There was a scattering of broken glass across the bedroom floor.  Aiden shivered, as a cruel Autumn wind howled through what was left of the window.  He had been sleeping rough, until he had found this house and had decided to temporarily squat in it.  Nobody knew he was here; Aidan had ran away from home without telling anyone.  He had heard about this house from others in the street; since it had been abandoned, it had served a fair few of illegal tenants.  Aiden could see everything they had left behind: bin liners with massive gashes in them, a fork with two prongs and a complete sense of isolation.  A raucous cough descended from the sky, which was Aiden’s cue to leave the chilly bedroom and find somewhere warmer.  He picked up his pocketwatch that  he had carefully wrapped in an old newspaper page.  Wrapping his thin jacket around him, he left the bedroom and walked down the hallway to the bathroom.  He had squatted in this house for a few days and had a decent idea of its layout.  It might have been his imagination, but Aiden felt the fierce wind grate against the back of his neck.

****

The house was outside of police territory and was a haven for vagrants and deviants.  It was just by luck that Aiden had found it empty; he knew it would not stay like that for long.  People typically stayed in places such as these for about a week.  On the streets, it was safer to stay on the move. Aiden had started shivering, like there was an army of ants writhing through his bloodstream and crawling over his body.  Droplets of salty water began to ooze out of his pores.  He was staggering to the bathroom now; the sooner he reached it the better.  How long had it been since he had had a fix? Aiden could feel the wind pushing him down the hallway.  As he reached the doorway, he could have sworn that the wind shoved him into the bathroom.  He disregarded the notion, as he walked towards the dirty medicine cabinet.  The handle was hanging precariously from the cabinet, which meant that Aiden had to gently pull on the edge of the cabinet door, to open it.  The teenager reached into it and pulled out a shoe box.  He removed the lid and the tension floated out of his body.  He reached into the box and pulled out a needle, before rolling up his sleeve and untying the shoelace, which marked where his previous scars were, that would grant the needle easier access.

“Time to shoot.  Bang bang!” Aiden joked, as the needle took its plunge.

****

Any notion of the storm outside had melted away, as Aiden felt himself drift into his own private void.  A world without sound, without touch, without colour.  A world full of warmth and comfort.  Aiden called out, not to attract anyone’s attention, but because he liked the sound of gravel in his voice.  The teenager felt himself touch down onto the surface of his void, or was it the ceiling.  He stretched his legs out and began to take his first steps.  It was as if Aiden was weighed down by lead.  Every step was heavy and wooden; there was a stomp, a stop, and then a shout.  A stomp, a stop, and then a shout.  A stomp, a stop, and then a shout.  Aiden was getting heavier; something above him, or was it below was pushing down.  He desperately tried to think back, but he couldn’t remember how much heroin he had injected.  He knew that he must have o’ded.  Aiden could feel his body drooping downwards, or was it upwards? White tendrils were wrapping themselves around the junkie’s legs and began to pull and tug.

****

Aiden had slept through the worst of the storm and now a grey, overcast light was shining through the grimy bathroom window.  He sat up and rubbed his neck.  Bizarrely a mirror was leaning on the skirting boards of the bathroom.  Aiden stared into his reflection: into the pale, drained face, the brown eyes with too many tinges of red, the brown freckles mingled with dirt and God knows what else.  Aiden yawned, without covering his mouth; what use were manners in these situations? He reached into the shoe box and took everything he had in the world: a little bit of money, a few spare needles, a smoking pipe, a lighter, some foil.  The heroin was already safely tucked up in the pocket of his ragged jeans.  Lastly, Aiden unwrapped his silver pocket watch and ran his fingers over the cracked screen.

****

According to the clock face it was midday, but it still looked like early morning to Aiden. The teenager ran his hand through his closely-cropped hair. His left arm was tightly clamped around the shoe box.  The heroin had left him a little sleepy, but he carried on staggering along the pavement.  Last night’s storm left a damp mist lingering in the air, which gave Aiden trouble with walking.    His mouth was as dry as sand, but the only water he had was to dissolve his heroin.  Aiden knew where he was headed.  Basset’s car park was near to where the squatting house was.  The junkie was vaguely aware that the Needlepoint centre was close by to him, but he was so sleepy.    He briefly leant against the hallway of a boarded up shop and closed his eyes and slid to the ground.

****

“Aiden, wake up! Come on! Come on! You’ve been asleep long enough.” A 20 year old man slapped Aiden’s cheek twice before twitching three times and jumping up and spinning around.  Aiden opened his eyes and his dilated pupils adjusted to the evening light.

“How late is it?”

“It’s late, man.  You’ve been out for hours.” The twenty year old vigorously shook his head back and fourth before sitting down.  At the same time, Aiden sat up in shock and rooted for his shoe box.  He ripped off the lid and was visibly relieved, when he found that the contents hadn’t been disturbed.  The 20 year old was now pushing his overgrown bush of brown curly hair to the side.  He had a big, stocky figure and was wearing a very thin red hoodie and black jeans.  He twitched twice, before speaking again.

“You think I mugged ya, didn’t ya? Come on, Aiden.  I ain’t like that.”

“Yeah…sorry, Jumper.” Aiden replied, sheepishly.  Just like Aiden, Jumper was also a junkie.  He was known for his hyperactive behaviour, which was only amplified by the heroin.  Jumper batted at his right ear, before snapping his head back to his friend.

“Dude, you look like shit.”

Aiden smirked and spat out whatever saliva he had left.  “Do you think I care how I look?”

“S’pose not.  What ya doing all the way out here anyway?”

“I could ask you the same thing.” Aiden countered.

“I heard you was staying in the squatting house and I came to find ya.  You weren’t there, so I went looking for ya and here you are.”

“Why were you looking for me?”

“To see whether you got any H for me.”

“No I don’t.  The only H I have is for me alone.  You could have just mugged me.  Why didn’t you?” Aiden asked, in disbelief.

“I told you dude.  I aint like that.” Jumper stood up and paced around.

“If you want H, then you should go and see Strike.”

“No can do.  I owe him money.”

Aiden stood up in shock.  “You owe Strike money? How much?”

“£200.”

“You owe him £200? How are you still alive?”

“No idea, but if Strike catches me, I’m dead.  So do you have any H for me?”

“I told you, Jumper, the only H I have is for me alone.”

“Come on, Aiden  You must have some money for me!”

“It’s my money!” Aiden snapped.

“Let me look in your shoe box.  You must have something.  Come on, man.  Come on.” Jumper stamped his foot three times.

“You’re not getting shit, mate.” Aiden was now standing up and clutching the shoe box.  He had slowly edged his way to the entrance of the shop hallway.

“Give me that fucking box!” Jumper snapped and made a desperate grasp for it.

“Shit dude.  It’s Strike!” Aiden pointed behind his friend and as Jumper turned around, Aiden punched him with all of his strength.  Without looking back, the eighteen year old began to run.

****

He could hear Jumper lumbering behind him; the punch had only briefly stunned him.The Needlepoint centre had been designed as a help point for any heroin addicts and this was where Aiden was running now.  He knew he would be safe from Jumper there.  As a precaution, he took his knife from out of the shoe box.  Aiden relaxed, as he reached the centre.  It had been a couple of hours, since he had last had a fix, but it had been much longer for Jumper and his withdrawal symptoms combined with his general unfitness, meant that he was now lying breathless at the entrance of the Needlepoint car park.  He was shivering and a cold sweat was coming over him.  A white van with big red letters reading Needlepoint drove past Jumper, to help other junkies in the city.

“Who’s he?” One of the Needlepoint employees asked Aiden.

“He’s my best mate.” Aiden replied.

“Then, why are you running from him?”

Aiden looked at the female worker from head to toe; she was slight of build, with freckled skin, strawberry blonde hair and a nose carved out of stone.  Aiden guessed she was in her thirties.

“What do you care?”

“Well, this area is rife with heroin addicts; I guess you’re just another couple of junkies.  I guess you stole some H from him or he’s trying to steal some from you.”

“Guess all you want, I aint telling you shit.”

The woman didn’t seem perturbed.  “Can you at least tell me your name?”

“It’s Aiden, and you?”

“I’m Anna.”

“Well, I’d best be taking off now.”

Anna signalled to Jumper whose twitches were becoming more serious.  “What about your mate?”

“He’ll be fine, once he’s had a fix.”

“I can’t let you give him heroin.” Anna protested.

“So you’re just gonna make him go cold turkey?”

“We’ll bring him in and look after him.”

Aiden stood between Anna and the door.  “You bloody well won’t.  If we want your help, we’ll ask for it.” Without another word, the eighteen year old left the centre.

“I just hope you don’t leave it too late.” Anna muttered.

****

As Aiden left the centre, he took out his pocket watch.  It was 6:30 pm.  Aiden walked towards his friend and as he approached him, he helped Jumper to his feet.

“Come on, mate.  Let’s get out of here.”

“What’s going on?” Jumper asked, before twitching 3 times and rubbing his eye.

“You went ape shit, cos you aint had a fix in a while.”

“Where we going now?”

“We can go down to Basset’s.” Next to Aiden, he suddenly heard a sobbing.

“Are you crying, Jumper?”

“Come on, dude.  Let’s just get to the car park.”

****

Basset’s was indeed a car park, but it no longer hosted any cars.  It had once been attached to Basset’s Arcade, which had long gone bust.  Since then, the Council had long forgotten about the car park and it was now a haven for vagrants and junkies.  Aiden and Jumper were sitting in a far corner, holding a lighter under a piece of foil, which had H sitting on top of it.  As the two boys inhaled the fumes through tubes, they were slowly becoming more relaxed and their speech was becoming more slurred.

“The fuck were you playing at before? Punching me and shit?” Jumper mumbled out.

“You were majorly jacked up.  You’d’ve hurt me in that state.  I had to run.”

Jumper leaned forward to take another inhale and fell back coughing.  “There’s something up with this H.  It’s dodgy.”

“We got it from Strike.  What’d you expect?”

“Oh God, Strike.  What the hell do I about him?”

“Oh shut it….about….your……….debt.  I just want…….to do,” Aiden suddenly fell asleep, falling on top of his shoe box.  In the distance, a police car was racing through the city, followed by a white van with big red letters on the side.

****

Aiden woke up a few hours later.

“I’m glad you’ve been able to sleep.” Jumper muttered.  The effect of the H had worn off now and Jumper was no longer slurring his words.

“You haven’t slept?” Aiden asked.

“How can I sleep, when Strike is after me?” As Jumper said this, Aiden instinctively reached for his shoe box and rummaged through its contents.

“I haven’t fucking mugged ya!”

“You almost mugged me back at Needlepoint.” Aiden countered.

“I was jacked up then.  People do crazy shit when they’re jacked.”

Aiden was no longer listening.  He took his pocket watch out of the shoe box and checked the time: it was 8:00 PM now.

“Why do you still have that watch? We could sell it.  I can pay off Strike.  We can buy more H.”

“Have you lost it, mate? This watch was my grandfather’s.  I am not-” Aiden suddenly dropped off to sleep, leaving the pocket watch to fall out of his hand and onto the concrete ground.  Jumper’s first instinct was to steal it and run, but he decided against it.  Instead, he walked out of Basset’s to get some air.  All natural light had escaped from the area and had been replaced with the evening darkness.  Jumper shook his head a few times, before turning to his right.  In a service road leading into Basset’s, a white van with big red letters was parked.  The letters read ‘Needlepoint.’ Jumper thought this to be odd, because Needlepoint vans didn’t usually come out this far, but then he saw a man in his forties in a leather jacket leave the van.

“Oh fuck!” The junkie shouted, as he turned around and started running.

“Get back here Jumper!” An Australian voice shouted out.

The effects of the H hadn’t completely worn off and Jumper could feel his body slowing down.  It wasn’t long, before he had collapsed onto the cold ground and fell asleep.  The Australian man and two of his cronies caught up with the sleeping junkie, picked him up and carried him back to the Needlepoint van.  Once Jumper had been thrown in the back, the Australian man’s two cronies got into the front seats.

“That’s the problem with junkies.  They always sleep on the job.” Strike joked, before slamming the doors shut.

****

Jumper woke up to find his hands tied behind him and  two bald man pushing down on his shoulders.  “Where am I?” To him, it looked like he was in some type of disused factory, but he wasn’t sure.

“We’re in my headquarters.”

Jumper bent his head to the van with big red letters parked outside.  “Why do you have a Needlepoint van?”

Strike walked up to Jumper and crouched down.  At this level, the junkie could see his very rough stubble and fading brown hair with a few tinges of grey.  “You talk too much, but since you asked, we stole the van.  It’s much easier to drive round the city, without raising suspicion.”

“What do you want from me?”

Strike growled and kicked Jumper in the knee  “What did I say about talking too much? You owe me £200, now where is it?”

“I aint got it.  Your guys must know that. They must have searched me when I was asleep.”

Strike turned to Victor, one of his henchmen.  “It’s true, boss.  We searched him from head to toe.  He hasn’t got anything on him.”

“Did you search <i>everywhere</i>?”

“Trust me, boss.  We searched <i>everywhere.</i>

Strike signalled to his henchmen.  “Let him go.”

Before Jumper could speak, the Australian had picked him up and was pushing him against the wall.

“Where’s my MONEY?!”

“I aint got it.”

“I gave you forty bags of H to sell and you smoked it all.”

“I swear I didn’t.  I never smoked nothing.” Jumper protested.

“ARE YOU FUCKING LYING TO ME,” Strike roared, before ramming his fist into the junkie’s stomach, “now where is my money?”

“I’ll…get….it….to you.” Jumper had been winded by Strike’s punch and could barely speak.

“I gave you 3 days to get my money.  Why shouldn’t I just kill you now?” Strike was no longer shouting, but softly whispering.

“I swear, Strike.  I’ll get…you the….money.”

Strike signalled to Victor, before rubbing his stubbled chin.  “Get him to his feet and hold him.”

“Strike, come on, man-” Before Jumper could finish, the Australian man had punched him across the face.

“Stop talking,” Strike shouted, before punching Jumper again, “I want my fucking money!

You got that?”

Jumper nodded meekly.

“I want £200, plus £200 interest.  You understand?!”

“I got it.”

“Just so you don’t forget.” Strike punched Jumper twice more around the face, before ordering Victor to let him go.  The junkie staggered forwards, before falling forwards.  The Australian shook his head, despairingly.

“What a fucking lightweight.  Victor, take him back to Basset’s car park.  If he hasn’t paid us in a few days, he’s dead,” Strike knelt down and whispered into Jumper’s ear, “you hear that, you filth? You’re fucking dead, if you don’t pay me.”

****

Aiden woke up to see his pocket watch lying on the floor.  It must have fallen out of his grasp and he wondered why Jumper hadn’t stolen it.  Aiden stood up and walked out of the car park, where he saw his friend lying on the ground with dried blood on his face.  The eighteen year old walked up to him and tentatively prodded him with a foot.

“The fuck happened to you?”

“Strike happened.  He wants £400 in the next few days, or I’m a dead man.”

“£400? I thought it was £200?”

“Well, £200 interest….”

“Why do you owe him that much anyway?”

“I smoked £200 of his H…” Jumper explained, sheepishly.

“Are you crazy? How can you be so fucking stupid?” Aiden exploded.

“When he gave me the H to sell, I had just finished smoking the last of my stash.  I was coming down with withdrawal symptoms and becoming all kinds of fucked up.  I couldn’t resist.”

“You stupid bastard….the fuck do we now? I have £15 on me….that’s nowhere near enough and I doubt this watch will sell for much.”

“Nah man.  We can’t sell that.  It’s your grandfather’s.”

“Do you think we can go to Needlepoint for help?” Aiden asked.

“Do you think we can trust them?”

“I don’t know.  They should be on our side.  It is their jobs to make sure people like us stay alive.  I reckon they should be able to help us.”

“No way, man.  If we tell them, they’ll have to tell the police.  We could get done for possession.  That’s 7 years in jail.”

“7 years in jail would be better than whatever Strike will do to us.”

“Hold on, mate.  I have to ask.  Why are you helping me? This aint your fight.”

“When I’d fallen asleep earlier on, you had the perfect chance to steal my pocket watch, but you didn’t.  You’ve had so many chances to mug me, but you haven’t.  So, how much time do you think we have?”

“4 days, at the max.” Jumper guessed.

“This is what we do, for the next three days, we do everything we can to get that £400.  In case, Strike is watching us, we don’t make contact again until we meet at 7 PM in 3 days time at Bell Park.  Agreed?”

“Agreed.”

****

For the next three days, the two junkies did everything they could to scrounge together £400.  They tried speaking to other distributors and dealers in the area, but everyone knew that Strike had put a hit on Jumper and they wanted to stay well clear of him.  Both Jumper and Aiden had long cut ties with their former lives and could no longer turn to their families or their old friends.  For a brief while, the two boys tried mugging any unfortunate people they came across, but they were in a dangerous area and people rarely carried round large amounts of cash.

****

When Bell Park had first opened, it had been a very popular attraction.  Families had flocked to it, in their masses, but the initial euphoria had soon worn off and everybody had forgotten about the park, which meant it had become rampant to the deviant in society.  Aiden had chosen to meet there, because it was only a few streets away from the Needlepoint centre.  Once he saw Jumper enter the park, he walked up to him.

“I didn’t get nowhere near £400.  I swear, Aiden, it was so hard not to spend this money

on H.  I’ve been fighting withdrawal symptoms for ages.”

“How much money did you get?”

“£20.”

“I got £15.  So that plus the money I have and your money, is only £50.  Would that be

enough?”

“You know, Strike.  He’s gonna want all of it,” Jumper scrunched up his hair in frustration, before batting his left ear, “we’re gonna have to go to Needlepoint.  We aint got no choice.”

“This is what we’re gonna do.  You wait at Basset’s and I go to Needlepoint, alone.  They

might help us. They can send a van round to you, to pick you up.”

“Why can’t I come with you?” Jumper protested.

“If Strike is watching us, then we can’t risk him following us.  Now go wait at Basset’s and don’t leave for any reason.  I’ll be along soon.

****

Once Jumper had left Bell Park, Aiden started running to the Needlepoint centre.  As he ran, he took out his pocket watch and could see that it was 7:30 pm.  He just hoped he would be fast enough.  As the junkie burst through the doors of the centre, he ran up to the counter where a woman with strawberry blonde hair and freckled skin was sitting behind.

“Anna, I need your help.” Aiden panted out.

“Oh, so now you want my help?” Anna retorted.

“Yeah.  Look, do you know Strike?”

Anna waved away the security guards that were coming to remove Aiden from the building.  “Yeah, I’ve heard of everyone’s favourite drug lord.  What about him?”

“My mate owes him £400 and Strike is gonna kill him for it.”

“Where’s your mate, then? Why are you here and not him?”

“We couldn’t risk Strike following us here.”

“Alright, I’ll pull some strings, call in a few favours.”

Aiden’s eyes lit up with delight.  “You’re gonna help us?”

“Yes, but only because I don’t wanna see two more junkies dead, when I knew I could’ve saved them.  You do realise I’m gonna have to tell the police about this?”

Aiden reluctantly nodded.  It was just the price that he and Jumper had to pay.  “What are we gonna do?”

“I might be able to take you and your mate into protective custody.  Where’s your mate staying?”

“Basset’s car park.”

“One of my boys should know it.  Right, I want you to wait in the squatting house, yes I know about it, and I’ll send a van to pick you and your mate up.”

“Why can’t I wait here?” Aiden protested.

“If Strike has followed you, then I can’t risk putting everyone else here in danger.  Go to the house.  A van will be along soon.”

The eighteen year old nodded and turned around.

“And, Aiden, be careful.  I heard that Strike stole a Needlepoint van.  Before you get in one of our vans, make sure it’s one of us, driving it.

****

It took forty minutes for Aiden to reach the squatting house.  Now he was inside, he was waiting by the front window, clutching onto his knife.  It was half 8 now and a van hadn’t arrived yet.

What the fuck was taking them so long?

****

At 8:40, two white vans with big red letters left the Needlepoint car park and took different routes to reach the rendezvous points.

At the same time, an Australian man drove a Needlepoint van away from a disused factory, in order to collect his debt.

****

Jumper’s twitches were now rising out of control.  He was being overpowered by his withdrawal symptoms and had to keep pacing around the area.  He kept rubbing his eyes and shaking his head.  It had been well over an hour, since he had last spoken to Aiden.

What the fuck was taking him so long?

At that exact point, a white van with big red letters drove into the service road, which led to Basset’s car park.  Jumper could see the van, but he couldn’t see who was inside it.

“Who is it?” He called out.

A voice called back answering his question.  Jumper sighed and left the car park.  He walked up to the van and climbed into the front seat.  There was nowhere else he could go.

It doesn’t matter what  happens now, it’s over for me.   Jumper told himself, as the van drove away, followed by a blue light and the sound of sirens.

****

At the same time, as Jumper was being picked up, a van with big red letters drove into the courtyard of the squatting house.  Aiden could see the van, but he couldn’t see who was inside of it.

“Who is it?” He called out.

A voice called back,answering his question.  Aiden sighed and put away his knife.  He picked up his shoe box and left the house, before walking up to the van and climbing into the front seat.  There was nowhere else he could go.

Whatever happens now it’s game over.  Aiden told himself, as the van drove away, followed by a blue light and the sound of sirens.

 

*Author’s Notes*

With thanks to my cousin Harry and my friend Zayd for helping me edit this.  This is probably my darkest story since Barbed Wire.  I originally started this in my writer’s group, where we were exploring the theme of symbolism and I wrote this based on the emotion of loneliness.  I use aterisks to signify paragraph breaks.  The ending is a cliff-hangar.  You can decide what happens to Jumper and Aiden.

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