This story is by Joseph W. Jimerson and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I stood on the corner freezing in nothing but a short skirt, heels, and a top that was little more than a band-aid. It sucked working the streets in October. The other girls are dressed a lot like me showing just enough skin to attract the best tricks.
The wind stirs. I hug myself and walk from the corner. An approaching car slows. He’s shopping for girls.
“You working? he asked, flashing a mouth full of perfect teeth.
I smiled. “Yeah. You looking for a good time?”
“If the price is right.” I take in his good looks, perfect smile, and expensive white Mercedes. I need the money and a fix, and James would have my ass if I came home without any cash or dope.
I leaned into the passenger side window “You a cop?
I watch him closely. I was good at was at spotting vice.
“Okay. It’s sixty for oral and eighty for straight. But I’ll give you both for a hundred.
Believe me baby… it’s worth it.”
He removed some cash from his wallet. “Okay”
I jumped in the car. ” There’s an alley just around the corner. It’s really private.”
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. The blow came out of nowhere, and the world around me began to spin. Blood spurted from my mouth and splashed against the windshield. What followed was a nightmare.
When he was done with me, he pushed me out of his car and threw two one-dollar bills out with me as if he were throwing out the trash. Tears stung my eyes, and I was hurting all over. I fought back the tears. My face, arms, and thighs were bruised. I scooped up the cash, discarded my torn underwear, and headed down the alley. Suddenly the world around me went black.
I woke in a strange bed in an even stranger room. An old man sat in a chair next to me.
Startled, I sat up. “Who the fuck are you?”
The old man smiled. “So many names, but you may call me Salaman Djinn.”
“Look, Salmon or whatever your name is. I’ve had a really shitty day, and if you’re looking for some freaky shit, forget it. I’m off duty.” I tried to get to my feet but instantly felt dizzy.
“I know,” said Djinn.
He didn’t scare me, but there was something dangerous yet familiar about him.
“You know what?” I asked not too politely.
“That you have had a bad day and a bad life beginning when you met James, then getting high with him for the first time, then the beatings, the rapes, the selling of your body. I know it all.”
“Who the hell are you, and how do you know all of this shit?”
“I know a lot of things about a lot of people. But the truth is I can help you.”
“From the looks of this place, it seems you can barely help yourself.”
“Looks can be very deceiving. Take into point the man who just hurt you. He didn’t seem the type, did he?”
I wanted to leave, but something made me want to stay and hear him out. I looked around the dark, almost empty room. It was filled with lots of old books and ancient-looking knick nacks and a pistol like none I had ever seen.
“You have a good eye,” said Djinn. “That gun belonged to the famous Billy the Kid. I helped him long ago.”
Maybe he was crazy “You said you could help me. I could use some cash.”
“Money won’t help you, but I can help you in other ways you could never imagine.”
I was about to protest, but he raised a hand, and I couldn’t speak.
“Let me show you,” said Djinn. He retrieved something from a chest that I swore wasn’t there before. He returned, holding an old hand mirror.
He held the mirror out to me, and I took it. The handle and frame were made of pure silver and was intricately carved with winged and horned creatures locked in battle. I looked at my reflection in the mirror.
Suddenly, everything changed.
“What’s happening? I was barely able to speak. The mirror began to show images of things, places, and people that I knew. The images appeared and disappeared in flashes, but I could make out every instance. It was my entire life flashing before me.
“You see my dear; this is a special mirror. And not only can it show you your past. It will take you to any point in your past you want to go. You can change a mistake, right a wrong, give yourself another chance at life.”
“What do you want… sex like all men?”
“No.” He leaned close to me, whispered the price, and smiled.
The room went cold. A chill runs through my body. Whatever he wanted, I would give it to him. What did I have to lose? My life sucked anyway. I just need to borrow one thing from Mr. Djinn.
The looking glass swirls as if the mirror is being filled with smoke. It’s dark and evil. Like an oil spill on the ocean, then I’m watching James and myself. My heart pounds.
“They’re so caught up,” I say quietly to myself. I look closer at the girl. She is so beautiful, only 17 years old, with no clue to what she’s getting into.
I’m waiting for the right moment. I only have one chance. Djinn is gone now, but I know he’s watching. I can feel him. I never believed in magical beings before, but I’ve seen lots of monsters on the streets, so maybe that counts. I look closer at the glass. I can’t hear them, but I know exactly what’s being said.
“Don’t worry. You’ll love it,” James tells me with a smile. He had the most wonderful smile. It was that same smile that got me to turn my first trick. That and a well-placed right cross anyway.
“So what’s next?” the young girl responds. I mouth the words to myself as if singing the melody of a sad song.
“Hand me the lighter,” said James.
She reaches over to the scuff-marked nightstand, grabs a yellow Bic, and hands it over.
He smiles again as he glances away from the potion he’s expertly mixing. His eyes are intense. James was never a pretty-boy, and there was a danger about him that I found attractive.
The girl sits on the edge of the bed in nothing but her bra and underwear, looking like a lovesick puppy. I hate her for being so stupid.
James lights the flame and holds it beneath the spoon containing the precious mixture. I know this part all too well. I’ve done it countless times. I both love and hate it. I want to turn away, but I can’t.
He moves the spoon so she can see. “See that oily shit floating on top?” he asks.
She looks closer. “Yeah.”
“That’s the crack.”
“Cool,” she says.
What an idiot.
James leans over toward the nightstand, takes the penny he placed there earlier, and begins dipping it in the spoon. His next words I’ve heard over and over again. He still says the same shit now.
“I really know how to cook.”
Tears sting my eyes. It’s almost time.
Once the crack had dried, he scraped some into a glass pipe and handed it over to her with a smile as if it was the best thing in the world.
He grabs the lighter. ” You go first. I’ll light it for you.”
I watch myself take the pipe and slowly place it between my lips.
It’s time. I say the words Djinn taught me. “Simul transitum.”
For a millisecond, I’m at peace, not the strung out, crack-head junkie that sells her body for fifty bucks.
Then I’m there.
The girl is the first to notice me. She’s scared but looks past the track marks, dirty hair, and bony frame and recognizes herself.
I take the antique pistol from my pocket, aim, and fire.
James slumps to the floor.
I look at myself and say, “To save your life, it cost us our soul.”
Mr. Djinn is waiting to collect. I place the gun to my head and pull the trigger.
After the euphoria of absorbing this last soul wore off, Mr. Djinn needed more. The high never lasted very long. It was an addiction. It was time to head back to the streets for another soul. As he left his home, his magik transformed him back into a young, handsome man. He climbed behind the wheel of his white Mercedes savoring the thought of his next fix.
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