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Chasing The Dragon

by melaniedelvalle 

Posted: 27 January 2004
Word Count: 10006
Summary: urban legend discussing popular values

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Chasing the Dragon
Book I - Confrontation
Gabriel is walking home through the streets of urban Montreal with its sirens howling and the wind blustering in the early hours of the morning when the sunrise leaves a misty haze upon the buildings and the people enclosed inside. He is drained but contented, after a fourteen hour shift of working amongst the harsher elements of the downtown streets. The autumn’s chill is irrelevant to him, as he basks in the warmth of his promotion and the pay increase he has just received from Jacqueline, his superior. She was invaluable in her support towards his promotion and highlighted his abilities to her own superiors: his strength of mind, swift reflexes and decisiveness in crisis situations as well as his skill in analyzing complications and coming up with logical, easily implemented solutions. He had earned it, working night and day for months and cutting everything else out of his life. He didn’t need free time anyways, he told himself. Free time is spent dealing with the inevitable and the past which would never be altered by reminiscing and angering himself over it.
The tiny street leading up to Berri-UQUAM metro appeared deserted. The gaudy hotels advertising rooms for hire for twenty dollars an hour appeared dilapidated and mournful in the muted light. Gabriel’s steps resonated on the pavement in a high-pitched staccato. Suddenly, the peaceful night is shattered by strident voices swearing at one another in the shadows. Gabriel sports an amused smile as he walks towards the voices, detecting little menace in the ongoing battle of screeching voices. Approaching the scene, he observes two girls pushing each other; one of them is highly intoxicated and crashes down onto the pavement, close to his feet. The other girl high-tails it as she finally notices him standing there.
“Ugh,” she groans, rolling herself onto her back. Gabriel averts his eyes as her short gypsy-like skirt rides up to her waist and her fishnet stockings conceal very little of her. He lends her his hand, in order to help her up and she waves his hand away, impatiently. “I can do it on my own…,” she mutters incoherently as she staggers to her feet and promptly falls back onto the ground like a rag doll. Picking her up, he props her onto his shoulder to help her advance towards the main street.
“What direction are you headed in?” he asks her. “Nowhere, just leave me here,” she answers him vaguely. “That might be dangerous in your condition” he states in a matter of fact way. “Don’t worry about me…” she says, slurring her words. “It’s my job to worry,” he tells her. She laughs and he detects a note of hysteria. “Great,” she says sarcastically, “this is all I needed today.” He glances at her quizzically and she stares back venomously, not providing him with any answers.
A prickly silence begins between them, each facing away from the other. Staring off into the distance, Gabriel proposes “there are plenty of places you could go which provide the have facilities to let you stay the night.” She doesn’t answer and begins biting her lip and twisting her hair. “We could go for coffee until you feel able to cope a little better,” he states more firmly and begins leading her in the general direction of a coffee shop facing the subway station.
Ensconced at a table under the harsh neon lighting, Gabriel is attracted by her appealing child-like features. The jaded look in her eyes evaporates for an instant when she laughs whole-heartedly at a woman heading towards the subway with a two-year old child in tow wearing neon yellow boots and a crash helmet. Gesturing towards them, she remarks “Nobody will hit that kid in the middle of the night!” “Why?” he asks her with a puzzled expression. She looks at him unbelievingly for an instant and realizing that he is not being sarcastic says “He’s wearing fluorescent clothing.” “Oh,” he says, “I’m colour-blind.” Chastity looks at him for an instant and tucks her feet up onto the chair. Sipping her coffee, she begins to warm up and appears less on the defensive and a little more relaxed.
Feeling that it is time to get down to business, he begins to interrogate her concerning her personal life. “We haven’t even had a chance to introduce ourselves,” he starts conversationally. “My name is Gabriel and I am a street youth worker for a program called Dans La Rue. We assist kids living on the streets with all sorts of things like food, condoms; bathing facilities, referrals for shelters…I could probably help you if you would let me try.”
“What makes you think I’m living on the streets?” she asks him heatedly. The defensive glare comes back to her child-like features.
“I’m not presuming, I’m just giving you an idea of who I am and what I do. You could return the same favour. After all, I just bought you a coffee and basically dragged you all the way here.”
“That’s a point,” she replies, still hesitant. “My name is Chastity and I’m fifteen years old so I don’t have a job to label myself with…yet.”
“What are you doing outside at this time of the morning if you are not on the streets?” he asks her. “Hanging around with friends”, she replies.
“Do you live at home?” he asks her. “Yes”, she replies. “And your parents don’t care that you aren’t home at this time of night?” "They don’t know", she smirks.
“Do you go to school?”
“Do you?” She answers back; “this is becoming like twenty questions.”
“I’m trying to help”, he retorts. “I don’t need your help,” she states. “I know what I’m doing and I don’t need anyone to tell me how to run my life.”
“I think you do need help, you are drunk as a skunk at five o’clock in the morning hanging around a dangerous part of Montreal getting into arguments and your parents don’t know where you are. You damn well need help of some kind. Things can’t be going well.”
“I don’t have to tell you anything,” she yells. The entire coffee shop begins staring at them. “You are just doing your job; you don’t care about me or anybody else you help. To you jerks, all we represent is statistics.”
“You’re wrong; I do this job because I do care.”
“So you are either one of those straight people who think they know everything or one of those screwed up people who messed up their own lives so badly that they think the only emancipation they have is helping other similarly fucked up cases. None of you actually know or care about anyone you help, all you do is take miserable individuals and lock them up in a box where they become structured making them despondent hostages. You don’t know anything about what life really is to us and you can’t help us because you’ve never been there.”
Gabriel begins to be alarmed by the course Chastity seems to be embarked on. “Tell me then, if you know everything how I can help you…” he tells her, seeing her consternation. “Tell me how to prove to you that I am concerned. Give me just one thing that’s gone wrong and we will see how I can be of assistance.”
She thinks, biting her lip again and curls up into a ball into a foetal-like position. “I don’t have anyone I can depend on,” she murmurs.
“What about your parents?” “I have one parent and she’s busy,” she says with a glance that could scratch like a razor. “Next solution,” she quips.
“Maybe a friend,” he suggests again. “There you go, we’ll be friends,” she goads him. “I’ll bet that’s what you really had in mind when you dragged me here.”
“You can confide in me,” he tells her softly.
“But isn’t friendship supposed to be a reciprocated arrangement? Wouldn’t you need to confide in me as well? I’ll tell you about me but you tell me about you - or no deal.”
He reflects in his own corner for some time, sipping at his coffee now gone cold. He knows that he shouldn’t propose this as a means of getting her to confide in him but her tenacity puts him in the position of being unsure what to do and for some unidentifiable reason, he does not want to lose her to the street’s predators.
He prognosticates that she is on the brink of submerging herself into the culture of the streets and he knows that her innocence will vanish. It’s always better to get them before they get in it too far, he consoles himself. There will be time to explain it all to her later, after I’ve helped her.
“Alright,” he finally agrees. “You tell me what you are doing here first and I will tell you about myself afterwards.” “I think you should go first,” she states suspiciously. “How do I know you won’t go back on your word?” “I won’t,” he answers matter-of-factedly. “You have to start trusting people more,” he laughs.
“Fine. I am fifteen years old. I go to private school - when I do go - which isn’t often. I have good grades. I live with my mother and my little sister. My mother doesn’t have time to talk to me and doesn’t seem to be able to follow me whatsoever; I frighten her when I get irritated because she says my father used to act in the same way towards her. She ran away from him before I was born because he used to beat her up and be mean to her. I started hanging around downtown because I met some people and it’s more fun; there are more things to do. Satisfied?”
“Well those are the bare facts, anyway,” he tells her “and that’s a start. To keep my part of the bargain: I already told you my name and I am twenty-five years old. I live with my mother too and she is a really great person. We have a good relationship. I left school when I was fourteen and worked for a tradeshow company. I decided I also wanted to do something to help people and started working for Dans La Rue.”
“Where’s your father?” Chastity asked. “He lives in Alberta, he’s a Biker and we don’t get along. Let’s leave it at that,” he states simply. “Since you asked me a question, can I ask you one?” he asks her. “I guess…” she says, twirling her hair again.
“Who raped you and how long ago?” he asks point blank. Chastity looks at him, her face a mirror of apprehension and springs to her feet, barrelling her way out of the coffee shop, leaving her chair overturned on the floor.
Damn it, Gabriel swears to himself. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t… Knowing that she will not talk to him in her present state, he picks up the chair and heads towards the subway, relieved by the fact that she is probably heading home.
Book II – Affirmation
There is something in the air when Gabriel arrives at his office on Monday morning, after having slept through his only day off. He steps into the area of his workspace and notices through the glass window of his boss’ office that she is having a meeting with the police. Grabbing himself a coffee, he checks out his upcoming week’s caseload, seeing where he will need to focus.
Jane, a fellow worker, looks up at him from her work station, admiring his mane-like blond hair and his square build. Knowing how thorny it is to engage him into a discussion, she has long ago lost the hope of pursuing any sort of rapport with him other than a work-related one. “How horrific is your week?” she asks him, smiling. Barely looking back at her, he answers “It’s great actually, the busier I am, the happier I am.” “Would we all have that missionary like fervour...” she answers back with a sigh and resumes writing copious notes into her leather-bound organizer on her desk.
The police officers come out of Jacqueline’s office in a row. Gabriel watches them leave and takes it as his cue to enter her office. “What’s up?” he asks her, seeing her frazzled expression. “We have been asked by the local police to help out in finding out what is going on downtown. There are rumours that there is a serious rise in female juvenile prostitution in the area. They want us to keep our eyes and ears open as they can’t seem to find any traces of it whatsoever. The police have asked me to enlist you in helping them. They heard of your past accomplishments with the kids in the area and they feel that your rapport with the kids could be useful for this. We need to know whether or not this is a reality and if so, we need the most information possible in order to find out what is going on.”
“I’ll do what I can,” he promises with a grin. “I’ll add it to my agenda for this week.”
“You can add some of your case load to Jane’s agenda since she’s already here this morning,” Jacqueline suggests.
“No. I can handle it,” he answers.
“Be careful not to burn yourself out” Jacqueline warns him. “That’s when the reflexes go and if there is anything we need in this bloody job, it’s reflexes.”
“Come on, you know better. I’ve been doing this for over a year and I can take it. I already work twice as much as all the others as it is,” Gabriel answers with a cocky grin.
Moments later, Gabriel is ready to hit the streets and he roams in the neighbourhood asking his usual sources if they have heard anything about these young juvenile prostitutes. They appear not to know what he’s talking about and he perseveres, knowing that eventually he will ask the right person who will be more forthcoming about the situation.
By midnight, he has been walking through the streets all day and begins to notice that people really don’t have a clue to what he is talking about. He has a nagging feeling that something is not right, that he is going about this the wrong way.
He decides to go up Ontario where the younger girls are usually working. He notices a change in the scenery, there actually appears to be fewer girls. Upon first impression, he almost dismisses it out of hand but then realizes that the reason for the lessening of the girls is strange in itself. He questions the ones he sees around him but obtains no information about the reason for it. The girls do not appear to know why there are less of them and doesn’t care as it means less competition.
The following morning, Gabriel returns to work after having spent the entire night observing and searching for answers. There doesn’t appear to be any and he damn well knows that they did not just disappear.
Jacqueline appears dismissive; believing that the reason behind it is the weather getting colder. She chides Gabriel for being out there to begin with when his shift technically ended at midnight.
Gabriel continues searching for answers throughout the entire week, coming up with dead ends. He is convinced that he is right and that there is something that is going on.
By Friday, the police determine that no subsequent information means that the situation is nonexistent. Their priorities have been reassigned and they begin concentrating on other matters..
Gabriel is frustrated and needs a break. He sits on the Wall on St-Denis and reflects about what he could be missing. Chastity walks by him and turns around upon recognizing him. “I have the information you need,” she says softly. “Do you have a minute?” She asks him.
“You are supposedly running around asking everyone many questions about why there are fewer girls on the Baby Stroll?” she says. “Is that right?”
“Yes,” he says watching her face.
“There is a gang who picked up the girls on the Baby Stroll and brought them with them. They pick them up at Lucien Pagé High School in vans and take them to a location that the clients, the girls and only the pimps know about. The whole thing occurs between 5 and 8 and the girls go back home with no one being the wiser.”
He gazes at her, his mouth open in astonishment. “How do you know this?’ he asks her. Shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, “I just do.” She says looking towards the ground. “Where do they bring them?” he asks. “I don’t know,” she says. “I think it changes all the time. But they are really organized and the girls are warned to shut up. Anyways I have to go... I guess I’ll probably see you around.” “Wait,” he calls out to her. But she walks away, ignoring his call.
As the afternoon approaches, Gabriel heads over to the local high school to check the information he gave her. The parking lot is a beehive of activity as the students catapult out of the school, he keeps his eyes open for girls dressed in provocative clothing but none of them catch his eye. They are all dressed provocatively he realises. He looks into the parking lot for any vans in which the girls could be entering. It is full of cars of every sort and shape as well as mini-vans. ‘Damn it,” he swears to himself. He approaches the middle of the parking lot in a hurry and focuses on the young girls entering vehicles. Concentrating on the mini-vans, he sees three young girls enter a red mini-van driven by a white male in his forties. Their father, he dismisses quickly as he continues to scan the area. A green van parked at the far end of the parking lot contains another male in his forties; into the van enter three African-American girls. Got them, he thinks to himself and remarks the same occurrence happening right next to him but in an opposite context. Chasing out of the parking lot, he hops into a taxi and admonishes the driver to step on it and follow the red van which just left the parking lot. Following the red van at a safe distance, he notices it is going in the same direction as at least three of the other vehicles he spotted in the parking lot.
He tells the driver to keep driving slowly as the vans pull up to a dilapidated grey house near Jean-Talon metro. He sees the men and the girls enter the building and he asks the taxi driver to drop him off on the corner.
He walks up to the house, being careful not to be seen in a position where the people inside cannot see him out of the windows. There are no curtains in the windows of the house’s first floor. Managing to slowly inch his way to the back yard, he spots a window which is that of the bathroom. Climbing up the archway leading to the window, he realizes it is open and he can hear voices inside. Two of the men are offering the girls pipes of crack and Gabriel believes that they are waiting for the clients.
He grabs his cell phone from his pocket and debates whether or not, he should call the police at this point. Logically, the crack would be the coercive element to make the girls perform. As he quickly tells his location to the police on the telephone, he keeps his eyes peeled for clients coming into the front.
He hears two men approaching the building, their steps loud on the creaky floorboards of the wood front steps. The men enter the building and their voices are heard in the passageway leading to the bathroom. He hears the giggles of the girl and hears steps again which he deducts are leading up the stairs to the top half of the house.
Gabriel begins to worry about when the police will arrive and turns around. He sees a man staring at him, having just silently came out of the back door of the house. Surprised by him, he immediately rolls himself off the roof onto the man down below. The impact of his fall stuns him but he immediately begins to strangle the man in order to make him lose consciousness. His instincts warning him that the men inside the house are surely armed. After having managed to render the struggling man unconscious, he worries that the other men will come out of the house looking for him before the officers arrive.
The police still haven’t turned up and he hears voices in the back yard which means that they are heading towards him, realizing that there are only two choices which either involve going back the way he came and risking the police finding nothing when they arrive or crawling into the small window leading into the house and taking his chances on what will happen. To hell with it, he decides determinedly, I might as well go in.
He crawls into the tiny space and winds up in a dirty white bathtub; thankfully, the door is half closed which dissimulates his presence for the moment. Looking into the corridor, he sees that there is very little activity and that the house appears to be abandoned. It is poorly furnished with cracked fake leather couches the only adornment of the front room and some of the girls seem to still be sitting there silently. He begins to silently go up the stairs when a man comes out of the first door of the room on top of the stairs and looks at him with a shocked expression on his face. Behind him, he hears the back door of the house open and angry voices are heading in his direction.
His reflexes on overload, he pulls out his can of mace and sprays the guy in front of him as he doubles back down the stairs in a hurry. He arrives face-to-face with the two guys who had gone out of the back door earlier. One of them pulls out a gun and aims it at him; at the same time Gabriel reaches out and grabs the gun away from him. The other man reaches out to punch him and Gabriel swerves and bolts into the front room, managing to stand in front of the girls in the living room. The guy blinded by the mace on top of the stairs starts coming down, accompanied by the others in the other rooms beyond. Gabriel keeps the gun aimed at the man’s head which is closest to him and grabs the inert and drugged girls’ hands to put them behind his body as he walks backwards and heads for the front door. He turns around to turn the knob for the girls to be able to walk out and as he does so, one of the men come barrelling towards him, knocking him off his feet. Punches go flying and Gabriel is managing to keep his side of the fight and the gun away from him when the police kick in the door, breaking his wrist which was propped up against the door holding onto the gun.
The police arrest the men and Gabriel insists on not going to the hospital but bringing the girls down to the office in order to call in the social workers, as well as the girls’ parents. The officers thank him for his help and appear incredulous and bewildered about how he found out about it all.
Once the girls get down to the office, Jacqueline insists that Gabriel goes down to the hospital to have his wrist seen to and he finally does go after making sure the parents of the girls are all called as well as the social workers. Jacqueline tells him to take a day off.
Book III - Complication
The next morning, Gabriel arrives at the office with a bandaged wrist, seemingly happy as he struggles with his bandaged hand to pour himself a coffee. Jacqueline pokes her head out of her office and rolls her eyes. “I knew you would show up,” she sighs disparagingly. “Come and see me when you are done. I want the details.”
Gabriel sits down in the cramped office full of papers and files and smirks. “Didn’t believe in me, did you?” he smiles confidently. “How the hell did you figure out where to go and when?” she asks incensed. “I had told you to give up on that. We all thought it was just a rumour and there wasn’t any substance to it.”
Gabriel begins recounting the days and the events that had passed. “But who told you that was going on?” Jacqueline insists. “A little bird told me,” he says mysteriously “and speaking of that little bird, you had better give me my workload for the day because I have to go find and thank the little bird tonight.” Jacqueline stares at him, strangely. There is a strange uneasiness settling into her stomach and she shrugs it off as being ridiculous.
As Gabriel picks up his files off her desk, she stares at him and feels that there is something about him which is different but can’t think what.
Gabriel runs around all day taking care of all sorts of loose ends and when the end of the day approaches, he decides to call it a day for once. Not wanting to head home just yet, he decides to go to a nearby arcade and play a game he enjoys, shooting animated people with a plastic gun.
Walking in its smoky atmosphere, he heads towards the counter for some change and begins playing, oblivious to his surroundings. He feels the tension draining from his shoulders and fishes into his pocket for more coins as he glances towards the back of the room.
Chastity is sitting on a stool in the far end of the pool tables, staring at him as if she is in a trance. She looks at him as if she sees right through him. She appears completely numb; her face is devoid of expression. He starts walking towards her and her eyes don’t seem to register him whatsoever, staying pointed towards the spot he has just left.
Arriving in front of her, he strokes her face to make her look at him. She sees him but her eyes keep the haunted expression they contained. “What’s wrong?” he asks her gently. She doesn’t answer. “You really helped me,” he tells her softly. “Did you hear about what happened?” She nods her head. “Do you want to go for a walk?” he asks her, unsure of her reaction. She gets up off the stool and begins heading towards the door, her eyes looking down on the ground as she walks.
Once outside, Gabriel asks her where she wants to go. “Where were you going before you saw me?” Chastity murmurs softly. “Home,” Gabriel replies. “That’s where we will go then,” she says. “I can’t take you to my house; it’s against the politics of…” Chastity looks at him, her eyes full of pain and begins to walk away quickly in the direction of St-Catherine Street. Walking briskly after her, Gabriel tells her that it doesn’t matter, that he doesn’t need to go home right away and… “So much for our being friends if you still have to go by the politics of your job when you see me in your spare time,” she says angrily.
Gabriel ceases walking and watches Chastity walk away from the corner. “Wait,” he calls to her. “I’m going to flag that taxi; we’re going.” She quickly walks back to where he is standing as if afraid he will change his mind.
Moments later, the two are entering Gabriel’s apartment where they sit in front of the television on the couch. Gabriel is uncomfortable with the situation as the potential for her invasion of his soul could possibly occur and he observes her position on the couch, with her knees tucked up towards her chest in a foetus-like pose. The tears suddenly begin streaming down her cheeks and he reaches over to her silently and cuddles her against his chest. He wakes up before her and looks outside the window and realizes how late it is due to the darkness. She is asleep with a pout on her little features and he begins stroking her face and hair softly, with no intention of waking her up. Chastity’s eyes are closed but her small hands reach out to him and begin mimicking the way he is caressing her.
The two continue the innocent game for a little while, as their hands become more and more daring. Realizing what this will lead to, Gabriel attempts to stop it from going further by rolling backwards onto his back. Chastity looks at him with a determined and defiant expression on her face and kisses him, softly and with feeling. The moment overwhelms both of them as they succumb to the innocence of pure love, oblivious to reality.
Book IV – Collision
The aftermath of the union leaves both sides feeling vulnerable. Gabriel tries to see it all in a reasonable light and immediately takes the stance that he has displayed weakness and that the act in itself was wrong and contradicted his intentions which were to help Chastity. Chastity becomes insecure and watches him trying to untangle the emotions which are covered by the mask of logic which overtakes his features. The gentleness appears to have dissolved and left iron in its place.
She props herself up on her elbow, with the itchy woollen blanket covering her nakedness. Gabriel walks back towards her in silence. The chemistry in the air could be cut like a knife and the two stare away from each other in opposite ends of the room.
Gabriel finally turns in Chastity’s direction and tells her, “This was wrong. It wasn’t meant to happen and I shouldn’t be mixing you up more than you already are.” Seeing her lower lip begin to tremble petulantly, he saws quickly, “I’ll help you. All of you have to do is go see a psychologist or maybe try a therapy center, they will be able to help you structure your life and you will go back to school or get a job if you hate it that much…”
Chastity interrupts him by standing up abruptly and letting the blanket fall to the floor. She stormily pulls on her clothes and knocks everything on the coffee table down in her abruptness. Her eyes are black with anger and she heads for the door. Turning around, she tells him dryly “You know what your problem is? You wouldn’t know what to do with reality if it hit you in the face? In your cage of logical explanation, you will never be alive. You’ve been dead forever and you are a coward, as soon as you are in danger of actually feeling something, you run and hide behind your morals… You think you are free and living life but your heart and soul have been dead forever and when it fights you for a chance to breathe, you choke it down into the cold damp earth. I am happier in misery than you will ever be in your limited rationality.”
She slams down the stairs and out onto the street, without looking back. Gabriel watches from the window and sees her run off in anger. When she turns the corner, he sits back onto the sofa and begins to reflect on what happened. The events seem to go around in his mind like a never-ending spiral and he feels restless and agitated. He finally tells himself that the only reason that it happened was because he didn’t have much time to spend with people in his own walk of life. Making a conscious decision to talk it out with Chastity in order to make her understand, he also decides to start spending time with people like himself. There is a nagging feeling of guilt which pervades the pit of his stomach.
Deciding to sleep, he falls asleep while watching television and wakes many times in the night due to strange dreams where he is running as if a child in a circular staircase which has no end, trying to reach a door on the top of the stairs.
The next day on his way to work, he spots Chastity perched upon the top of the lion statue at the Tam-Tams on the Mont-Royal. She smiles at him as she sees him arrive as if the events of the past day had never occurred. “Hey,’ she greets him. “I wanted to talk to you,” he tells her, encouraged by her mood. ‘”Climb up here with me,” she yells down. Climbing up to reach her quickly, he sits sideways on the lion’s back and she moves in to sit closer behind him, instead of riding the lion as if it were a horse.
“I wanted to talk about yesterday. The way you left… I shouldn’t have done that. It’s my responsibility. I’m sorry. I thought that maybe I could make it up to you but I can’t be the one to help you. It would be better if it would be someone else as you would be able to talk to him about what happened and sort it out on your own side. I really think you should go back to school. I’m sure you must have something you want to do later on.”
“I do,” she answers. Scrambling up onto the lion’s head, she stood up and announced loudly “I’m going to write and become the next Baudelaire.” Gabriel looks at her patronizingly and tells her “You’ll never make any money that way. You should find something more practical to study.”
Chastity looks at him, laughingly. “You just don’t get it, do you?” She climbs down from the lion’s head and sits back next to him.
She stares at him intently for a moment. “You have to feel…” she says softly and kisses him passionately on the lips. Gabriel feels as if his legs have been cut off and is unable to move for quite some time. Oblivious to the drug dealers, transients and street kids they are surrounded by; the pair clings to one another as if finally finding the meaning of life.
Their bubble encapsulates their very existence as they steal moments in which to be with one another, feeling as if they are walking on air and that tangible reality is an illusion whereas everything they feel is real.
The whispers begin and although the street kids have not seen anything; the electric attraction between the two can be felt in their presence and it lurks in the shadows.
Gabriel arrives to work one morning and Jacqueline invites him into her office. There is an air of serious finality in her face and Gabriel stares at her unsure of why she appears to severe.
“We need to talk,” she begins with appraising eyes. “I’ve always trusted your judgement in the past but I think you are having some problems lately. Forgetting the boundaries between client and therapist relationship.”
Gabriel begins to squirm and looks down, unable to meet her gaze.
“You know that this cannot continue. You have a responsibility to her to end it as quickly and as cleanly as possible. This could cause a lot of harm. No matter what your feelings are for her, this is not an equal relationship and you are endangering her. I trust that you will do the right thing…. Immediately,” she looks at him sternly.
Gabriel left the room with a heavy heart, knowing that she was right and angry at having been found out in his fault. Ignoring Nathalie’s smile, he marches out of the office.
Spotting Chastity in a nearby café, he sat down and watched her for a few moments. Her spontaneity touched him as well as the way she could simply open herself up to the world around her. The naïveté and innocence which made her easy prey scared him and as he gazed at her, he realised that he had to make this sacrifice in order to let her live her on life, her own experiences.
She stared back at him suddenly, evaluating his face and the set line his jaw had taken. Pulling her knees up and swinging back and forth on her chair, she asked him what was wrong.
“I was,” he told her simply. “Our relationship has got to end. This won’t work. I knew it wouldn’t. I told you…”
“Then why did you bother if you weren’t going to try the impossible? I’m not worth it, is that it?” she cut him off sharply. “You let me get close to you anyways and now you think that with a meaningless sentence you are just going to shut me out? Well, it won’t work that way. You’ll see!”
Getting up, Chastity ran off across the street. The cars swerved, honked and swore angrily. Gabriel continued sitting there as if in a daze. He felt a sense of loss and of injustice. He tried to reason with himself that he had done the right thing but worried about the repercussions. After what seemed like an eternity of sitting there motionless, he swore to himself “Goddamnit, that’s what happens when you get too close to people, they always bloody disappear.”
Two weeks later, Gabriel finds himself thinking of that day and the hellish weeks he had passed. He had tried to forget Chastity but it had been difficult. Two days after the discussion, Chastity broke into his house and ripped up all the letters and poetry she had written him, leaving them in pieces on his pillow. He decides to ignore her and she then sees him with Nathalie, who he had invited on a date as she is someone who is easy company. Nathalie acts in a patronizing way towards Chastity. Chastity becomes enraged and tells her “Every time he sleeps with you, he’s wishing it was me.” Gabriel smiles at the recollection but realizes how tired and worried he is getting.
Chastity’s behaviour is getting more and more worrisome and she looks like she’s losing control. Realising that all he can do for the moment is return to work, he leaves to work and walks away with a heavy heart.
At four o’clock in the morning, he spots Chastity sitting on the cement blocks near Berri. Realising that she is completely off her head, he approaches her quickly. Sitting next to her, he reaches to run her face towards him. Looking into his eyes, his stomach clenches in dismay. “You took heroin!” he exclaims, upset. “What the hell are you doing? It’s not going to make me change my mind. You are just making things worse.”
Chastity becomes like a rag doll and is having difficult staying upright. “This is all your fault,” she tells him. Her speech is slow and slurred due to the effects of the drug. “You will never save me. You will never take me away from this…”
Gabriel is distressed and reacts in the only way he knows. He grabs her arm and pulls the sleeve of her black hooded sweatshirt up. The bruises and track marks are all over her inner arms and appear to him as confirmation of his failings. All of a sudden, he looks beaten.
“…You are not even listening to me. You really don’t give a shit about me at all and I wish I could take back every single thing you know about me. I hate this: the rules and there being only one way to success and that’s to give yourself a good kick in the ass and manage. Get a job, find yourself a career where there are job openings, stop living in your imagination, deal with reality when there’s nothing in reality that represents anything of importance. Where you can never be yourself and have to wear a mask every goddamn day and you don’t have the choice but to act like a robot because everybody’s a predator and they can smell sensitivity coming a mile away. Stop looking at me like I’m delirious… I hate you. All you are is the prototype of all it stands for and you could be different but you won’t let yourself. You’re too fucking scared…”
Gabriel looks at her in disbelief. “I’m not going to stand here and take this!” he says angrily. “I did the best that I could and I don’t see how you could possibly think that drugs are the answer. You are more intelligent than that and you do need a good kick in the ass. I saw my dad destroy his own life for long enough and there’s no way I was letting him pull me down with him. If this is another way to get attention little girl, well it was the worst possible thing you could do because I may help drug addicts all day long but there’s no bloody way I’m going to let them get into my personal life.”
He walks away angrily and realizing Chastity is alone on the cement blocks in poor shape, he turns around to see how she is reacting. She’s disappeared from where she was sitting and he can’t see her anywhere in the distance.
“Jesus Christ,” he swears again and continues to march off into the distance.
The next morning, the telephone shrieks in the air. Thinking he must be late for work, Gabriel jumps up quickly and grabs the telephone. “Gabriel?” the voice asks quietly. “Yeah,” he says sleepily. “Chastity’s dead, she was found in an alleyway on Ontario. She overdosed….” A long pause occurs as Gabriel looks at the telephone as if a venomous snake has bitten him. “Gabriel are you still there?” He slams the phone back on to the receiver and sits in the dark in the middle of the hallway, motionless.
Book V – Delusion
Gabriel walked down Ontario Street, the wind biting into his jacket and his thoughts in an uproar. Jacqueline’s verdict concerning his prior conduct and his sense of reality seemed flawed. He was angry that they had sent him on sick leave and walked the streets from dusk until dawn keeping an eye on things and trying to wash his conscience clean of the cold image of Chastity, lying in her coffin. She had been dressed in a way which would have displeased her. She had seemed to be nothing but an ordinary girl ready to go on and succeed in life. In her cold and immobile features, there had been no hint of the loss of innocence, the confusion, the despair. It was like seeing a ghost of what she could have been, rather than the portrait of someone who had so fiercely fought to be alive that it had killed her.
Battling with his understanding of where he had gone wrong, he finally sat on a glacial park bench where the litter at his feet scattered like confetti flying in the wind. A jet black raven set himself down on a branch close to him and appeared to observe him shrewdly. His senses were tired from relentlessly walking around the downtown scene where glimpses of Chastity appeared to be hidden behind every corner.
The raven was immobile and Gabriel began to observe its return. His weariness made him look into the raven’s eyes, in search of an answer to the ongoing battle in his mind. Images came to his mind: unwelcome and uncalled for. Flashes of the day Chastity had taunted him on the Mount-Royal about becoming the next Baudelaire, the look of triumph on her face when she burned the letters after breaking into his house, the impatience when Nathalie told her she was a child and the look of exaltation Chastity had when she answered “every time Gabriel sleeps with you, he is really thinking of me.” He had never been able to understand her when she reacted that way, it was contrary to his nature and the lack of logic which pushed her to her actions left him bewildered. There had been no reason for her to kill herself. It was a meaningless death, he reflected bitterly in the cold of the evening.
His skin crawling from the raven’s gaze, Gabriel decides to walk down to the St-Lawrence River where the water appears inky and black in its polluted state. From the mist collecting onto the shores, a vaporous form appears and he sees Chastity in her tattered gypsy skirt and fishnet stockings. She crouches down onto the bottom of the rock bed and he hears her tinkling laugh. Racing towards her to see if she is going to disappear as she always has in the past weeks, he finds that for once she stays immobile in her position and watches him as he comes towards her with an amused grin.
“Please don’t disappear,” he begs.
“I won’t,” she says with a grin. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity. I don’t have much time. You still don’t see… You aren’t on the right track and you don’t know where to look for what you are looking for. You are not searching for me but for something else and you will never find it until you reach for the other side. Until you feel the emotions, the pain, the love, the hate, the sorrow, the anger - and become consumed by it. You are pushing it back because it will ignite your soul, if you let it out. You are living your life under anaesthesia and ignoring your true power over mankind. Missing what’s important, what you are meant to be. Go down to the underworld and crawl your way back out, gasping for breath. Fight through the tangled web and combat the addiction which enslaves. Change it into another form, create….”
With that, Chastity is becoming more and more translucent and she is slowly disappearing. Gabriel reaches for her fingers trying to maintain contact and as soon as his hand brushes where she is dissolving, she disappears entirely.
Punching the ground with his fist, he becomes enraged and the sharp pain of his bleeding knuckles brings him back into touch with reality. Bringing his hand to his forward, he holds his head which feels as if it will split into two. The words go down…go down…go down….addiction… keep on forming a whispered spiral in his mind and interfere with his ability to concentrate. Feeling that he is on the verge of lunacy, he begins to walk towards the metro, the words continuing to echo like a mantra.
Book VI – Confrontation

Reaching a hotel’s bar close by, he walks in to avoid the weather. He sits down and orders a beer and looks around at the people around him. In a far off booth, he sees a face he recognizes and walks towards it shakily with his beer in his hand. Ray-Ray, a local heroin dealer, watches him arrive with a wary expression on his face. “Can I sit?” Gabriel asks him.
Ray-Ray doesn’t particularly want him to sit down as he knows that it will affect his sales for the next hour but seeing the defeated and lost expression on Gabriel’s face, he moves the seat behind him. Gabriel sits down heavily and staring at the ground, he asks “Why do you do it anyways? Is it that good? That strong? Or is just all bullshit and nothing more than a happy feeling for a couple of hours? Why would somebody give everything up for it? Their chance of happiness and their lives?” Ray-Ray looks at him for a few moments without speaking and then touches his arm.
“Chastity did this, didn’t she?” Ray-Ray asks him. “Made you wonder at the method behind the madness? Listen, when you do it: everything disappears and you soar. The moment is more intense than anything you experience in your entire life in reality. It makes you soar and you don’t feel the despair anymore, it lets you live for a little longer. But the fuel to your life becomes poison and it attacks the body and the brain faster than a rattle-snake. When you rush, the dragon lifts you up to heaven but when you come down, the dragons spits you out again and what you are surrounded by seems more cold, clinical and lifeless than ever before. And the power of the dragon as a puppeteer becomes stronger than before and it circles like a noose because all you are doing is chasing it. You’re not living it and your need for it is a death sentence. You are lost to the land of the living and have one foot in the land of the dead. You can’t understand that because you’ve never done it.”
Gabriel continues to look down at his feet. His mind seems blank as if the words he is about to say has been already written into a script ages ago and they come out mechanically. “I need to try it,” he tells Ray-Ray quietly. “That’s not the best way to make peace with yourself,” Ray-Ray answers. The fierce look in Gabriel’s eyes causes Ray-Ray to realize that he’s serious.
Ray-Ray gets up and walks to the stairway upstairs. “Follow me,” he calls to Gabriel who immediately gets up to follow him.
Reaching a doorway, Ray-Ray opens the unlocked door and they enter a dilapidated room with peeling paint and a stained carpet. A small armchair is near the window and Ray-Ray asks him how much he wants. “Enough for one dose,” Gabriel answers. “I’ll make it a good one,” Ray-Ray smiles. Gabriel hands him a hundred dollar bill and Ray-Ray gives him a smile. “I’m not dumb. I know it doesn’t cost that much but I want to ask you another favour. I want you to inject me.”
“Man, you’re really going over the top. For the first time, you should just sniff it or something.” Gabriel looks at him, “Give me the bill back then…” Ray-ray backs up against the wall and says “Okay, okay… I’ll do it. I’ll do it.”
Looking into his bathroom’s pharmacy, he reaches in and takes a small spoon and a piece of cotton which he wets in the sink. Placing some powder, and a bit of the water into the spoon, he holds it over a lighter for a few seconds and then grabs a new syringe in which he draws the mixture. Ordering Gabriel to make a fist, he injects him quickly and watches him with satisfaction as he sees Gabriel’s head fall back against the armchair. Ray-Ray leaves the room quietly and closes the door quietly in order to make some money.
Gabriel’s world has become undone and the ringing in his ears causes both intense euphoria and the sensation of a complete loss of control. Struggling not to succumb to it, he pushes down with his arms and realizes he is lying pinioned to a dragon’s back which is rising up higher and higher in the air. The force of gravity as well as the speed, in which the dragon is flying, leaves him unable to fight against him and he is stuck as if caught in invisible chains. Only able to look under him, he sees the scenery pass by carefully outlined much in the same way a pilot has a view of fairyland however in the surreal agricultural landscape there are fields of poppies resembling flames which are spilling over the electrical fences as if they will drown the cattle inside of it. The poppies are heading for the city which appears in black and white but are covered by a dome as if trapped in an iridescent bubble blown out of a child’s plastic bubble wand.
Inside it, he sees the small pantomimic figures of graffiti artists painting the grey walls with vivid blues, oranges, and purples their reflection on society and he sees the police chase after them where the artists begin to scatter like mice and hide in the buildings using them as camouflage. When he looks at the small buildings, he sees small blinking lights and is amazed that by looking at any one of them in particular, he can enter the realm of those who live there. Visions of the realities of the city’s inhabitants confront his mind with the sheer lunacy of it all. He sees the bum look into the crowded street and recognize the features of his daughter who he has not seen since she was five and the way he looks at the paper bag in his hands and decides to pour it onto the ground, he sees the prostitute thinking of the things she will buy her child with the money she is about to make, he sees the ordinary working man who seems straight when he is at his regular nine to five job return home to his high-class apartment and plays Beethoven to an audience of only himself with a fervour that makes it seem as if he was addressing millions, most of all he sees the longing of those who have lost their way and the feeling that by holding onto little parts of what they wished for they are getting up for another morning, to face another day.
The shadow of despair hanging over them is similar to that of the guillotine. It’s propaganda that is fired at them through the voices of guidance counsellors who tell teenagers that they must change the school program they want to embark in as the market is saturated, through television and the media who market the loss of one’s identity in order to make mankind a marketable commodity which leaves all feeling empty, confused and worthless.
The shadow latches onto Gabriel’s body over the dragon’s and he feels as if he is choking, there is no longer any air and he finally decides to fight against it although every single punch goes right through him, there is no substance and without substance, it makes it impossible for him to physically overthrew him. As he pushes, punches, kicks and bites, the frustration and the fear of death becomes so great that tears begin to bleed out of his eyes. The tears repel the dragon and cause the dragon to swoop down low, dropping Gabriel into a freefall onto the ground.
He wakes up sitting in the Carré St-Louis on the edge of the fountain and realizes that the vivid colours he saw on his voyage are gone. The tears staining his hands are still crimson but they are fading and bringing him back to the comfort of the varying hues of greys which are his natural environment. He feels intense loss and realizes he is about to be sick as he bends over to the ground and returns some of the poison to the concrete of the city.
Walking like a zombie, he does not want to see anyone in the state he is in and feels vulnerable. He walks into a community centre and heads towards the bathroom to see his reflection in the mirror. What stares back at him is unrecognizable; his pupils are but pinpoints in his face and distort what is looking back at him. He sees a cadaver reflected back at him. His mane-like hair is tangled and his clothes appear ragged as if he has become one of the children of the street he has looked after for so long.
Staring into the mirror as if it was a crystal ball, he pushes against it as if to test its solidity. The glass warps and he finds that his hand is sinking into it and he is reaching the other side. In a split second, he finds himself standing in a cold clinical room where every surface appears covered by concrete or stainless steel. No pictures of any kind adorn the walls, no life of any kind appear on the features of the men who are working in its small confines. One man appears to be telling the other how to do his job and seems to dislike his own. The other seems as perfectly uninterested as can possibly be with the small machine in which he is consistently entering rows of figures which are to be tabulated. Watching the constant criticism of the first man, Gabriel suddenly realizes that the man has probably been exerting the same job for the past twenty years when he would really rather be doing the other’s and that the unease he feels in the room is due to the sense of futility contained in making life decisions only based on the concept that change is wrong, that there should always be a sense of stability.
Upon this realization, he finds himself back facing the mirror in the bathroom and presses his forehead against it as he is exhausted beyond endurance and every single part of his body aches. He decides to go home and walks out of the building, hoping to find the streets empty and wanting to get a taxi to reach his home.
Book VII - Salvation
The sunlight of the early morning burns his eyes and he sees a small boy with a serious face looking up at him as he begins to walk towards the corner to flag down a taxi. The small boy tugs insistently on his sleeve. Gabriel tries to brush him away but he grabs onto his leg and sits down firmly. “What?” Gabriel asks him, looking down. “The world is on your shoulders,” the little one says. “It will crumble into pieces even if you don’t let it fall. Stop trying to hold it up, you have to let it be and put the pieces back together.”
“I can’t,” Gabriel says abruptly and shakes his legs in order to make the child let go. “If you don’t,” the little boy says “there is no place for me here. I may as well die. You have to catch it if you want to put the pieces back together.” Gabriel looks down at him silently and doesn’t react. All of a sudden, the little boy runs away and he hears Chastity’s tinkling laughter.
Looking up to the skies, he damns her and sees the little boy perched on the ledge of the fourteen story building and realizes that the child’s eyes are blue and that he can see them standing out in the muted tones of grey of which everything else is composed of.
The small boy looks down at him and jumps as if jumping into his father’s arms from the ledge of the pool. Gabriel runs to catch him and they find themselves, sprawled together on the ground. Gabriel’s breath has been knocked out of him and he closes his eyes.
When he opens them, there are many people around him and someone is putting a wet cloth on his forehead. He hears the siren of an ambulance in the distance.
Coming out of the hospital, Gabriel has decided to found a new detox center where the primary goal is to cleanse addicts of their drug use through channelling this energy into their passions. The young are the hope of the future and the echo of generations past. This passion shall become an army to vanquish the shadow of despair which can still be seen floating over the city which they believe to classify scientifically as smog.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 08:48 on 29 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Melanie, and welcome to WriteWords.

It's difficult to give you constructive feedback on this piece as you don't say exactly what it is, although the headings between each section seem to indicate that it's a detailed synopsis for a novel. It reads very much like this - the pace is hair-raising - and each para. or less could easily become a chapter in itself. As a full synopsis I felt it could be edited down and still be effective - you have 'he responded' and other explanations etc. between dialogue that I felt were superflous, also some of your sentences were very long and involved. Chastity's voice and the language she used seemed too similar to Gabriel's; she is well-educated, but I still felt that it wasn't quite right.

In the unlikely event that this is intended as a complete short story in itself, I believe that re-structuring to 'show' more, rather than 'tell' would take the reader more deeply into the story and enable him/her to engage fully with Gabriel and Chastity.

Having said all of the above I read through the whole 10,000 words in fascination - you have so much here that it would be a crime not to develop this further, and I'd like to see it as a novel with the sights, sounds and smells of the city as well as the emotions of the protagonists leaping from the page.

Hope this helps,

Best, Nell.


I meant of course 'superfluous'.

Becca at 13:25 on 06 February 2004  Report this post
Hello Melanie, I confess that unlike Nell I did not read all 10,000 words because it is very daunting. It is better to post up in smaller sections, say 2,000 to 5,000 words, that way more people will read your work. One thing that would help also would be to separate the dialogue in the conventional way,- with a new line each time one of them speaks.

Following what Nell says about exposition,- that is telling a thing rather than showing it,- the sentence that begins 'He reflected in his own corner for some time..' is a good example. Instead of explaining the reactions of the main character, you could imply them in his responses, that way you'd be showing the reader what was going on rather than spelling it out. If you did remove the exposition it would help as well to remove some of the strangly formal sentences like 'Gabriel begins to be alarmed by the course Chastity seemed to be embarking on.' Maybe instead of that you could describe a facial gesture of his which shows the reader the same thing.
I did pick up an intensity in the writing which kept me reading down to book two and the characters and setting are interesting. I take this to be the beginning of a novel and not a short story?
Keep writing.

Becca at 13:36 on 06 February 2004  Report this post
Hi again Melanie, I realised that you did intend it to be a short story. But actually there is so much detail, time passing, unresolved bits, that it reads like a novel. In a novel there is space and time to tie loose ends up, a short story is a slice of time, suspended, if you like. I don't mean short stories have to have properly resolved endings, but the, ... I always find it so difficult to define,..It would be better if I picked a good short story from this site and described to you why I thought it was. I will do that.

Becca at 14:01 on 06 February 2004  Report this post
Hi Melanie, just looking at recent short stories on Short Story 1, there's one called 'The Traveller.' It describes the state of things for a man after his wife has died. It concentrates on atmosphere and the main character, the plot is slight, simple. It's perfect material for a short story. Hope this helps.


Sorry, short story 11.

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