Illustration by Matt Weismantel
The Dandy | Andrew Spencer
The text message read; It’s the Dandy. Call me.
"Are you sure it was Tug?" Junk asked Tramp, as they sat on the numbing sandstone steps of the city church.
"Last night," Tramp replied. He flicked the cherry from his smoke and tucked the dumper away for later. "He was with the Dandy."
"He sent me this." Junk showed Tramp the message on his phone.
Tramp squinted as he read the cracked screen. "I knew it," he said, shaking his head. "Shoulda never made that score alone."
Junk’s legs jittered. "You don’t believe the rumours. Do you?"
Tramp gave a solemn nod. "Never score from the Dandy. Never."
"I gotta find him, Tramp." He knew he was holding back. They sat quietly for a moment.
"Find Jasmine," Tramp grumbled. "She’s a bloody crossroads. Nothing passes by her unnoticed."
"Thank you," Junk said.
As he stood up, Tramp grabbed his wrist. "Don’t drag her into this," he warned.
"I won’t," Junk said. "One last thing. Can I borrow the naloxone? Just in case Tug’s Odd."
Tramp rolled his eyes. "You young fellas." He dug through his bags, then tossed Junk a grey tube similar to an EpiPen. "Let’s hope you don’t need it."
"Let’s," Junk said, as he set out to find a crossroad.
Junk strode into the sunlight, glad to escape the shadows that kept him feeling cold and sick. The crisp air made his nose drip. A sense of urgency drove his aching body forward as he checked the local hangouts.
On a whim, he checked the methadone clinic. He found Jas reclined on a nearby bench. She was lazing like a cat in the sun.
"Jas." Junk gently shook her shoulder.
"Fuck off," Jas groaned. Then, bursting awake, she screamed "Don’t touch me!"
"It’s me, Junk," he said, stepping back while she caught her bearings.
"What do you want?" she snapped.
"It’s Tug. I need—"
"Why’d you even bother with him?" Jas grumbled. "If I know my ex, he’s passed out in his own puke somewhere." She pulled out a smoke and lit it. "Want one?"
"No thanks," Junk said, handing Jas his phone. "Read this."
Jas read the message, shielding her eyes from the sun. "The Dandy…" She took a contemplative drag on her smoke. "Yeah, I know him."
"Know where I can find him?" Desperation crept into Junk’s voice. "Tug wouldn’t bail on me."
"He’s a fucking junkie, Junk."
"So? He’s also a decent human. You of all people should know that."
Jas was silent for a few seconds. "Look, the Dandy’s a pervert. I don’t want to remember what he tried to do to me. He’s sick." Her expression said she was done talking about it.
"Please Jas," Junk begged. Tug’s in trouble."
Jas stubbed out her smoke and flicked the butt at Junk. "Fine. The abandoned pub in Frost Lane. 3rd floor. Look for the blacked-out windows."
"Thank you, Jas," he said.
Junk was dope sick. He rugged his overcoat tight around himself, even though he’d just power-walked to the alley. Sweat made his eyes sting. His body ached but his needs demanded he continue.
Frost Lane was a narrow corridor cluttered with broken white goods and trash piled on top of trash. A makeshift path weaved its way into the shadows.
Junk started down the alley, thankful to be out of the sun’s heat. As he continued along the dim row, a chill returned to his bones. He wrestled with his courage as unnaturally large rats darted between his legs, and primordial cockroaches crawled up the urine-soaked walls.
Junk was ready to retreat when he noticed the pastel pattern of Tug’s hideous one-of-a-kind windbreaker. It was stuffed into an overflowing bin. Junk had given him plenty of schtick about it. He knew Tug would never part with it voluntarily.
He sent a text to Tramp; Frost lane. Find Jas. No Tug.
Junk clambered over bottlenecks of broken glass, bins, and rusted downpipes. Ahead he saw a pyramid of trash piled above a slim window that lent access to the first floor. Junk surveyed the climb. The first and second floor windows were boarded up.
The climb wouldn’t be easy.
Junk fingered his pocket gingerly. It was a nervous habit. He felt the naloxone tube and thought of Tug. He looked again. The third floor was clearly inhabited. The black curtains slung across the windows waved invitingly.
Junk mounted the teetering makeshift ladder. His hands shook with the need for dope. He told himself he was there to help his friend, yet it was the sickness that spurred him forward. As he neared the top, he noticed the strong scent of incense, masking something heavy in the air.
Reluctantly, Junk shimmied through the window on his thin belly. He tumbled into the darkness, landing face down in a urinal trough. Like a cat near water, he launched himself across the room, spluttering and spitting at the wet stench. He put his sleeve to his mouth. He’d stayed in the worst of the worst hovels. Still, he had never smelt the ripe scent of rotting like he did now.
Junk gathered his bearings. He could see a row of mouldy sinks. The mirrors were broken into the basins, like mouths choking on teeth. Junk’s footsteps crunched in the eerie silence. His nostrils tensed at the mix of death and incense smoke.
He snuck across the broken tiles and poked his head into the main corridor. Candles burned in rows along the walls, making ancient stalactites out of wax. The timber floor was layered in dust and clearly showed a well-worn path. Junk followed the candles along the hall, up two flights of steps. His nerves were beginning to falter. The desire for dope was still strong, but the voice of logic begged him to leave.
Junk reached the third floor.
"Hello?" he whispered.
The dust trail led to a heavy door. Light flickered on the other side. He pulled a small knife from his jacket then made his way into the room.
What he saw filled him with dread.
On a low coffee table, beside a freshly stoked fireplace, sat a brick of dope with a dagger stuck in the top. Fresh needles lay in neat rows on the smooth timber surface. The air was light and pleasant. The room, or what Junk could see of it, was clean and comfy.
Junk slipped quietly over to the brick, his thoughts of Tug postponed. He dipped his finger in the powder. It was dope alright. He wiped his nose on his sleeve and realised how sick he’d become.
Miracles don’t happen to junkies, he thought.
Then he thought of Tug. Standing right where he now stood.
Then he thought, fuck it.
Junk started to mix up a shot, justifying to himself that it would help. He was in autopilot. The hunger had taken over. The needle hovered just above his favourite vein. He could almost taste the bliss. But before he drew blood, a superstitious sensation stayed his hand.
Junk capped the needle and put it in his pocket. He was suddenly certain he was not alone. Outside the arc of firelight, the room dissolved into oblivion. Junk willed himself to call out, but his tongue and lips refused to cooperate.
Then, like some occult ritual, the candles lit themselves. One after another across the room. They uncovered the secrets of the darkness.
Junk saw Tug in the chair. His eyes were open, but he was clearly dead. A needle hung out of blueish, shrivelled skin. The body looked wrong, almost dehydrated, freeze dried.
"Tug… you idiot," Junk whispered, as he moved closer.
He’d seen his fair share of OD's. It never got easier. He was about to check Tug’s pulse when a voice stopped him.
Junk turned to see the Dandy, standing by the door. Blocking the door.
"It’s been seventy-five years since someone refused my offering," the Dandy said casually.
"What the fuck," Junk spat back, gesturing to Tug’s body. "He’s dead?"
"Yes. Quite unfortunate for him. Though I assure you, he died happy."
"And you... You didn’t help him?"
"Oh," sighed the Dandy. "I helped him. I can help you too, if you like?"
Junk rolled his fists against his temples. "Tug. Shit man." He tried to form a plan, but his mind was foggy.
"Young man, you seem stressed. Surely that shot could offer you some assistance?"
Junk felt the needle in his pocket, "How did you—"
"Junkies are a predictable breed."
"And Tug? What about him!"
"What about him?"
Junk pointed to the husk that was his friend. "He’s all shrivelled up, like a bloody vampire sucked him dry!"
"A vampire! Don’t you have an active imagination. Come sit. Please."
Junk found himself unable to hold his own weight. The full force of dope sickness hit him, and he slumped into the closest chair.
"Don’t fall onto the brick. It’s quite expensive."
Junk eyed the Dandy. He looked as pale and sickly as any junkie. Yet his clothes and attitude said different. His casual dominance was disturbing.
The Dandy sat opposite him and poured a glass of thick red wine. "You may dip from the brick, but the wine is mine. Ha-ha. That rhymes."
The Dandy’s eccentric chuckle put Junk’s street senses on high alert. "Thanks, but no thanks," he said.
"But I insist. I must insist."
Junk felt the sensation again. Like an itch in the centre of his brain.
"Truly. I do," the Dandy said, wiping the crimson from his lips with a nap cloth.
Then, suddenly, Junk could not fight his addiction. All the horrible symptoms of withdrawal hit him at once. It was so overpowering that he hallucinated. He swore the Dandy’s face morphed into something insidious and otherworldly.
"Take the shot," a voice whispered in his mind.
"Take the shot." Over and over, louder and louder.
Then his hand reached in his pocket.
He could not fight himself. Junk found a vein and pulled back the plunger. As he did, he saw the Dandy’s eyes ignite. They were they eyes of a predator.
Then the dope hit. Junk felt a soft blow to his heart. Then nothing. His vision dimmed and he slid off the chair. The last thing he saw before all went black was the Dandy, smiling, his sharp teeth stained with wine.
Junk awoke to a burning pain at his wrists.
As he came to, he realised he was splayed out on his back, tied to a bedhead. A plastic mattress protector crinkled beneath him. In the darkest corner of the room, Junk could make out a dark form hunched over another. He could hear a wet suckling sound and had a fair idea what it was.
"You two were friends. I can taste it." The Dandy made his way over to the bed. The bloodstains confirmed Junk’s suspicions.
Junk said nothing as the Dandy straddled his hips. "I was addicted when I was turned. By a Nosferatu travelling on the Mia. An opium transport ship. I found out very quickly that blood alone could not satiate this wretched curse. No. I yearned only for the blood opium." The Dandy lowered himself, lifted up Junk’s shirt and licked his navel. "I can taste it in your pores."
Junk fought against the narcotic sedation, nodding in and out of consciousness.
"For centuries I have sought nourishment for my cravings. I suffered hunger and sickness for decades, adapting and learning. You junkies and I have a lot in common, you know. We’re active at night. We’re pale, sickly. We dress in dark clothes and are powerless to stop ourselves in the face of euphoric torture."
Junk heard the Dandy loosen his belt.
"I’ve decided not to kill you. I am lonely and you harbour the strength needed for the change. You will be kept comfortable, fed, and eventually you will call me Master."
Junk felt his pants being lowered, then a pressure, a suckling. The Dandy had found a vein in his nether-regions and pierced it with his needle-like fangs.
Time was lost to Junk. He floated in a semi-lucid stupor. The Dandy’s dope was strong. Junk was abruptly snapped out of his daydream by the sound of familiar voices: it was Jas, screaming for help. Before he could make sense of it all the Dandy kicked open the door. He dragged an unconscious Jas behind him.
"Fast food delivery," the Dandy said, dumping Jas on the bed. "Thanks for loaning me your phone." He turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.
Junk heard a crashing sound from deeper within the building. "Wake up Jas," Junk said, using his knees to rock her. "Wake up!"
Jasmine stirred. "Junk?"
"Help me," Junk urged. "Quick, before he comes back."
Jas moved with the stealth of a street thief. She had the ropes loosened in seconds.
"Thank you," Junk said.
"Don’t thank me. Help me. Tramp is out there." She pointed to the heavy door.
"Shit," Junk murmured, as he pulled his pants up and rubbed feeling back into his wrists.
"We’ve got to help him," Jas demanded.
"We will. But how? Why are you here?" Junk asked.
"You sent a text to Tramp and me. It said to come here, that there was a mountain of dope just waiting for us. We didn’t believe it but with Tug and all… We came to check it out."
Jas and Junk snuck over to the door. They were just about to creep into the hall when the door flew open from the force of the Dandy’s boot. The Dandy dragged Tramp along by his long white hair.
When the Dandy noticed the empty bed, he launched Tramp across the room with superhuman strength. He landed unconscious by the heavily curtained window.
The Dandy slammed the door shut behind him. "You really think you can hide?"
The Dandy’s eyes quickly found Junk’s. He ignored Jas as she skittered over to check on Tramp.
"Junk," the Dandy chucked. "I've tasted you. I know you. Better than you do, I wonder? Can’t you feel it yet? Don’t you understand my gift?" He pointed to Junk’s friends. "This, is the ultimate rush."
Junk knew what the Dandy meant. He had crumbled under the pleasure of the brick. He knew the hell he passed through and had a fair idea of the hell to come.
Junk looked to Tramp and Jas, cowering in the corner. He fingered his pocket nervously.
"Okay. Show me," Junk said.
The dandy smiled. "I knew you couldn’t resist."
The Dandy took Junk’s hand and led him over to his friends. "If you need me to kill them first, I can."
"No," Junk said, as he gazed down at his scrappy comrades. "I’m not afraid to kill."
Then, Junk reached into his pocket. He felt the naloxone tube. Without a heartbeat between movements, Junk plunged the needle into the Dandy’s neck and delivered the whole life saving dose. The Dandy howled in agony as the naloxone stripped the opiate from his blood.
The scuffle was quick. Junk tackled the Dandy. The pair lost their footing and fell forward, through the black velvet curtain, through the window. Out into the midday sun.
The Dandy howled as sunlight struck his pale skin after almost three centuries. Junk felt a sensation like bad sunburn. As they fell, the Dandy withered away like burning newspaper. His skin leafing off in flakes. Junk landed in the alley, showered by broken glass.
Junk awoke to Tramp and Jas shaking him.
"We got the brick. Let’s go!"
Jas pulled Junk to his feet. "You good?" She asked.
"Yeah. Let’s bounce." Junk could feel the sun eating into his flesh.
The trio left the alley and burst back in the thriving heart of the city. People bustled by, taking no notice of three bums scurrying back to their hovel.
When they arrived at the squat, Tramp and Jas mixed up a taste to take the edge off. They quickly fell into a narcotic slumber.
Junk watched over his friends. He had no urge to use the needle, yet he could not pull his gaze from the throats of his sleeping companions.
Junk run his tongue over the sharp points of his canine teeth. He could smell the dope in their blood.
"Maybe just a taste," Junk said to himself.
Andrew Spencer is a Southern Cross University student who has completed a Bachelor of Social Science and is currently undertaking the Associate Degree of Creative Writing. This story has also been accepted for publication in Coastlines 8