:: Article

Excerpt: Tokyo Slaughterhouse


By Stephen Barber.

Up in the second-floor bathroom, Larissa and her assistants had been driving Daido insane. They gestured for him to join them in the bathtub. Larissa whispered in Siberian dialect: ‘We can make room for you, precious. All you have to do is take off those underpants and you’ll be naked. Don’t be scared. Come and join us.’ Daido didn’t understand a word, but the beguiling sound of Larissa’s voice terrified him while simultaneously igniting a tornado of lust in his head. He backed up against the door. He tried holding his short-handled machete in front of his penis to conceal his straining, already-semen-leaking erection, but it was no use. The girls had already scanned it minutely.

Daido spat out, ‘Leave me alone! Don’t look at me! My own girls never treated me like this. You foreigners are a pack of hot cats. I’d never take you on to work for me.’ A flood of lukewarm sweat was coursing down Daido’s spine. He hyperventilated. Larissa and her assistants pouted out their absolute derision. Daido gave up trying to control his visceral panic of lust. He walked blindly into the girls’ welcoming arms, dropping his short-handled machete to the ground and untying their wrists. Daido’s underpants were torn apart. He felt as though the overheated insides of his head were turning a calcified black. But his penis instantly shrank when he saw Larissa’s stiletto. Its blade entered his chest. Each of the assistants had a tiny skinning knife ready. Kira cut off the boy’s ears and clumsily juggled with them. Irma cut off the boy’s penis and bisected it. Modesta simply held the boy’s head to her breast, comforting him as she sliced his jugular.

Larissa had enjoyed her night’s work. She said to Daido’s staring eyes, ‘That put an end to your incomprehensible babbling, Nippon-boy. Now you’re dead, dead, dead!’ The assistants hauled the body out of the bathtub. Squatting over it, Larissa opened the chest with an adept combination of stiletto and skinning knife cuts. It was a tender operation. She whispered, ‘Let me have it, lover’ as she detached and eased out the heart. Holding that hot and steaming organ between her fingertips, she kissed it and licked it, enthralled. The assistants looked on in pride and envy. Glancing at the rest of the body, Larissa noted, ‘The boy doesn’t seem to mind at all. He looks so nonchalant and at ease now, so young and beautiful.’

Just then, Sada burst into the room carrying the five bottles of premium-strength sake. Larissa looked up in delight and cried out, ‘Ah! Refreshments!’ The assistants had to support Sada, who collapsed in horror at the sight of Daido’s body, but still managed to keep hold of the bottles. Larissa apologized for the mess, saying, ‘I hope this won’t damage your hotel’s high reputation.’ She snatched her bottle and, using the same gesture as the Slaughterhouse Boys, upended it and drank it down, gulp after gulp, until it was all gone. The assistants did the same. Larissa noticed that Sada was still holding the last bottle and said, ‘So! That one’s for my lover.’ She tossed Daido’s heart into the bathtub and poured half of the bottle of sake over it. Then she struck a match on the sole of her boot and set fire to the heart. It blazed majestically. The girls looked down on the flaming heart in exhilaration. Larissa cried out, ‘See that heart on fire! See how he loves us. That poor boy, he gave his life for love.’

The sake was so combustible that it only took a few moments for the heart to burn up, then the flame turned blue, flickered, and went out. Larissa lifted up the smoking black mass gingerly. It hurt the palm of her bandaged hand and she grimaced, complaining, ‘A hot potato!’ The heart slipped between her burnt fingertips and fell on the floor. Larissa stamped on it in rage and pain. When she took her boot away, the heart was just a mashed heap of ashes on the ground. With her toe, Larissa divided the ashes exactly into five equal parts. Larissa and her assistants swallowed down their portions without difficulty, passing the remaining half of Daido’s bottle of sake between themselves, but Sada was forced to eat her allocated part at knifepoint. Larissa cajoled her, ‘It’s tasty to eat, Nippon-girl! Think of the vitamins and protein.’ Teardops began to gather on Sada’s eyelashes, and Larissa used her tongue to drink them. She said: ‘We can make it easy for you.’ She sprinkled the last of the ashes into the dregs of the sake bottle, then swished the mixture until it formed a viscous grey paste. Handing it to Sada, she told her, ‘Drink it down!’ A skinning knife against her throat, Sada upended the bottle into her mouth.

Back in the lobby, the two factions were oblivious to the commotion going on over their heads. Some of the Slaughterhouse Boys were shaking in their alcohol comas, while others were rolling their eyeballs. Tsutomo had abstained from drinking the sake and was the only sober boy in the room. He had heard the cries from the bathroom overhead and had assumed that Daido had become so tired of his troublesome captives that he had summarily killed them. It was already a grim atmosphere in that lobby, and Tsutomo knew that the deaths of the Slaughterhouse Boys’ companions could only add to the gravity of the situation. He decided to break the tension by telling an entertaining anecdote. He cleared his throat and began, ‘I once met a girl who could take three cocks into her rectum at once…’ All the boys in the room – the Black Palm Gang as well as the Slaughterhouse Boys – looked up with sudden interest. But Tsutomo had fallen silent and was holding his face in his hands in desperation. He couldn’t think of any way to continue.

Sada was desperate, too. She gripped Larissa’s bloody hands while a fresh rain of teardrops came pouring out of her eyes. She said, ‘Please, kill me too. First, I lost my Siberian boy on the beachfront esplanade. Next, my father was sliced apart by the Black Palm Boys. And now, I’ve had to eat Daido’s heart. I’m telling you, things are bad. I wish the Emperor would come back to Tokyo and zap this accursed city with the sacred sword of Amaterasu. And I want to be zapped first! Kill me! Kill me!’ Larissa soon tired of Sada’s diatribe, pulled her hands free and slapped the orange-haired girl across both cheeks. Larissa told her, ‘Pull yourself together! You think things are bad now? They can easily get a lot worse. And they will!’

Larissa’s assistants were keen to carry out Sada’s request. But Larissa wanted to keep Sada as a human shield for the dangerous moment when they went back down the hotel staircase. She didn’t want any more ambushes. Before they left the bathroom, Larissa spat at Daido’s body and said, ‘Goodnight, lover. Your girls can cry over you tomorrow. But not us. Remember, we are the hot cats who out-fucked you.’

Sada started down the stairway with Larissa and Kira directly behind her. Modesta and Irma were performing a rearguard action, in case any of Daido’s girls came down from the top storeys of the hotel to investigate what was going on. But those girls remained in bed with their horsehair blankets pulled over their heads. They knew better than to intervene. Later, as Larissa foretold, they would weep over the mutilated body of Daido and would transport it through the railway underpass to the backyard of the Thorazine Hotel, where they buried it under a heap of detritus. But, as soon as their backs had been turned, the body had been unearthed by the claws of big black crows.

Sada had to be shouldered down the final stairs by the Siberian assassin girls. Tsutomo watched them all descend. He was still trying to formulate his anecdote. But his captive audience had finally abandoned him, preferring to re-enter their extreme alcohol-hallucinations. The Black Palm Boys opened their blank eyes a fraction at Sada’s return, but were then immediately re-engulfed in their cranial morass. Larissa and her assistants took to raising the eyelids of the Slaughterhouse Boys with their razorsharp fingernails, searching in futility for signs of alert life. They released Sada, who ran into Tsutomo’s arms. He pushed her away, embarrassed at such a show of intimacy. He took her by the shoulders and asked, ‘What happened to Daido? Is he still in the bathroom?’ Sada shook her head and gasped, ‘No! He’s inside me. I drank him. And those girls ate him. But we all had equal portions.’ Sada ran behind the reception desk and immersed herself in reading through every entry in the registration book for the past seven years. Everything would be fine if she could just keep from looking over the desk at Larissa and her assistants. She had to be composed, and to keep swallowing down the bile of Daido’s incinerated heart.

Tsutomo knew that the situation was critical now. He had to get the Black Palm Boys out of their alcohol-comas before Larissa could resuscitate her own boys. He feared that he would now have to negotiate with Larissa on the subject of the Slaughterhouse Boys’ sworn obligation to massacre the Motorcycle Boys. But in this, he was mistaken. Once the Slaughterhouse Boys had promised to do something, they would unerringly carry it through. It was a matter of trust and honour. Even in their cerebrally swamped state, they were still shivering in anticipation at the imminent prospect of fulfilling their duty.

Tsutomo slipped behind the reception desk and stood alongside Sada, who was still reading the hotel’s registration book. Out of the corner of her mouth, she whispered, ‘Don’t talk to me. I’m living in a safe world. I don’t want to come back into your world, Tsutomo. I want to be an exile, from your world.’ She kept her eyes fixed on the pages. When she came across the words ‘Larissa, and her three assistants, Kira, Irma, and Modesta’, Sada slapped a hand over her eyes. A hallucination of the burning heart of Daido started to grow and grow behind her hand, until it was flaming out of Sada’s pupils, scorching her artificial composure.

Tsutomo took Sada by the waist. Only she could help him carry through his plan to have that speed-tribe wiped out, but she would not help him. He implored her, ‘Please help me. We have to get these murderous bastards down to the Daiba beachfront. Otherwise, they could be slumped here for decades. If you help me, I promise that things will change. I’ll disband the Black Palm Gang. We’ll start a new life in a big hotel in the Hakone resort. Life will be good.’ The telephone in front of Sada was ringing. Sada pulled it out of its socket and banged her fists into whatever she could find to destroy. Tsutomo stood back in helpless fright. Screaming, Sada lashed a fist through the glass of the emergency fire-sprinkler system. Jets of iced water sprayed down over the lobby.

Everyone was soaked and frozen in moments. Larissa and her assistants were the first to run out into the alleyway, complaining, ‘We’ll never stay in this fucking hotel ever again. We want a full refund.’ The Black Palm Gang followed. Their underpants were ruined by the acrid sprinkler-water and they pulled them off in disgust, so that they stood naked in the Shinjuku alleyway, their red and chafed penises hanging forlornly under the assistants’ gaze. Larissa herself was preoccupied with evacuating the Slaughterhouse Boys, who were the slowest to react. Their overalls soaked up most of the sprinkler-water into the material’s already rancid carapace of thick black bloodclots. Finally, they filed out reluctantly, numbed more than ever by their sudden exposure to the glacial night air. As they crossed the hotel threshold, they leaned instinctively down to the ground and collected their weaponry from the gutter, where they had left it on entering. Sada and Tsutomo were the last to abandon the Sada Hotel as its tsunami-damaged exterior walls started to crack under the force of the new flood.

The inhabitants of the surrounding highrises drew all of their almost non-existent courage together and gathered at their windows to deride the naked and exposed Black Palm Gang. Some threw their useless televisions out of their windows as a gesture of revolt. The Black Palm Boys stood in a line, in silent shame. Their short-handled machetes dangled by their penises. Finally, Tsutomo shouted out at the highrises’ inhabitants, ‘Get back inside your hells! Or we’ll excise your blind eyes, and close your dumb, gaping mouths.’ The people retreated, their momentary revolution over.

Now that they had been reluctantly resuscitated, the Slaughterhouse Boys were immediately ready for the walk over to Daiba island to enact a grandiose carnage on the Motorcycle Boys. The Black Palm Gang decided to go along, as neutral observers. Larissa walked to one side, flanked by her assistants. She was anxious about the look of self-willed discipline and determination on the faces of the Slaughterhouse Boys. She wanted them to propel themselves into an abject and humiliating self-immolation, but those boys seemed strangely in control of the situation. Their raw alcohol comas appeared momentarily to have shattered their dependence on Larissa. That dependence had accelerated into a deathly fever of lust since their departure from the black mountain city. Now, it seemed as though the Slaughterhouse Boys were developing their own obsessions. Somewhere, deep inside their compulsion to obliterate, they were starting to sense that, perhaps, some kind of survival could be battered together in their new city, for a moment at least. For the first time in their lives, they were starting to think about the future.

Sada trailed behind the Black Palm Boys. She caught Tsutomo by the wrist and pleaded in terror, ‘You don’t have to go with them. They’re crazy animals. Let’s go back to the hotel. The top storeys may still be inhabitable. I’ll suck your balls until you scream. But keep away from the Slaughterhouse Boys.’

Tsutomo swung around to face Sada. His penis swung with him. This was the most exciting night of his life. For all of his fifteen years, he had been waiting to see professional psychotic killers like the Slaughterhouse Boys at work. He wanted to learn. And in his delusional ambition, he had convinced himself that once those boys had accomplished their duty on the Daiba beachfront, they would harmlessly disperse to new targets. Then Tsutomo would be the king of Daiba island, the emperor of Tokyo, controlling important financial transactions all the way from the megalopolis’s eastern suburbs to the foothills of Mount Fuji. He told Sada, ‘This is my chance in life. I won’t be dirt anymore. I can see it’s dangerous, but we must show courage. You go back to the hotel if you want to. Hire a suction pump and try to drain the lobby. We’ll be back in triumph just after dawn. So prepare the most excessive celebration in the entire history of humanity for us!’

Sada hung her head in resignation. She looked at Tsutomo’s frozen, limply-hanging cock. He turned away, elated, and caught up with the other Black Palm Boys. Sada stood alone in the avenue for a moment, wondering whether to return to the Sada Hotel, but then crossed over into the shadows of the Shinjuku sex-towers and highrises, and followed unnoticed.

The people in those highrises were in a melancholy mood that night. Many of them were contemplating suicide, if only they could think of a way to do it that would be certain of success. If they botched the attempt, they would serve as a constant source of grim hilarity for all of the tormented inhabitants of their highrises, for days to come. Their misery escalated suddenly when they heard the Slaughterhouse Boys shouting as they rampaged down the Yasukuni-dori avenue in the direction of Tokyo Bay. One or two forlorn people dared to look out of their windows. They saw around twenty heavy-shouldered, shaven-headed foreigners in black overalls and big boots, streaming down the avenue through the darkness. A further twenty Japanese boys followed close behind, running naked in the cold air. The people in the highrises consulted with one another, and decided to build huge barricades at every junction along Yasukuni-dori, to prevent the Slaughterhouse Boys from ever returning this way. If the Slaughterhouse Boys broke down the barricades, then the highrise people would throw dirt and lumps of shit at them. But after the cries had faded into the distance, the people’s resolve faltered, and they simply bundled their horsehair blankets over their heads.

The Slaughterhouse Boys were fascinated by the sex cinemas which appeared at regular intervals along Yasukuni-dori. Ever since the tsunami impact had rendered every last digital-image screen in the city inoperative, sex cinemas had made a huge comeback in Tokyo. Although power cuts had closed most of the cinemas, one was still functioning, powered by its own generator. It was the sole entertainment for the men of the peripheral area between the Shinjuku and Yotsuya districts. Even at this late moment of the night – one hour before dawn – the cinema was still crushed to capacity. The most unruly patrons were periodically ejected by the management and thrown into the avenue, still furiously masturbating and chewing their lips. The Slaughterhouse Boys peered through the doorway. They shouted over to Larissa, ‘Can we go inside?’ Larissa yelled back, ‘No! You have work to do.’ But the Slaughterhouse Boys exploited their newly-discovered independence from Larissa’s power, and went inside.

They were gone for some time. Feeling vulnerable, the Black Palm Boys lined up against a highrise facade, their backs to the wall. They hugged their skinny ribs in the bad night air, and nodded self-deprecatingly to Larissa and her assistants. Larissa came over to the Black Palm Boys and spat at them in Siberian dialect: ‘You’re standing there as though you were waiting to be executed.’ She called her assistants over to closely inspect the boys’ penises. The assistants walked the line, frowning. Modesta said, ‘Those cocks are so limp, you could use them in place of rubber bands.’ Irma had to agree, ‘They don’t exactly look industrial strength.’

After ten minutes or so, the Slaughterhouse Boys re-emerged. Their hands were bloodstained. Larissa asked, ‘What happened in there?’ Lev said, ‘Well, it wasn’t very cultured. So we confiscated the film and the projectionist’s eyeballs.’ He took the white globes out of his pocket and dropped them in the gutter. Some of the other boys were unravelling a film spool and trying to scratch the film with their fingernails. Larissa continued, ‘I hope you treated the patrons well?’ Lev replied, ‘Yes, we did. We cut off their hands to stop them from masturbating. At least, we did our best, but they were clearly desperate men. I think they may still try to masturbate, but now they’ll find it a bit more difficult.’ One of the Slaughterhouse Boys, Little Ivan, had collected the twitching hands in a sack.

Lev was in a magnanimous mood after his visit to the sex cinema. He gestured for Tsutomo to come and join him, as they reached the far end of Shimbashi-dori avenue and neared the Rainbow Bridge. Daiba island would soon come into view. Lev slapped Tsutomo on the back and said, ‘You’re clearly a fashionable boy. Tell me about fashion!’ Lev had a hidden agenda. Once the subject of fashion was out of the way, he was still hoping to prise from Tsutomo the rest of his abandoned anecdote about the girl who had once taken three cocks in her anus at once. Tsutomo was taken aback. He said, ‘I think we should delay our discussion of such matters until after your battle. We’ll be reaching Daiba island shortly and you’ll need to prepare for your assault. I don’t want to distract you with trivialities.’ Lev persisted, ‘But this is an important and urgent matter. We Slaughterhouse Boys would like to cultivate an aura of sensitivity, so that people meeting us for the first time would exclaim, ”There go sensitive boys, with excellent dress sense.”’

Tsutomo remained silent, much to Lev’s chagrin. Lev decided it still wasn’t appropriate to broach the subject of the anecdote about the girl with the miraculous rectum, so he chose instead to make some small talk about Tsutomo’s parentage, before returning to the subject matter that really obsessed him. He asked, ‘Tell me something about your family history.’ Tsutomo announced with pride, ‘Don’t you know? I thought everybody knew. We are all the bastard sons of Elvis.’ Lev’s face turned a severe crimson. He cursed lividly in Russian for a full minute, then switched back to Japanese and shouted, ‘What? Whose sons? What did you say?’ Tsutomo sneered in contempt at Lev’s lack of sophistication and repeated, ‘Elvis! Didn’t you hear me? The Black Palm Boys are all the sons of Elvis. Elvis!’

At a command from Lev, the Black Palm Gang were all dead on the ground within ten seconds; the walls of the highrises on both sides of the avenue became drenched in scarlet gushes. The Slaughterhouse Boys revered Elvis almost as much as they revered Stalin, and what Tsutomo had said was an unpardonable insult to their idol’s memory, punishable only by death. Sada shook as she watched the killing, hidden from view in the highrises’ shadows. The Black Palm Boys had hardly had time to raise their short-handled machetes in self-defence, before they were cut down. Now, their bodies lay smoking, lacerated, 100%-blood-drained, in the night air.

After their work, the Slaughterhouse Boys inhaled rapidly, catching their breath. Lev leaned on the shoulder of Boris, his closest friend among the Slaughterhouse Boys. Despite his youth, Boris had already acquired a near-mythical status, throughout Eastern Siberia, for the anus-decimating weight and girth of his fourteen-inch-long penis; it had been rumoured, back in Magadan, that he was a bastard great-grandchild of that city’s legendary extermination-camp commandant, Stiepan Garanin, and that his ability to irreparably puncture girls’ anuses was still powered by Communism in its purest, most lethal form. The white-blond hair on Boris’s ineptly-shaven head was already starting to grow back. Gripping one another tenderly by the waist, Lev and Boris stepped away from the moribund Black Palm Gang, as though they had been in too intimate a contact with those profane boys. The Slaughterhouse Boys put away their knives, then swarmed together in the centre of the avenue. It had been too easy. Now they were firing on overdrive.

During the massacre, Larissa had been restrained from intervening by her assistants. Modesta had held a hand over Larissa’s terrible mouth, while Irma and Kira had held her body in a tight squeeze. They were sure that if they let Larissa go, she would get entangled in the blur of fighting and suffer lethal wounds. Larissa had struggled. Modesta had felt the heat of her screams and curses on the palm of her hand.

Larissa broke free from her assistants, looked over the scattered, bloodless bodies of the Black Palm Gang, and then ran towards the panting Slaughterhouse Boys to reassert her authority over them. But suddenly turning in fury, she announced, ‘Kira, Irma, Modesta – you are no longer my assistants. You betrayed me. From now on, I will have no assistants. You have no place with me.’ The three girls looked at one another in horror. If they were no longer Larissa’s assistants, that meant they were nothing at all. They wiped away the splashes of blood that had collected on their shaven heads. Underneath, their skin was young and fresh.

Larissa had initially disapproved of the massacre of the Black Palm Gang, because she had not given the order for it. But she was, after all, an authentic, died-in-the-wool Slaughterhouse Girl, and once the massacre was underway, she had wanted to participate. She had screamed her exhortations into Modesta’s palm. She wanted to demand that the act of massacre was perpetrated with the maximum intensity and precision. She was appalled at the lack of resistance shown by the Black Palm Gang. They had walked into their deaths.

The Slaughterhouse Boys were in a strange mood, torn and elated. Larissa knew that she had to try to re-impose her will upon them. She said to Lev, ‘Now I want to see some real work. Seize the television station, then instruct everyone in Tokyo to mass on Daiba island, together with the Motorcycle Boys. Then massacre them all! That should be a challenge for you.’ Above all, she wanted to see the Slaughterhouse Boys and their speed-tribe adversaries obliterate each other, together with the city’s inhabitants. She yearned to see the twenty lifeless bodies of her boys after that confrontation. Then Larissa would be alone.

Lev shook his head. During the massacre of the Black Palm Gang, he had used as his weapon a rusted scalpel which he had picked up from the floor of the Magadan slaughterhouse, just before he and the other Slaughterhouse Boys had abandoned it and left the black mountains behind. Now, he held it in his hand, and just looking at Larissa’s lips made him want to put that scalpel through his own heart, to bleed the agony of his obsessional lust away, into the dirt. The other Slaughterhouse Boys hesitated about obeying Larissa’s instructions. They knew that Larissa was demanding a battle which they could not possibly survive, and they looked to Lev for a decision. Larissa stood her ground in front of Lev. She knew that the presence of her body would make his unbearable obsession for her explode into violent complicity with her demands.

Lev grabbed Larissa by the wrist. She cried out in fury at the pressure – Daido’s sake-burned heart had left her with a tender hand that was already inscribed by broken glass. Lev kept his rebellious eyes down on the ground as he said, ‘If there is to be a new carnage, it must be our carnage. If there is to be a humiliation, it must be a humiliation which we have brought upon ourselves. We have to decide for ourselves.’ Larissa stared at the boy’s downturned eyes until she succeeded in snaring them, and had caught those eyes up within her own. She said, ‘I promise it will be a glorious act, whatever the outcome. But it was me who brought you all here, so I decide what you boys should do. Without my leadership, you’d be hunting monkeys in the black mountains until the end of time. Come into the shadow of that highrise with me, and we’ll talk it over.’ Lev’s hand fell from Larissa’s wrist, and she led him away to the shadowed side of the avenue. The other Slaughterhouse Boys were watching in carnal consternation.

Smiling broadly, Larissa sliced a wide fingernail incision into Lev’s hot cheek. She told him, ‘I want my mark to be always on you. When your skin heals, I’ll tear it open again. You can try to walk a few steps away from me, then you’ll have to come back.’ She pinioned Lev against the doorway of a cracked highrise, put her arms around his neck and then straddled his body with her strong legs, knotting her heels tightly behind the small of his back. With one set of fingers, she pulled her dress up around her waist, with the other, she fished Lev’s engorged penis out from between the buttons of his overalls. That cock was already leaking semen as she pressed the head against the incendiary mouth of her cunt. Then she tilted her spine to allow herself extra leverage, and swallowed that cock deep into her anus. They were mouth to mouth and eye to eye. There was no need for Lev to steady Larissa’s body – the momentum of her violent anal thrusts kept their bodies locked together. With one hand, Lev gripped the back of the girl’s shaven skull. With the other, he held his scalpel, the tip poised to one side of their bodies. After exactly eleven seconds, Lev’s face convulsed and his cock began spurting pressurised clots of semen into Larissa’s rectum. It was a moment of ecstasy in hell. Behind Larissa’s head, he could see the other Slaughterhouse Boys in the first dawn light, watching from the middle of the avenue, their mouths gaping and their eyes staring. To kill their gaze on his perfect world, Lev closed his eyes.

When his vision turned to black, Lev began to hallucinate as instantly as he had just ejaculated. In his hallucination, the battle against the Black Palm Gang had started again. This time, it was taking place in Magadan, during its golden age, when the extermination-camp had still been in full operation. And this time it was a fierce fight, with the Slaughterhouse Boys and the Black Palm Gang evenly matched. Lev was surrounded by those young, unlined faces with their Pocari Sweat-corroded teeth. He felt the blow of a short-handled machete directed at his penis and struck out in self-defence with his scalpel, pushing it through the material of Larissa’s dress and into her left side, between two ribs. Larissa exhaled the slightest gasp.

Lev’s hallucination ended. Larissa abruptly unhooked her ankles from behind Lev’s back, and fell clumsily backwards onto the tarmac, striking her head. Dazed, she i

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, July 22nd, 2007.