opened and closed. He opened his eyes and saw someone standing outside the closet, a tall black shape. He couldn’t be certain because of the early morning gloom, but it could only be Skip checking on the body. Chuck had done enough blow to know a thing or two about the addict’s paranoid flights of fancy, for he had tasted of them himself. But there was nothing to worry about here: Don was dead. And the dead don’t get up and walk around.
The shape was motionless for a while. It might have been watching Chuck as he lay there on the couch, it might not have been. He began to worry – was he next? Kill the witness?
Then the black shape turned and shambled through the bedroom doorway and was gone. Chuck closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep. Moments later he heard a horrified scream in the next room. Then furniture shifting violently. Another scream, this one anguished, heavy boot steps under, followed by shattered glass and the jangling of metallic blinds.
Chuck was up instantly. He and Skip were in possession of a murdered drug dealer and a substantial amount of cocaine – if the neighbors called the cops they were screwed. He found the room in disarray. He raced to the bedroom. The dresser was overturned, various objects were strewn about. The vertical slats covering the window were crumpled from being shoved aside and rippled noisily in the breeze. Whoever had been in the room had to have escaped through that window… and it was an eight-floor drop to the sidewalk.
Skip was huddled in the corner, knees drawn up, shuddering convulsively. His hand was wrapped in a bed sheet that was rapidly turning scarlet. The police arrived within minutes, having been summoned by the neighbors, as Chuck feared they would. They seized everything and took the two young friends to the station for questioning. Oddly, the cops never found Don’s body during their search; it seemed to have mysteriously vanished, and neither Chuck nor Skip said anything about it. Both boys appeared vaguely traumatized somehow, or at the very least, terribly spooked. The police interrogations revealed nothing and in the end all they were charged with was possession of narcotics.
For reasons that are perhaps best unknown, that was the last time Chuck Snow ever danced with the white faerie. Other details about what happened the night of Don Morton’s disappearance are scarce. The park kids are a secretive bunch and don’t talk readily to outsiders. Skip showed up a few weeks later, his hand wrapped in a bandage; he lost most of his hair due to a recently developed nervous condition, and generally spoke little. Don is thought by some to have skipped town and gone out west, but no one can prove whether that’s true or not. Chuck Snow never stopped thinking about what the park kids said about Don, about his deathless fury. All he knew was that when the last fold of fabric fell away from Skip’s hand that night, he saw that the middle finger had been torn right from the socket.
Whitney R. Holp is a student of surrealism. He seeks gnosis through dreams, intoxication, and objective chance. This story is from his unpublished book, Audra's Pennies.
Linda Gould hosts the Kaidankai, a weekly blog and podcast of fiction read out loud that explores the entire world of ghosts and the supernatural. The stories are touching, scary, gruesome, funny, and heartwarming. New episodes every Wednesday.