“Nobody goes down there,” said Toby, taking a sip of whisky and pausing for a drag.
“Nobody?” I said, “Are you sure?”
“Well, I know some have, but they probably weren’t too happy about it.”
A breeze fled past the alley, and there was a crinkling sound when I shut my eyes. I need water, I thought. Water and a woman.
“You know,” said Toby, “I saw a gal,” I leaned back, because I knew this was gonna’ be a story. Not small talk, real this time.
“Pretty woman, bout 5’4. Beautiful as they come. We talked a little, kinda like how we are now. She knew a guy too. I never saw him.”
“And what was she doing?”
“Waiting by the door. A lot of people do that.”
“Why? What do they think’s there?”
Toby leaned in to speak, “Not what they think is there. She walked in after awhile. Shining. So young looking. My ears started ringing then, they do that a lot lately. Trying to tell me there was something wrong, I think.”
“So, how’d it go?”
“Well she went in. Said she was tired of waiting so long. Thought maybe he was already in there. I just nodded, but I couldn’t smile. No way he was in there. She walked out an hour later. Something wrong with her eyes, but that’s not what I thought about afterward, when I was trying to lay down for bed.”
“Will you just get on with it, old man?”
“I could tell you. But… Ah, it’s not like you want to be here anyway. Who you waitin’ for?”
“Wife. Fiancé, I’m sorry, get the two mixed up sometimes. Wedding’s next week.”
Toby buried half his face with a dirty palm, “Her dress was torn at the back. Shredded. Red marks. Deep red marks, like some hands had burned in through the skin. And it confused me at first, because I saw it glinting, all weird in the street lamps. Glinting white stuff. Then I realized it was a bit of rib cage showin’ through.”
I couldn’t say anything after that. Toby grinned when he saw the look on my face. Looking at me with his one eye. “And the kicker?” he continued. “Prints on the back, and somewhere a little lower, between the rear end and the inner knee… Two more handprints. Same shape almost, but the fingers… They were pencils. Long, thin strands of fingers.”
“Four of ‘em?” I said. “How many people are in there?”
“There ain’t a person in there, mister. Ain’t nobody you’d want to do the dance with.”
Another woman, just like any other I’d seen on the street, walked by. Blond. Young. So much ahead. She passed me, shoes clicking, giggling on her phone. “I’ll see you there. That place over by the corner!” she said and hung up.
I wanted to watch, see what was beyond the door when she opened it, but I couldn’t. My joint was out anyway, so I just shut my eyes.
I imagined that whatever lay past that door was dark. Very, very dark. But I couldn’t open my damn mouth. What could I have said? Toby must have known what I was thinking, because he laughed. It bounced all up and down the alley.
But when I could finally open my eyes, look over to nod goodbye, he was already gone.
This story is soon to appear in the DimensionBucket Magazine Podcast: http://www.dimensionbucket.com