It was a five minute walk from his house to the nearest market. David threw his jacket on his shoulder, exited his house and locked twice. His eyes scanned the area. He hated this neighborhood. You could get attacked in any corner or even in the middle of the street and nobody would care. Nights were the hardest as the street lights were always either broken or not working. There was this single pole with a lantern that was on every day even in the mornings. It highlighted Denver street, one of the most popular corners in town. There, behind hundreds of opened and used boxes, dirty old trash bins and a broken carousel game for kids stood Mr. Avel’s shop. A tiny little market with everyday use products and cigarettes. After midnight the man behind the counter would bring out what resembled licorice but was actually the most pricey drug. David had a craving for that tasty candy and let’s face it; a thief and drug user like himself could get high on these delightful treats anytime, without caring for the consequences.
He entered the shop with his right hand in his pocket and swirled his keys on his other hand in front of his chest. The little ring of the bell awoke the cashier, a middle aged bold man with a few teeth missing and a very crooked smile. He grinned at the younger man and nodded him closer. David run his index finger on his nose and pushed his keys in his jacket’s pocket. He pretended to look around trying to find something but eventually walked straight to the counter. Mr. Avel stood up from his stool grinning and took a look around the shop to be sure no one was watching. He pressed his elbow on the counter to lean downwards and brought up a box, a bit dusty and dirty on the corners.
“Want a good one?” he asked and opened the box, which contained a few food tubes. The young thief frowned expecting his usual. Those licorice treats must have been out of stock, so the old man had found something new; judging by his face this had to be a really good one. The man nodded and looked around himself before taking a few bucks off his shirt’s pocket and unfolding them in his palm. He slammed the money on the counter and smiled. Mr. Avel reached in the box and took out a tube. He rolled in on the counter and accepted the money from David, who hurriedly grabbed the tube and opened it. It seemed to contain a purple paste and as he pressed it in his mouth and swirled it around with his tongue he cringed. It had a fruity taste and felt nothing like drugs or any other substance he had previously tasted.
“What the fuck is that, Bert?” he spit the paste on the floor and grabbed a bottle of water from the side of the counter. He emptied it all trying to get that taste off his mouth as fast as he could. The old man started laughing and held his belly as if it would fall off. David grabbed Bert by the shirt and brought him closer but he didn’t look startled at all and his eyes had that same look. Drunk on a huge dose apparently and combined with that maniacal laughter, the young man figured he was being fooled. David let him go and backed away a few steps.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Bert sat on his stool, still laughing and swirled like a little child.
“Come on Dave!!! Play with me.” he started chocking on his words but kept going anyways. “Play with me, play with me, play with me DAVE!”
David, seeing this, rushed behind the counter and tried to stop him.
“Snap out of it man.” he yelled at him. Bert kept spinning and spinning and suddenly a strong crackling sound was heard. Bert had opened his arms wide and hit anything that was near him, along with David. The young man fell on the floor but kept watching the other party swirling out of control. Mr. Avel folded his arms around his shoulders and gave a big push on the metallic stool which started spinning out of control. His head was turning and turning as if independent from his body and blood started rolling out of his mouth. Bert ended up falling on the floor next to David who, shocked as he was, realized that Bert’s body was twisted. His legs had bent backwards and his arms were tangled, palms holding each other behind his back. His head as if it was a spring had formed four folds around his neck but the old man...kept laughing and screaming.
“PLAY WITH ME DAVE.”
The young man stood up scared and looked around. There was no one there. He picked up the cash from the register and a few packs of cigarettes and trying not to step on Bert went around the counter. His legs moved on their own as he walked towards the exit but stopped just for a second, something bothering him. He went back to grab the box with the tubes and cautiously glanced behind the counter. Mr. Avel was not there. Sweating with fear he exited the shop running and reached his house in less than a minute. He tried opening the door but his keys were in none of his pockets. He banged angrily on the door a few times and smashed his head hard on it, breathing deeply.
After a couple of quiet minutes he gulped and wiped his mouth with his right hand. He looked at the box underneath his armpit and brought it on his chest. He was soundly breathing trying to push the image of strangled Bert out of his mind. Instinctively he opened the box, feeling a craving for something sweet and pushed a tube hard inside his mouth, biting the plastic to empty all the content. His harsh breathing was making the container flop. He threw it on the ground and grabbed another one. Calming down he realized he still didn’t have his keys. He started walking towards the shop slowly, eating one tube after the other, by the second craving yet another one. More and more he found himself unable to stop consuming that purplish paste.
When he reached Denver corner he started smiling, paste splattered around his mouth sloppily. He dragged his feet towards the carousel outside Avel’s little market and sat on one of the dirty tiny horses, one leg touching comfortably the ground. He threw the empty box on the side and searched his pockets for a coin. David slid it on the machine and to his surprise the carousel started making a screeching sound before playing an eerie music which came out of a broken speaker. After a few rounds the young man started laughing and hopping on the horse as if it was real. He waved his head side to side and eventually expanded his arms to the side. He was laughing even more now and some crimson tears escaped his eyes. His mouth was filling with saliva and his arms started folding on his chest.
“Let’s play Bert!” he started screaming. He laughed even louder now and started waving his head left to right harder.
“Come play with me, come play with me, come play”