Cold and shivering, the young woman lay naked on the worn tatami mat. Chattering teeth grazed the edge of her tongue and she winced at the bright stab of pain. The coppery taste of blood spurred her senses and she pulled in tighter, cocooning her frail body within thin arms, trying to conserve precious heat. Just returned from her daily bath, skin damp, hair still dripping, the room’s cool air easily wicked away what body warmth she had.
Her body slackened, a protruding hipbone digging hard into the woven straw beneath her. Dull pulses of pain coursed along nerve endings drawn taut with the beginnings of withdrawal, but for now, her mind focused on the biting chill of the air. Her head lolled at an awkward angle as more shivers racked through her, the convulsions overtaking her aching muscles. Would her body finally snap?
Moments, minutes, hours later—she could no longer tell—thoughts returned with vague clarity. As if suspended over her life in a silken web of confusion, she was held hostage in a macabre nightmare, never quite discerning truth from hallucination.
She was due for another dose of drugs—the throb in her temple had steadily increased to an intense pounding—and while she loathed the idea of being held captive to that, too, if someone didn’t come soon, she would sink. Into the darkest depths of desperate need and she didn’t know if she could live through that. There was no place more horrific.
Not even downstairs.
The door opened and her legs twitched, blind instinct overriding addiction for the smallest thread of time. The sharp click of boots on the floor sounded up through her pulsing skull—bogeyman’s teeth snapping and gnashing, daring her to run, to flee, but then as he bent, his clothes whispered, promising salvation and soon everything would be warm and bright and beautiful.
The glorious prick of the needle then and behind it, tiny flames licking at her chilled skin and elation so pure her eyes rolled back in their sunken sockets. The heat radiated from within her now, stroking her with a lover’s gentle touch as hot, vibrant colors spread through her limbs and happiness buoyed her spirit to new heights.
Safe and warm and loved, she drifted off to sleep.